Showing posts with label Psychological Testing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Psychological Testing. Show all posts

Friday, December 7, 2018

ADHD an Invention of Big Pharma?

Looking through my Facebook feed I came across a post of an article from Health Magazine that Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a made up disorder by big pharma to push drugs to children.  The article cites another article by a Joe Jarvis in The Daily Bell that claims to prove that ADHD is fake.  

The Jarvis article cites government statistics stating that Arkansas and Kentucky are the states with the highest rates of ADHD diagnosis.  In these states a high percentage of kids age 6-15 (over 85%) fish and hunt (over 30%).  He compares these numbers to those in New Jersey and Nevada which have the lowest ADHD rates in the US.  In these states only 44% of kids these ages fish (it does not state how many children hunt there).  Jarvis holds this up as proof that ADHD does not exist as fishing and hunting require a high degree of focus to be successful.  

This blog uses correlational data at the state level all the time to show relationships between variables that show meaningful patterns.  I am very careful not to state that it conclusively proves or disproves anything the existence of a disease.  Even further I would not limit my analysis to four states to make such a claim.  

There is centuries worth of research backing up the existence of ADHD.  The diagnosis of it is still not an exact science with it being based on behavioral observation and neuropsychological test data.  Genetic abnormalities have been found which are associated with the presence of the disease.  Someday genetic testing and brain scans will be able to provide a more definitive diagnosis but we're not there yet.  ADHD children and adults can exhibit a trait called overfocusing and not all are hyperactive.


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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Testing Fairness, Outliers, and Racism

Oftentimes the importance of an issue isn't realized until it hits home.  The film Stand and Deliver tells the story of math teacher Jaime Escalante who's students (20 in total) all passed the advanced placement (AP) Calculus test in the 1980s.  The education testing service (ETS) (which administers the AP test as well as the SAT and a host of other standardized tests) thought the results were an outlier and launched an investigation into whether or not the students cheated on the exam.  In the clip above, Escalante (played by Edward James Olmos) confronts the investigators (one of them is played by Andy Garcia) from ETS and questions the motives behind the investigation.  He argues that the results would not be questioned if the students were from Beverly Hills.  The investigation later proved that the students passed the test legitimately as the students had to retake the test and all passed with a score of three or more.  The ETS investigators were just doing their job and anomalies have to be investigated but the way in which they are investigated can show bias.


Bias in testing is a universal problem and how the results are interpreted is certainly an inflammatory issue with a lot of time and energy spent to correct and quantify it.  As the prevalence of high stakes testing has increased, authentic cases of cheating have occurred as school funding is now tied to the results of those tests under the No Child Left Behind Act.  Recent cases of cheating on standardized tests have involved the principals and teachers supplying the answers to the students in hopes of improving school funding.  The photo below is of an art installation of an education student's opinion of high stakes testing.



The issues have changed little since Escalante's passed the AP test.  Policy makers often use the results of tests to demonstrate With the new ways tests are now administered the potential for cheating and questioning of results should increase exponentially. 


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Sunday, January 12, 2014

Measuring Love Chemistry


I know it's a month before Valentines day buy the stores are already full of heart shaped candy. OkCupid is one of the largest dating sites.  The video above from TED talks explains their method for coming up with a % match.  The logic is pretty simple.  It's based on how well the questions that both you and your potential match answer.  The more questions you both answer, the more information you both have about each other. The site is free for a basic membership.  I have used it and so far haven't had any luck but others have.


eHarmony is another enormously popular site.  This site used to be pay only but, perhaps in response to new sites like OkCupid, allows limited access for free but those who pay have better access.  Above their CEO Greg Waldorf (not Neil Clark Warren who is in their commercials) discusses their formula for matching individuals.  They use a personality inventory along with the stated criteria given by individuals to match.  Also in response to OkCupid they have added questions on various topics which may or may not improve their matching process.  Waldorf makes a bold claim that 2% of all marriages are due to their site.  I don't know how they know this except they might track their matches and look for self report or newspaper notices of their marriages. 


There are of course plenty of other dating sites now. Match.com was the original  site and has been around for almost 20 years.  Christian Mingle, a dating site for farmers, one for singles over 50, one for black singles and Plenty of Fish also come to mind.  The bottom line is that online dating is now big business and consumers expect results.  The boom can be partly due to the harsh economic times as Waldorf states.  Being married does provide some measure of economic security that being single often does not and people are still looking.

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A Morsel of Mensa Measurement


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Saturday, October 19, 2013

A Modest Proposal to Curb Cognitive Deficits in the NFL and other High Contact Sports


Last Tuesday I watched the PBS Frontline/ESPN documentary on concussions in the NFL called League of Denial.  It detailed the struggles that Hall of Fame Center Mike Webster had after he played in Pittsburgh for 15 years and in Kansas City for one year.  I can't embed the documentary here there is a clip from a different documentary above.  It can be watched in it's entirety at their website here.  Webster ended up homeless and died of a heart attack in 2002 at age 50.  The autopsy showed plaques in his brain  and other NFL player like Terry Long and Junior Seau similar to that of dementia patients.
  

Frontline has been cataloging reported concussions in the NFL over the last two years and the positions with the most reported injuries are cornerback and wide receiver.  Since players are getting bigger, faster, and stronger while the brain is just as fragile, as I discussed in my post on concussions, the problem is a difficult one to deal with as fans like those hits.

One proposal I have is that sports with a high level of contact such as football, boxing, soccer, rugby, and hockey (all of these sports have players with deficits later in life) have mandatory retirement ages of around 35.  As we age it is harder for our brains to recover from injuries.  Webster and Seau played until almost 40. True the documentary did present cases of high school and college age players with cognitive deficits and plaques in their brains like Webster's and Seau's and not all players have these problems so this is not a cure all by any means.  All of the players would have to be monitored for deficits and other risk factors for the symptoms like Webster's and Seau's need to be identified.  Players such as Jim Otto often have other health problems long after their playing days are over.  

I am sure players (especially stars like Peyton Manning) and fans wont like the retirement idea because it may render the career records of players like Brett Farve, Jerry Rice, and Emmitt Smith untouchable.   I know that Farve and Rice played into their 40's and Smith played until 35 and do not seem to be having problems now but they may be having health problems now that they're not talking about.

The NFL may not like the idea at first but it would save them money in the long run in salaries. It would open up more opportunities for younger players.  In the lockout three years ago the players union successfully prevented the league from extending the season to 18 games so it can adapt.  

**Update**



The Colbert Report
Get More: Colbert Report Full Episodes,Video Archive

The authors of League of Denial appeared on The Colbert Report to discuss their book.  I had to dig on their site to find this interview.  Was Viacom pressured by the NFL not to put this clip on the main page for the episode?  The clip below was put on the main page.



The Colbert Report
Get More: Colbert Report Full Episodes,Video Archive



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Monday, May 20, 2013

An In Depth Look at a Mindfulness and Stress Study

My former classmate at the University of Hartford, Tonya Jacobs, had an article described in the Huffington Post titled Mindfulness Meditation Could Lower Levels Of Cortisol, The Stress Hormone.  It described her study which originally appeared in the Journal of Health Psychology.  It talks about how a study was conducted of those who participated in a three month meditation retreat where it says mindfulness was measured along with cortisol levels in saliva as a measure of stress.  If found that cortisol (a hormone that strongly indicates stress) levels were decreased from the beginning of the retreat to the end as mindfulness increased.  They warned that there was no control group.

From past experience I know that the news media often leaves out important details of a study and can be bad at interpreting the results of the studies.  I thought I would take a look Jacobs et al. (2013) original article which has a lot more detail to allow one to replicate the study.  In the methods sections they state that there was a treatment group of 30 for those who participated in the retreat and a control group of 30 who were wait listed for the retreat using stratified random sampling to control for any potential confounding variables such as BMI (Body Mass Index which is weight divided by height squared and is a crude measure of obesity), handedness and IQ.  The wait listed group did receive the mindfulness intervention after the treatment group.  

The authors do not discuss if there is a difference between the wait list and non waitlist groups in cortisol or mindfulness levels especially during the time where the wait list group was not receiving the intervention.  This may not have been feasible during the study as the individuals were probably scattered all over the US and measurements of cortisol and mindfulness could not be taken without great cost.  Participants were paid during the retreat.  Three participants had incomplete data and were excluded from the data analysis.  

The results showed no overall effect of cortisol decrease from pre to post measurements but did significantly decrease for BMI.  Mindfulness significantly increased between the pre and post.  The pre and post cortisol levels were significantly negatively correlated with mindfulness as measured by a 37 item questionnaire which was previously validated.  Negatively correlated means that as mindfulness increases cortisol levels decrease.  This effect was still significant after adjusting for age and BMI.

The authors acknowledge that this study is correlational and does not establish a cause and effect relationship between meditation, mindfulness, and stress.  The article in the Huffington Post seems to suggest the same thing by stating that there is no control group.  Because of the difficulty in doing this type of research, the need for more of theses types of studies is established.  Experimental studies with a well defined control and treatment group with all other confounding variables are adjusted for are ideal for establishing cause and effect relationships.  The ideal of research is seldom met.  When the situation is less than ideal, converging validation with many different methods is needed to accomplish the same cause-effect relationship.  


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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Get the Lead Out

A new survey by the Centers for disease control or CDC suggests that about 500,000 children in the US have low blood lead levels (defined as 5 micrograms per deciliter) from 2007-2010.  This shows an 8.6% decrease compared to the last survey period in 1999-2002.  The graph at the left shows that there are higher percentages among african americans, the poor, and those who live in housing built before 1950.  

Many buildings built before 1950 still have paint that is lead based and have plumbing with lead pipes.  These paints were phased out but it is very expensive to replace and it is better in the long run just to build new housing to replace the paint.  The paint can flake off and when ingested by children can cause intellectual or developmental disabilities (the now politically correct term for mental retardation) and or learning disabilities.  

In the lab (on animal studies) and in correlational studies no dosage level of lead has been found that is completely benign on the brain.  It has a negative effect on the blood brain barrier which protects it from other toxins and has many other negative effects on intelligence test scores and brain function.  

The negative effects of lead exposure were recognized by Greek physicians as early as the 2nd century BC.  There is a theory that it contributed to the decline of the Roman Empire though that is controversial.   It was used heavily in the industrial revolution and in gasoline in the 1920s.  A way to test the theory would be to measure residual lead levels in the remains (teeth, bones, and if lucky hair) of the Roman citizens relative to those in the surrounding Barbarian tribes which sacked the empire from AD 410-476.  If the levels were higher in the Roman citizens it would support the theory.



It was phased out starting in 1978 in the US but the effects are still felt with leaded gasoline getting into the atmosphere through auto emissions, then into rain water, and finally the soil where it can remain for many years.  Other countries do not have as strict regulation on lead as the US does now.  

**Update** 

 
Episode 7 of Cosmos is devoted to lead poisoning and it's history with scientist Clair Patterson being voiced by Richard Gere. I can only embed the whole episode here while Hulu makes it available.

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Friday, January 25, 2013

A Morsel of Mensa Measurement


For those of you who don't know, Mensa is an organization of individuals who score in the top 2% or 98th percentile of intelligence tests. Founded in 1946 in Great Britain in has 100,000 members worldwide and 57,000 members in the US.  If the IQ tests normative data were correct, there would be 6 million of the over 300 million people in the US eligible for membership in the US.  Their site says their membership ranges in age from 2 to 102 and includes actress Geena Davis, Dilbert creator Scott Adams, and science fiction writer Isaac Asimov.


This month (January 2013) the US organization is letting individuals take the short form of their admission test online for free.  Out of curiosity I took the test.  They asked me for personal information like where I lived, my age, gender, and other demographic info.  Items include object rotation, word association, and math reasoning to make them as culturally and age unbiased as possible.  It has four sections and you're given 8 minutes for each section.  Another reason that they are doing this is to test out items for their comprehensive entrance examination  that people who want to join would have to pay to take.  

I scored 56 out of a possible 80 in the raw score which they estimate (I assume is a 95% confidence interval) would put me between the 62nd and 88th percentiles on their comprehensive exam which at best is 10% below Mensa's cutoff.  Of course I had the TV on in the background but I have no intention of taking the big Mensa test.  

With the right practice and coaching, I could conceivably beat the Mensa test just as Kaplan makes a lot of money off of SAT test takers trying to get into the Ivy League but why?  In my post My N Word I argued that those who are studious and intelligent who have been shunned sometimes create their own elite group in response to that shunning.  While it may be fine for Geena Davis, Scott Adams, and Isaac Asimov (I wonder how many times they took the test before they got in?) I believe that this is the wrong response.  I believe it is better to share it with the masses.  Former Dallas Coach Jimmy Johnson is said to have an IQ in the Mensa range but is not listed as a member.

This January's opportunity to take their test is a chance to see behind the curtain. You can see how you measure up to the Mensans for free until January 31 here after that you will have to pay.  After you give them your information they will send you a key to login to the test and it may take a few hours before you receive the email with the key.



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Friday, April 6, 2012

Testing Question

As my readers have noticed I have been concentrating on the PUSH blog/webpage, with a new post on County Health Rankings here, but that does not mean I have forgotten about my readers.  

I was approached by the author of Froth Slosh B'Gosh about a mental state exam which asked a question about whether they believed in God.  He said that he believed that the whole questionnaire was bogus because it asked that.  My first reaction was that I would have to see the whole questionnaire and it's manual and it's corresponding validity evidence which shows that is measures what it's supposed to measure. 

Alfred Binet, I have no idea what this contraption is.

There are many factors to consider when evaluating a questionnaire or a test.   Testing in psychology and education has been big business for over 100 years since Alfred Binet (seen above).  WWI was the first time that large numbers of young men were given intelligence tests like Binet's and 40% were classified as 'feeble minded' as were around 80% of immigrants at Ellis Island.  Revisions were made to the test and it has been big business ever since. 

Getting back to psychological assessments, one item on a test or survey should never be the sole basis of judging someone's sanity.  The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory or MMPI has over 600 items and is considered the gold standard of personality surveys.  I don't remember if it asks about God and I don't have access to it because it is copyrighted but I do know it has been used since 1939 and it measures on 10 personality dimensions.  Such a test can be cumbersome and expensive to give to large groups of people to compare to a 'normal' population.  This is why shorter questionnaires are often given which can be less reliable.

Other factors to consider are the age and cultural bias of the test.  A question about God or witchcraft may have seemed appropriate at one time but not at another.  That is why the Rorschach test has been so popular over the years since the 1920s because it is a series of nonsense drawings onto which the test taker projects his or her emotions or personality.  The problem with this type of test is how does one interpret the results.  

Getting back to Froth's question I need to consider these and other issues such as how does the item about God fit in with the other test items and how exactly is it worded before I can answer his question.  This may be more than Froth wanted to know but this is the world of psychological testing.

Albert Einstein asked the developmental psychologist Jean Piaget at what age children understand space and time.  Piaget responded by writing several books on the topic.

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