Dave Molter

Column Dave Molter

Dave Molter is a freelance writer and Golden Quill and Keystone Press Awards winner. He also is a freelance musician in the Pittsburgh area.

Do do that voodoo

April 22, 2014

A moment of silence, please, in remembrance of absent loved ones. Especially the ones sitting across the table from you.

I can’t be the only one annoyed by those who, rather than engage in conversation with people sitting three feet away, prefer to text, watch a video or check email on a smartphone. The practice is ubiquitous.

In just the past year, I’ve observed this phenomenon in the most unlikely places: at Thanksgiving dinner, in restaurants and even in church. If God regrets anything (other than his first batch of humans becoming so naughty that he had to deep-six most of them) it’s probably that he allowed scientists to discover wireless technology.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking only the young are afflicted with cellphonitis. Recently released results from a study by Boston pediatrician Dr. Jenny Radesky and her colleagues indicate parents are just as likely to contract the disease. Radesky conducted the study over one summer by observing 55 groups of parents and their young children while they ate at restaurants. The results: 40 parents used a mobile device during the meal and were more attentive to the device than to their children.

Radesky told National Public Radio such behavior has dire consequences. “(Children) … learn by watching us how to have a conversation, how to read other people’s facial expressions. And if that’s not happening, children are missing out on important development milestones.”

Exactly why it took a study to figure this out is perhaps a suitable subject for another study.

Because it seems the government is eager to fund studies to determine things that are readily discernable just by raising your eyes from your portable device.

Take, for example, the results of a study published two weeks ago in the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,” to determine if hungry people are more aggressive than those who are not hungry. For the study, Ohio State University psychologist Brad Bushman and colleagues at two other universities recruited 107 married couples and gave them blood-glucose meters. Good, solid science. Then they gave each person a voodoo doll (representing their spouse) and 51 pins.

For three weeks, couples measured their glucose levels before breakfast and before bed. At the end of each day, to measure how angry they were at their spouse that day, they recorded how many of the 51 pins they had stuck into their voodoo dolls.

At the end of the period, the husbands and wives were allowed to play a computer game by which they could bombard their spouses with a nasty noise, as loud and as long as they liked.

The study revealed spouses with lower glucose levels in the evening displayed more anger toward their mates, both at home and in the lab.

Bushman didn’t bother to study what happened if couples became mad at their voodoo dolls.

Again, it’s not clear exactly why it took a scientific study to show that people can be peevish when peckish – everyone knows this. But I guess in a society where many members still doubt climate change is real, even a study involving voodoo is justified. Makes me wonder how many people have Neil deGrasse Tyson voodoo dolls tucked under their pillows.

But I’m all for anything that advances the cause of science, especially if it allows me to keep using chicken feet to hex my enemies. As Cole Porter wrote: “Do do that voodoo that you do so well.”

I’ll be publishing the results of my study soon. Stay glued to that smartphone.



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