Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Fame, Success, and Money for Maniacs

Flavio Briatore

The headline below is not offensive or anything, now is it?
Maniacs often aspire for fame, success and money: study

By Jyoti Pal

London, March 2: Mania and depression sufferers are more likely to set higher goals in life. Success, money and fame, is what attracts them, a new research has found.

Mania is already linked to a belief in the importance of achievement, creativity and artistic talent. But does it drive people into setting higher goals for the future? Researchers tried to find out.
Ugh, that's awful...

The original headline1 (or at least, the more widely circulated one) for the same story is:
Study links mania to desire for success

March 2, 2009, 11:59 am

People with manic or bipolar tendencies have higher expectations of what they can achieve in terms of success, money and fame, a new study published on Monday finds.

Researchers assessed 103 people, including 27 with diagnosed manic depression, or bipolar disorder, a brain disorder that causes unusual and often dramatic shifts in a person's mood, energy and ability to function.

They were asked to fill in questionnaires designed to assess their most ambitious life goals, rating the likelihood of certain things happening to them, such as appearing regularly on TV or earning $US20 million ($A31.42 million) or more.

"We found that the people who had experienced episodes of mania during their lives had the highest expectations of achieving popular success and financial success," said Professor Sheri L. Johnson from the University of California.
The paper (Johnson et al., in press) will appear in the British Journal of Clinical Psychology. I can't say much more about it (because I don't have access), but the abstract is reprinted below.

Somehow the Telegraph took the same press release and spun it in the opposite direction...
Depression linked to desire for fame, say scientists

People who suffer from depression and mania are more likely to focus on success, money and fame than others, research has found

By Ben Leach
Last Updated: 7:05PM GMT 01 Mar 2009

The study, published in the British Journal of Clinical Psychology, found that mania and depression may drive people to set higher goals.

Dr Johnson, one of the researchers from the University of California, Berkeley who conducted the study, said: "Manic episodes are characterised by elevated mood as well as increased talkativeness, racing thoughts, decreased need for sleep and extreme distractibility.

"Mania has already been linked to a belief in the importance of achievement and so we wanted to discover whether it is also linked with higher expectations for the future."
Anyone reading the story can plainly see the headline is completely wrong!

Here we have two egregious cases of bad neurojournalism with minimal editorial oversight from the respective publications.

For another (completely unrelated) example of bad science journalism, read the plight of Dr Petra Boynton as she valiantly tried to inform the press about the errors in a New York Times article on sex research: What do women want? Not this!

Managing Director of Renault F1 Flavio Briatore and Elisabetta Gregoraci attend the 'Babel' premiere at the Palais des Festivals during the 59th International Cannes Film Festival May 23, 2006 in Cannes, France.
(Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images Entertainment)


1 Thanks to Sandy Gautam of The Mouse Trap for the original link.


Johnson SL, Eisner LR, Carver CS (in press). Elevated expectancies among persons diagnosed with bipolar disorder. British Journal of Clinical Psychology.

Objective Students at risk for bipolar disorder endorse highly ambitious goals. This study examined expectations for the future among people with actual bipolar disorder, versus people with no history of mood disorder and persons with history of unipolar depression. Methods One hundred and three students were assessed for Axis I disorders and completed a measure of expected life outcomes. Results History of mania, but not history of depression, related to higher expectations of achieving popular fame and wealth. Conclusions People with history of mania anticipate great success in domains involving public recognition.

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