Failing to prove the unprovable

As is so often the case, I am baffled.

Maybe I'm dense, or maybe they just aren't explaining it properly but either way I haven't a clue how this works.

Universities of Exeter and Bristol carried out research in which smokers had to choose between pressing a key that might earn cigarettes or a key that might earn chocolate.

Pressing a button "earns" a cigarette or a chocolate?  Did they actually get a physical smoke or chew, or was this just a vote sort of thing?  They had two buttons – cigarette or chocolate, and were shown three pictures – a normal pack of fags, a lurid "plain pack" or …  er … nothing.  Somehow they deduced that the cigarette button was pressed less after seeing a "plain pack", but all this proves is that lurid packs tend to make you press a different button which doesn't seem to relate to the real world in any shape manner or form.

I tried to imagine myself doing this test.  I am quite fond of chocolate [Mars bars especially, if anyone wants to send me a crate?] so there is a fair chance I would have pressed the chocolate button all the time, especially as pipe tobacco didn't seem to be on the menu.  There again, I may have just pressed the buttons at random, seeing as I apparently wasn't getting an actual cigarette or chocolate.  If pressing a button doesn't actually do anything then it really doesn't matter which one I press?

I think what we may have here is a beautiful example of "here is the result, so let's set up a project to prove it".  Bristol University in particular seems to favour this new way of approaching "research".

For once, however, even though the experiment was designed to prove something, even the "researchers" seem to be unsure of the results?

Researchers advised caution when interpreting their results.


The experiment only models the ability of pack stimuli to promote a cigarette-seeking choice.

or the ultimate –

It is not clear to what extent plain packaging will reduce smoking when these other factors are at play.

So even though the experiment was designed to prove their preconceived notions, it still failed to provide the goods, which either means they are shite at fiddling the figures or their preconceived theory is a load of bollox.  Seeing as Bristol is famous for doctoring numbers, then the latter must be the case.

Meanwhile, in a completely related article –

Over-regulation of cigarettes threatens rule of law and Good Friday Agreement

Make the most of it folks.

It's not often I cheer for a Paisley.

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Failing to prove the unprovable — 9 Comments

  1. As a 'control' choice in thatuniversity research project they could have installed a third, shocking vermilion key. Any guy pressing the third key would get a smoochy red-lipsticked kiss on the cheek. The results of the research would have been more credible.

    • Indeed.  What they should have done is to arrange it that when a plain pack is shown, they press the key and get a juicy kiss and when a standard pack is shown they get 10,000 volts up the backside.  That way they can declare that "100% of the subjects preferred plain packs".  Job done.  QED.

  2. I just love it, they can use this sort of science to 'prove' vaping is dangerous, but PROPER SCIENCE on vaping or most things for that matter is dismissed as not having enough 'evidence'


    • There are three rules of science –

      1. If it's their experiment it's conclusive proof.

      2. If the experiment is funded by anyone but themselves, it's null and void.

      3. If the results conflict with their beliefs, then it is to be completely ignored and further research is required.

      Simple really.

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