Is it me, or are sample sizes just getting smaller? I mean, last time round we had that scare story warning us that the art of parenting is being destroyed by smartphones — you know, the one based on observations of 40 adults in a fast food restaurant in Boston. Turns out that 40 adults was just scientific extravagance. You can actually spot the end of humankind on a much smaller budget.
This time our evidence of the descent of humankind into species-wide stupidity is from a study sample comprising twelve children. Yes, twelve.
The sample was boosted by the inclusion of some chimpanzees. Four chimpanzees to be exact, although only one of them proved to be of any interest (I presume the other three just scratched themselves and threw dirt at the experimenters).
The thing is, the researchers found that this one chimp (but not the other three) were better at an experimental video game than some of the kids.
Let’s now also point out that some of the kids were three-year-olds.
I don’t think you need to be a very dogmatic methodologist to wonder whether we can really presage an impending Planet-of-the-Apes style takeover simply on the basis of a single chimp, even if she has mastered Flappy Bird.
But that was just a contemporary reference for the sake of it (I’m down with the kids, me). At least Flappy Bird would have been something. In reality, the ‘game’ in this particular study was a straightforward maze, rendered on-screen in virtual reality fashion using 3D graphics. In other words, it was even more tedious than Flappy Bird.
Basically, the maze game tested spatial awareness and navigation.
So what the study really tells us is that there is this (one) chimp in Georgia State University who is better at navigating her environment than a (small) bunch of little kids. Also, that there are three other chimps who are not.
Ladies and Gentlemen, once again I give you: The End Of The World.
The study was limited in another respect too, as spotted by Fox News:
The humans were British.
You see? Fair and balanced. But at least that’s something. A hook. It’s official: scientists have established that Europeans are stupider than animals.
Am still tired.
Brian Hughes is an academic psychologist and university professor in Galway, Ireland, specialising in stress, health, and the application of psychology to social issues. He writes widely on the psychology of empiricism and of empirically disputable claims, especially as they pertain to science, health, medicine, and politics.