AlliedNews.com - Grove City, Pennsylvania

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September 24, 2011

Studies show, not all studies are created equal

GROVE CITY — Did you know that "people who made a point of looking at flowers first thing in the morning reported feeling cheerier and even more energetic throughout the day, according to a recent study?"

The quote is from a past issue of Woman's Day and I want us to take a closer look at those last five words: "According to a recent study." I searched the pages of the magazine for the source of this "recent study" and it might not surprise you to hear that there was no source listed. I wanted to know the methodology used to conduct such a study but since I couldn't find the source, I'll have to use my imagination.

Firstly, what authority might have conducted the recent study? Woman's Day magazine is geared toward women, so it's probably not too far fetched to say that a women's gardening club may have carried out the study. I know a few members of The Herb Thymers, an all-ladies herb gardening group. Do you think they'd have expertise enough to conduct such a study as the one in Woman's Day? Maybe.

Secondly, who were those people in the recent study, and was there a control group? It's well known in scientific (and botanical) communities that in order to conduct a proper recent study, one must have a control group or you might think those "people who made a point of looking at flowers first thing in the morning" were all avid gardeners. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that avid gardeners like me and you would feel cheerier looking at flowers morning, noon, and night.

A third point I'd like to bring up is the supposed level of energy or cheer one maintains after looking at flowers first thing in the morning. I think most folks would be easily cheered or energized after waking to see a bouquet of flowers rather than a bowl of mud, or a rotten banana. And the recent study gave no indication if the participants were allowed to choose what they would see upon waking.

Might the recent study be flawed for not measuring whether or not participants were just as cheered or energized when allowed to see their wives or husbands first thing in the morning?

Finally, you're probably thinking that I'm carrying this "recent study" thing a bit too far. That may be true, but the point I'm trying to make is that sometimes writers might use terms like "user opinions," "recent studies," "unscientific surveys," (one of my favorites), and similar phrases to enhance, embellish, persuade and prompt. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, because user opinions will vary depending on whatever recent study or unscientific survey they might have consulted.

One last note: If measuring energy and cheeriness of flowers were possible, it wouldn't surprise me in the least if they became much less so after viewing my face the first thing in the morning!

T.C. Conner is a Master Gardener and columnist for Allied News. He can be reached at tc@thewritegardener.com. Check out his blog at www.the writegardener.wordpress.com. His new book, "Through the Seasons with The Write Gardener," is available for sale at Allied News.

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