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You d' Judge!

Is this acceptable research...?

Tim Lundeen, a software developer, wanted to know if taking Omega-3 supplements would improve his mental abilities.

The Experiment:

  • Tim measured his daily "cognitive alacrity" by recording the time it took to solve a random set of 100 simple arithmetic problems 7 x 9 or 13 - 5...always at 8 am
  • Then, at 9 am, he took an Omega-3 dosage of 400 mg/day
  • After he had some base-line data (on days 87-90), he increased the Omega-3 dosage to 800 mg/day and observed the effects on his test time
Data Observation: In his base-line phase, Tim began at about 110 seconds per problem set, improved to 80-82 seconds per problem set, but could not get past this threshold.

Then, on day 87, in Tim's words: "The effect of the 400 mg increase was immediate: The next morning my score dropped to 76-77 seconds, about 5% better than Iíve ever seen on a regular basis. I made the change 5 days ago. The last 4 days are 4 of my 5 all-time best scores."

Experimental Conclusion: As he increased the Omeg-3 dosage, his test time decreased. Thus, the Omega-3 supplements successfully increased his "cognitive alacrity."

Your Task: Critique this experiment...identifying its strengths and its weaknesses. Given Tim's same hypothesis, what experiment would need to be done in order for it to be acceptable?

Source: http://www.blog.sethroberts.net/2007/02/16/omega-3-and-arithmetic/