Comment »Posted on Monday 20 October 2008 at 11:31 pm by Jacob Aron
In Getting It Wrong

The Daily Mail is not alone in reporting that “new research” has shown 10.04pm is the best time to be creative, but I’m going to pick on them because their story is particularly bad – and the comments on their website are particularly illuminating.

A survey of 1,426 adults found that people feel most inspired at 10.04pm, whilst 4.33pm was a creativity low point. Additionally, 44% of respondents said that taking a shower would help get the creative juices flowing.

So, where have these results come from? A well regarded university, or a knowledgeable think-tank, perhaps? No, the “research” was conducted by the hotel chain Crowne Plaza. Of course, this means that their “study” is not available for peer review, or indeed just to be read. Googling, all I could find was reports similar to the Daily Mail one, rather than any actual figures.

So, is this science? No, it’s simple polling for a hotel firm. I’m not sure of their motives, but I’m pretty sure they want to sell more hotel rooms, not increase the boundaries of human knowledge. Why then is the Daily Mail reporting this as “science”?

Well, for one thing they seem to be mixing up these result with an earlier study by the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan – a genuine research institute. The way the story is written, it almost seems that this university has done the research, not the hotel chain.

By presenting the “findings” with this headline, the Daily Mail are misleading their readers about the role of scientists. Take a look at some of the comments on the story:

So now we know. Is this really what we pay for Scientists to use their brains.
The world has starving people and famin areas diseases for which there are still no cures and these people waste time on such trivial issues. Says a lot for their brainwaves at whatever time of day.

And at 10:05 it is all over, so back to bed!!

Isn’t it amazing what wonderfully useless information these experts come up with after years of research.

This cynicism is understandable. If scientists did come up with such useless findings as “10.04pm is the magic creativity time” I would be as sceptical as these commenters. By dressing up what amounts to nothing more than marketing as “science”, the Daily Mail does a disservice to both its readership and real scientists.

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