Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Accountemps survey reveals workers are most afraid of making errors on the job - and public speaking tied for fourth





















On October 24th Accountemps released a survey about Workplace Frights just in time to scare us for Halloween. They asked 420 workers to choose from a list in reply to being asked:

“Which one of the following is your greatest fear?"















Their results are shown above in a bar chart. (Click on it to see a larger version). Making errors on the job (28%) was first, dealing with difficult customers or clients was second (18%), and conflicts with your manager (15%) was third. Conflicts with coworkers (13%) and speaking in front of a group of people tied for fourth.   

Last Tuesday I blogged about how Either way you look at it, public speaking really is not our greatest fear. Public speaking was feared by more people in only six of nineteen surveys. Add this survey, and the score becomes six out of twenty, or only 30%. That refutes a silly claim made by Donald Michael Kraig at California Psychics on July 19, 2011:  

“For almost four decades, research polls investigating fears have revealed that the number one fear is...public speaking.”

The scary painting of Bertalda Assailed by Spirits was borrowed from Wikimedia Commons.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Free ebook on public speaking - Stand Up, Speak Out





































Recently I found a freely readable electronic textbook on public speaking that was published last year. Stand Up, Speak Out: The Practice and Ethics of Public Speaking was written by Jason S. Wrench, Anne Goding, Danette Ifert Johnson, and Bernardo A. Attias. Titles for the nineteen chapters are:

1. Why Public Speaking Matters Today
2. Ethics Matters: Understanding the Ethics of Public Speaking
3. Speaking Confidently
4. The Importance of Listening
5. Audience Analysis
6. Finding a Purpose and Selecting a Topic
7. Researching Your Speech
8. Supporting Ideas and Building Arguments
9. Introductions Matter: How to Begin a Speech Effectively
10. Creating the Body of a Speech
11. Concluding with Power
12. Outlining
13. The Importance of Language
14. Delivering the Speech
15. Presentation Aids: Design and Usage
16. Informative Speaking
17. Persuasive Speaking
18. Speaking to Entertain
19. Your First Speech


It looks like a useful reference for Toastmasters and others who occasionally need to review a subject in more depth.

The poster of October’s Bright Blue Weather came from the Library of Congress.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Loss of iconicity


















Back when I was a child, talking on the telephone meant picking up a handset that could be humorously represented either by a prop banana or an iconic hand gesture between ear and mouth (as shown above).

On October 10th Dave Kellett drew a Sheldon comic strip titled Grumpy Cartoonist Corner where he lamented that either showing someone making a phone call or watching a television set was getting far less obvious. Now everything just is a rectangle with a screen, so most activities can’t be drawn in an iconic way.  

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Does your speech audience look at you like you’re an alien from outer space?



















Perhaps you are using terminology strange to them. Last week in his Accidental Communicator blog Jim Anderson wrote about International Humor: Is It Even Possible For A Speaker? He pointed out the need to first learn about how your audience communicates, which also includes gestures

On Friday October 5th I attended a half-day workshop in Salt Lake City on thermal spray technology taught by Dr. Chris Berndt. Chris is a professor in Melbourne, and has been president of ASM International, the Thermal Spray Society, and the Australian Ceramic Society. Chris started by joking about his Aussie English, and said he hoped we could understand it when he got enthusiastic and began to speak quickly. We laughed, but did.   

Thursday evening before Chris Berndt’s workshop he spoke at a meeting of the ASM Utah chapter. We met in the F.A. Sutton building on the north end of the University of Utah campus. When I headed down University Drive past their stadium in mid-afternoon the band was coming out from what I’d assumed was practice for the usual Saturday afternoon football game. Later when I pulled into the visitor parking lot near the Sutton building I was surprised to see that the gate was open, and the adjacent lawn was full of tailgaters wearing red. I asked one and found I had assumed incorrectly. The football game against USC (televised on ESPN) was starting at 7:00 PM on Thursday.  

We had a 1938 Encyclopaedia Britannica on our bookshelf when I was growing up. I remember being puzzled by their different terminology, like aeroplane instead of airplane. They also described tractors that ran on paraffin. In the U.S., paraffin is a solid wax used in candles. They meant a liquid fuel, which we’d have called kerosene. A decade ago I remember we bought a British magazine about kitchen planning and remodeling at a bookstore and were surprised at some of them like:














Many U.S. residents also would be puzzled by a March 28th Canadian newspaper headline that read:

“Millions in loonies and toonies spill onto Ontario highway after Brinks truck crash”

It’s quite logical though. The one-dollar Canadian coin has a loon on it, so it’s called a loonie - and  thus the two-dollar coin is called a toonie.

The image of aliens came from the infamous film Plan 9 from Outer Space.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Either way you look at it, public speaking really is not our greatest fear.
















 Even when it’s not Halloween, speaking coaches try to scare us by proclaiming that public speaking is the number one (or the greatest) fear everyone has. Enough of this nonsense! The claim that public speaking is the number one or greatest fear just is a myth, and it is busted. I suspect it came mainly from people assuming that 39 year old survey cited in the Book of Lists and discussed endlessly was the last word on this topic. If you believe it, then I’d suggest you look at some more evidence, as I have.

One way to look at it is to ask what more people fear. That is what most surveys do. On July 30th I blogged about Is fear of public speaking the greatest fear in the entire galaxy? It was ranked first in only five of fifteen surveys that I examined, so that is not true.

Since then I found four more surveys of adults in the U.S.:

Poverty was the greatest fear in Glamour magazine’s 2012 Guy Survey (and public speaking came fifth)

Latest (2012) CareerBuilder survey on biggest workplace fears found that presenting only ranked third

Snakes came first in a 1988 Roper survey of what American adults were afraid of or bothered by (and public speaking was second)

Public speaking came first in a 1987 fear survey by Dental Health Advisor magazine

So, the latest box score is that public speaking was ranked first in only six of nineteen surveys.

What is true based on this type of survey is that public speaking is the number one social fear for adults. There are surveys to back up that statement for the United States, Canada (Alberta and Manitoba), Sweden, and both developed and developing countries. Psychologists know this, but most speaking coaches don’t.

The other way to look at it is to ask what people fear more, which psychologists have done many times using fear survey schedules that rank each of a long list of fears on an intensity scale. Unfortunately their results have been ignored by speaking coaches.

Earlier this month I blogged about three studies of U.S. university students that ranked fear of public speaking other than first: 

In a 1965 study of (U.S.) university students, fear of public speaking ranked sixth for men and seventh for women

In a 1992 study of U.S. university students, fear of public speaking ranked sixth for men and eighth for women

In a 2012 study of U.S. university students, fear of public speaking was ranked sixth

There have been studies of adults in Greece, and university students in Egypt:

In a 2000 study of adults in Greece, fear of public speaking wasn’t ranked in the top ten

In a 1994 study of Egyptian university students, fear of public speaking ranked 63rd for men and 66th for women

There also have been two studies of older adults in West Virginia and Canada:

In a 1999 study of older adults (in West Virginia), fear of public speaking ranked only twelfth

In a 1991 study of Canadians in Metro Toronto ages 50 or over, fear of public speaking ranked 16 for women and more than 9th for men

Two years ago I blogged about What should we really be afraid of for Halloween? The answer is not public speaking.

Monday, October 22, 2012

In a 2004 study of Greek children, public speaking wasn’t in the Top 13 Fears

















Back at the beginning of February I blogged about surveys of children’s fears. There was another large survey that I did not discuss then.

In 2004 Robert Mellon, Emmanouil Koliadis and Theodoros D. Paraskevopoulus published a long article in Anxiety Disorders magazine titled Normative development of fears in Greece: Self-reports on the Hellenic Fear Survey Schedule for Children. You can read the abstract here.

They studied 3200 public school students (1546 girls and 1654 boys) in Grade 2 (age 7 or 8) through Grade 6 (age 11 or 12). Students took the Hellenic Fear Survey Schedule for Children. It is a Greek-language adaptation of the Fear Survey Schedule for Children - Revised (FSSC-R) that has 80 items to be ranked for intensity. Table 6 of the article listed the rankings for the most fear-eliciting items in the survey.













The top 13 fears are shown above in a table. (Click on it to see a larger, clearer version). The scale also included an item (#46) on public performance or oral presentation (public speaking), but it did not appear in the top 13 overall or for boys or girls. Eight of the same fears in the top ten were listed by both boys and girls, although they were ranked differently.

On February 2nd I blogged about the Top ten fears of children in the United States, Australia, China, and Nigeria. Greek children overall had seven of the same top ten fears as for that pooled sample: hit by a car or truck, bombing attacks, not able to breathe, fire - getting burned, falling from a high place, having my parents argue, and failing a test.

On February 15, 2011 I blogged about When does fear of public speaking start? In that post I showed a graph that indicated only 50% of those German young people feared public speaking by age 13. It’s not surprising that these Greek children didn’t rank the fear in their top 13.

The image of children from Cappadocia in traditional costume came from Zoriusert at Wikimedia Commons.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Over in the United Kingdom today is the last day of Face Your Fears Week

On October 16th I blogged about it being National Face Your Fears Day in the U.S.. Across the Atlantic today is the last day of Face Your Fears Week, which is a fund raising campaign for a charity concerning facial disfigurement called Changing Faces.

They have a list of top ten fears that (of course) includes public speaking.

1. Flying
2. Public Speaking
3. Heights
4. Water
5. Intimacy
6. Needles
7. Confined Spaces
8. Spiders
9. Snakes
10. Dogs







Last year they posted a YouTube video adapted from an old Coronet instructional film, which reminded me of schooldays long ago.

They also have a humorous video warning Don’t Try This At Home. Note that National Face Your Fears Day just is about me, while Face Your Fears Week is about helping others.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Low-lighting superfluous text in PowerPoint slides

In his PowerPoint Blog on Tuesday, October 16th Dave Paradi discussed tips on Presenting Legal/Regulatory Quotes. He described several approaches for selecting and emphasizing what’s important in those long boring passages that seem to have been written by lawyers paid by the word.
















His discussion made me reconsider a slide (shown above) I’d used before in a lecture on stainless steels. It had quoted the definition for crevice corrosion from a consensus document called NACE/ASTM G193 Standard Terminology and Acronyms Relating to Corrosion. I’d used red to highlight the 29 of 49 words that I considered superfluous. (Getting a committee to agree on a standard often involves adding more words rather than subtracting them).

















An alternative is to low-light rather than highlight, and thus to de-emphasize what is unimportant by putting it in light gray rather than black or dark brown. The Study Prof blog described this in a 2009 post on Summarizing to Increase Reading Comprehension - Low-lighting. He also suggested rewriting that condensed text in plain English.

G 193 started out in ASTM, which is the American Society for Testing and Materials.  

Thursday, October 18, 2012

In a 2012 study of U.S. university students, fear of public speaking was ranked sixth














In May 2012 Stephanie M. Guillemette published her Honors College thesis in Psychology at the University of Maine titled A Study of Childhood and Late Adolescent Fear: The Role of Fear in Socioemotional Functioning. She studied 70 college students (aged 18 to 25 - 52 females and 18 males) using two similar fear surveys: the Louisville Fear Survey for Present Day (LFSP), and the Louisville Fear Survey for Childhood (LFSC) which asked about childhood memories from ages 5 to 13 years. Both surveys included 74 items to be ranked for intensity on a scale from 0 (no fear) to 100.  Her survey results are shown starting on page 19 with top ten lists, and continuing with all the data.   

























A bar chart shown above lists the top 25 fears for those students. (Click on it to see a larger, clearer version). The greatest fear was someone in family dying, followed by having someone ill in the family, dying, getting cancer, being the victim of a crime, and public speaking. The sixth place ranking for public speaking is consistent with two other surveys of U.S. university students that I recently discussed. In a 1992 survey it was ranked sixth for men and eighth for women, and in a 1965 survey it was ranked sixth for men and seventh for women.
























Another bar chart lists the top 25 fears remembered from childhood. The greatest fear also was someone in the family dying, but now public speaking only was ranked 13th.   

An image of the Mall at the University of Maine came from Wikimedia Commons.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

In a 2000 study of adults in Greece, fear of public speaking wasn’t ranked in the top ten


















On October 13th I discussed an article from 1992 about fears of U.S. university students that used the Fear Survey Schedule III. On October 14th I discussed another article from 1994 about how that schedule had been translated into Arabic and given to Egyptian university students. Today I’ll discuss another translation of that schedule into Greek. 

In 2000 Robert Mellon published an article in the Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment titled A Greek Language Inventory of Fears: Psychometric Properties and Factor Structure of Self-Reports of Fears on the Hellenic Fear Survey Schedule. You can read the abstract and first page here. He gave that Hellenic Fear Survey to 696 adults in Greece (376 females, and 320 males). People were asked to rank the intensity level of their fears on a scale going from zero (no fear) to four (very much fear).





















Two bar charts shown above compare the top ten fears for residents of cities with those for residents of towns and villages. (Click on them to see larger, clearer versions). Becoming mentally ill was the top fear in both locations. Speaking in public was not in the top ten. There were different rankings, but the same ten fears (in alphabetical order) that were:

Becoming mentally ill
Dead people,
Failure
Feeling disapproved of
Feeling rejected by others
Looking foolish
Losing control
Parting from friends
Possible surgery
Witness surgery


















Another pair of bar charts list the mean scores on the top ten fears for females and males. Becoming mentally ill was the top fear for both sexes. For females possible surgery came second, while for males looking foolish came second. For females looking foolish was third, while for males failure was.  Speaking in public was not in the top ten for either females or males. Nine of ten fears were common to both sexes. Listed in alphabetical order these were: becoming mentally ill, dead people, failure, feeling disapproved of, feeling rejected by others, looking foolish, losing control, parting from friends, and possible surgery. For females the tenth fear was to witness surgery, while for males it was making mistakes was.















































Two more bar charts compare the top 20 results for females and males found by Klieger (for U.S. university students) with these for Greek adults. Fears are listed in the order found by Klieger, except that becoming mentally ill (which wasn’t in the top twenty) was added to the top of the list for females. Note that for male U.S. university students fear of becoming mentally ill was ranked eighteenth, while for Greek adults it was ranked first. For U.S. university students, fear of public speaking was ranked sixth for men and eighth for women - while for Greek adults it wasn’t even in the top ten.

A topographic map of Greece came from Wikimedia Commons.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Today is National Face Your Fears Day




















Or maybe it was last Tuesday. An October 2007 blog post on the Face Your Fears Today web site by its creator, Steve Hughes, said it was the third Tuesday in October. But, a 2008 post on his other Hit Your Stride web site said it was the second Tuesday. Maybe he needed to face the fear of picking a week. Anyhow, his second post said that:

“Americans are a fearful bunch and too often we let our fears cheat us out of enjoying the good things life has to offer.  This special day is all about helping people face and overcome their fears.” 

Back in 2009 I blogged about an article by a Mayo Clinic psychiatrist (Daniel K. Hall-Flavin) on how to overcome the fear of public speaking. This month the Mayo Clinic announced a helpful Anxiety Coach App for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.

The image of a duel was adapted from a painting by Repin found at Wikimedia Commons.


Monday, October 15, 2012

In a 1991 study of Canadians in Metro Toronto ages 50 or over, fear of public speaking ranked 16th for women and more than 9th for men




















In 1991 there was an article by Andree Liddell, David Locker, and David Burman published in Behavior Research and Therapy magazine about Self-Reported Fears (FSS-II) of Subjects Aged 50 Years and Older. You can read an abstract here.

There were 512 adults from the Metropolitan Toronto area (300 females and 212 males) with ages ranging from 50 to 89 with a mean of 63. They took the 51-item Fear Survey Schedule II, in which they were asked to rank the intensity level for each fear on a scale from 1 to 7 where:

1 = None
2 = Very Little
3 = A Little
4 = Some
5 = Much
6 = Very Much
7 = Terror


Table 2 of the article listed all items for which the mean rating was above the middle of the scale (4 = Some). The FSS-II was given as a control to help separate effects of general fearfulness from dental anxiety. 






































Two bar charts shown above list the mean scores for females and males. For both sexes death of a loved one was the top fear, followed by illness or injury to loved ones. For females fear of speaking before a group ranked 16th (at 4.05). For males fear of speaking before a group was below 4.00, so it ranked more than 9th. 

These seasoned citizens clearly weren’t following Toronto speaking coach George Torok’s more recent claim that:

"The greatest fear is to speak in public. The second greatest fear is to die."

On October 12th I discussed a 1999 survey of older adults in West Virginia that had ranked speaking before a group similarly as twelfth. It used a scale adapted for older adults called the FSS-OA. The two surveys agreed in not ranking public speaking near the top of lists of fears.

An image of the Union Station Bus Terminal and CN Tower came from Wikimedia Commons.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

In a 1994 study of Egyptian university students, fear of public speaking ranked 63rd for men and 66th for women




















Cross-cultural comparisons can be startling, because our smug assumption that the whole world acts the same as we do may be completely wrong.

In 1994 Ahmed M. Abdel-Khalek published an article in the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry titled Normative Results on the Arabic Fear Survey Schedule III. You can read an abstract of it here on PubMed. Table 1 of that article presented his results for mean scores from 520 students (238 females and 282 males) at Alexandria University in Egypt.

















































Two bar charts shown above list the mean scores on the top 70 fears (out of 108) for females and males. (Click on them to see larger, clearer versions). Being seen unclothed was the top fear for females, while failure was the top fear for males. Speaking in public was 63rd for males and 66th for females.

For both sexes the top ten fears included eight shared ones - being seen unclothed, being punished by God, dirt, failure, hurting others’ feelings, looking foolish, one person bullying another, and parting from friends.

For both sexes the top 20 fears included 16 that were shared - being dressed unsuitably, being ignored, being punished by God, being seen unclothed, dirt, failure, feeling disapproved of, feeling rejected by others, hurting others’ feelings, ideas of possible homosexuality, looking foolish, making mistakes, one person bullying another, parting from friends, thoughts of being mentally ill, tough looking people.

For the U.S. students I discussed in my previous post, the top 20 fears for both sexes included 15 that were shared: being criticized, being dressed unsuitably, dead people, failure, falling, feeling disapproved of, feeling rejected, hurting others’ feelings, looking foolish, losing control, making mistakes, parting from friends, people who seem insane, speaking in public, and surgical operations.

Nine fears were common to both the Egyptian and U.S. students: being dressed unsuitably, dead people, failure, feeling disapproved of, feeling rejected, hurting others’ feelings, looking foolish, making mistakes, parting from friends. The others reflect large cultural differences. For example, Egyptian males and females ranked dirt 3rd, while U.S. females ranked it 103rd and U.S. males ranked it 107th. 

The outline map of Egypt with a dot indicating Alexandria is from Wikimedia Commons. 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

In a 1992 study of U.S. university students, fear of public speaking ranked sixth for men and eighth for women

















If you really want to know what people fear most, you should ask a clinical psychologist rather than a public speaking coach. Unfortunately, what happens in psychology stays in psychology, while speaking coaches eagerly tell us that speaking in public is what we all fear the most.

Back in 1964 J. Wolpe and P. J. Lange published an article in Behaviour Research and Therapy magazine that described A Fear Survey Scale for Use in Behavior Therapy. Their Fear Survey Schedule III (FSS-III) had 108 items. People were asked to rank the intensity level of their fears from zero (no fear) to four (very much fear).

In 1992 Douglas M. Klieger of Villanova University (near the city of Philadelphia) published another article in the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry titled The Non-Standardization of the Fear Survey Schedule. You can read an abstract of it here.

Table 2 of that article presented his results for mean scores from 860 students (508 females and 352 males). He didn’t say where they were from, but possibly it was where he was located. 




Two bar charts shown above list the mean scores on the top twenty fears for females and males. (Click on them to see larger, clearer versions). Failure was the top fear. Speaking in public was sixth for males and eighth for females.

For both sexes fear of speaking in public was preceded by hurting others’ feelings, dead people, and feeling rejected. For females there also were bats, mice and rats, and fire. For males there were looking foolish. and not being a success.

For both sexes the top twenty fears also included being criticized, feeling disapproved of, people who seem insane, falling, losing control, being dressed unsuitably, making mistakes, parting from friends, and surgical operations. The mean score on each item for females generally was higher than for males.       

The image of basketball in the Villanova Pavilion came from Wikimedia Commons.

Friday, October 12, 2012

In a 1999 study of older adults, fear of public speaking ranked only twelfth
























In my previous post I discussed results on college students from the 51-item Fear Survey Schedule II (FSS-II) developed  by James H. Geer back in 1965. In that post I also mentioned other fear survey schedules for children. There also has been another 62-item scale developed for older adults (FSS-II OA) by Jane Null Kogan. She described it in 2004 in an article written with Barry A. Edelstein in Anxiety Disorders magazine titled Modification and psychometric examination of a self-report measure of fear in older adults. You can read an abstract here. That article was based on her 1999 PhD thesis at West Virginia University, which can be found here.  

As with the FSS-II people were asked to rank the intensity level of their fears from one to seven where:

1 = None
2 = Very Little
3 = A Little
4 = Some
5 = Much
6 = Very Much
7 = Terror


Column 3 of Table 4 in her thesis presented results from her second study of 114 older adults in West Virginia, with ages ranging from 60 to 88. 95% of them were Caucasian.
















A bar chart shown above list their mean scores on the top twenty fears. (Click on it to see a larger, clearer version). Death of a loved one was the top fear. Speaking before a group was twelfth, which isn’t exactly top of mind.

Other fears between these two were being a burden to others, illness or injury to loved ones, inability to care for self, poor well-being of loved ones, roller coasters, deep water, losing sight, being physically disabled, diminished health, and snakes.

























Another bar charts lists all of the results. The two lowest fears were arguing with parents and cemeteries.

The image of Van Gogh’s painting Old Man in Sorrow came from Wikimedia Commons.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

In a 1965 study of university students, fear of public speaking ranked sixth for men and seventh for women




















Back in 1965 James H. Geer published an article in Behaviour Research and Therapy magazine that described "The Development of a Scale to Measure Fear." You can read an abstract of it here. His Fear Survey Schedule II (FSS-II) had 51 items. People were asked to rank the intensity level of their fears from one to seven where:

1 = None
2 = Very Little
3 = A Little
4 = Some
5 = Much
6 = Very Much
7 = Terror


Table I of the article presented his results from 270 students (109 females and 161 males) in Introductory Psychology courses at the State University of New York at Buffalo.
































Two bar charts shown above list the mean scores on the top twenty fears for males and females. (Click on them to see larger, clearer versions). Death of a loved one was the top fear. Speaking before a group was sixth for men and seventh for women, preceded for both sexes by illness or injury to loved ones, failing a test,  and looking foolish. (For females there also were snakes and auto accidents, and for males there was not being a success). Death was twelfth for both females and males. The mean score on each item for females generally was higher than for males. 

 










































Another pair of bar charts list all of the results. This fear survey scale is the ancestor of many other scales that have been used by clinical psychologists. Back in February I discussed results that were obtained using three others for children:

American Fear Survey Schedule for Children (FSSC-AM)

Fear Survey Schedule for Children - Revised (FSSC-R)

Hawaiian version of the Fear Survey Schedule for Children (FSSC-HI)

In a 1980 retrospective about his article, Professor Geer noted that: 

“....when the paper that described this scale was originally submitted to one of the journals of the American Psychological Association, it was rejected with an offer to publish a brief one page note on the work. The journal editor in his letter of rejection said that he could not waste valuable journal space on the manuscript as psychologists would not be interested in viewing people as a ‘bag of fears’.”

But the public is much more interested in us as bags of fears, so speaking coaches have gotten away with making silly claims that public speaking is the number one fear. 

The image of students at Tiffin University came from Wikimedia Commons.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Did National Public Radio really do a survey about fear of public speaking?




















In a web page on How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking, Nancy Daniels stated that:

“According to a study conducted by National Public Radio, 43% of Americans say their greatest fear in life is public speaking. In fact people who responded to the survey said they fear public speaking more than death.”

That undated page seems to have gone up on March 15, 2007. The first sentence from that quote popped up again recently (without attribution) on September 5, 2012 at a blog called Communication Weekly. Last year it also has been linked to from Merk Zone, and quoted without attribution by the RepMan blog.  

I went looking for that survey, and could not find a source for it on the web via a Google search, or in newspaper and magazine databases. As far as I can tell it’s  just a legend. At the National Public Radio (NPR) web site I found a two-part story on fear of public speaking from November 5th and November 6th 2007, but no survey was mentioned there.















There is an infamous satirical newspaper called the Onion, which on September 24th ran a story titled Gallup Poll: Rural Whites Prefer Ahmadinejad to Obama. Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency (FNA) fell for it, reran it, and wound up looking very silly.  

Also, not everything you hear on NPR is meant to be taken seriously. There is a quiz show on that network called Wait wait...don’t tell me! which contains a segment called Bluff the Listener. In it they tell several “news” stories - only one of which is true. Perhaps that's where Nancy heard about the survey. 

The legendary survey is yet another example showing why we always should trace a quote back to its source before spreading ignorance by repeating it.

Images of Cedric Hardwicke and an onion both came from Wikimedia Commons.


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Free ebook on Communicating Science and other geeky topics





















This year the Burroughs Wellcome Fund released the second edition of their free ebook Communicating Science: giving talks. You can download an Acrobat .pdf file here at their web site. The first edition came out back in 2007 or perhaps 2008. I downloaded it, but didn’t blog about it then.

It is a useful resource for scientists, engineers, librarians, and other geeky introverts who want to learn how to communicate better.

Section headings are:

Introduction - take the high ground
Presentation Matters
Structuring Your Talk
What Type of Talk?
The Speaker’s Toolbox
Using Technology
Handling Questions Gracefully
What If Things Go  Terribly Wrong?
Getting the Most From Your Talk
Appendix - In a Minute There is Time


Denise Graveline discussed it in an August 29th post on her Eloquent Woman blog. 

The image of James Pollack lecturing came from Wikimedia Commons.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Rock Water: the Bach Flower Remedy for perfectionism that doesn’t contain any flowers

















Logically, shouldn’t something called a flower remedy or essence contain some flowers? Well, logic or science doesn’t really have much to do with Bach Flowers - they’re a mystical system. (Harriet Hall discussed them on May 22nd in a post at the Science-Based Medicine blog). 

Nelsons Bach has a slick three-part video at YouTube called Bach Flower Remedies: The Journey to Simple Healing that describes where they came from. See Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

In Part 2 they say that:

“Most of the remedies were made from flowers, with the exception of Rock Water, which was potentised in 1933 using water from a forgotten spring.”

On page 162 his book Bach Flower Remedies form and function Julian Barnard describes more about preparation of Rock Water:

“Rock Water is not a flower remedy in the strict sense of the phrase: it is not made from flowers. Rock Water, said Bach, should be taken from any well or spring ‘which has been known to be a healing centre and which is still left free in its natural state, unhampered by the shrines of man’. Later he modifies ‘healing centre’ to having had ‘healing power’. Water from the spring is taken in a thin glass bowl and set down nearby  so that it may receive clear uninterrupted sunshine. That’s it, that’s all. The water is cold and condensation immediately forms on the outside glass. After some time the condensation clears as the water in the bowl warms. Later the familiar bubbles appear and the winking, spectral colours grow stronger until the essence is made. Bach said this remedy only needed about half an hour although Nora Weeks speaks of three hours: she erred on the side of caution.”

The Nelsons Natural World web page about How the Remedies are Made calls this first step the Sun Method (except there it also calls for flowers). In the second step that ‘potentised’ water is mixed with brandy to make a Mother Tincture. In the third step  27% grape alcohol is added.   

So, Rock Water simply could be described as spring water and brandy, and might as well be acronymed as SWAB. In modern medicine clinical trials compare a drug with an inert substance (a placebo), and neither the doctors nor the patients know who got which remedy. Rock Water would be described as a placebo.

If we look at Amazon.com for a product description of Rock Water, we find:

“Active Ingredients: 5x dilution of Aqua petra HPUS

Inactive Ingredient: 27% alcohol

Directions: 2 drops in water and sip at intervals or add to a 30 ml mixing bottle containing water. Take 4 drops a minimum of 4 times a a day. Do not use if seal is broken. Keep out of reach of children. If pregnant or breast-feeding, ask a health professional before use. For relief of naturally occurring nervous tension. Helps you to enjoy life’s pleasures rather than stick to rigidly to your ideals or personal habits.”


The abbreviation HPUS means Homeopathic Pharacopoeia of the United States, and Aqua Petra is a fancy Latin phrase for spring water.

What they’re selling us is water and alcohol - to take dissolved in more water. At $17.54 for 20 ml, that’s an extremely expensive $877 a liter. (Compare that price with any vintage wine or liquor). 

Reading Julian Barnard’s description reminded me of an infamous comedy sketch from Monty Python’s Flying Circus, in which John Cleese encountered a Cheese Shop completely devoid of cheese (and eventually resorted to senseless violence). There is another sketch called Crunchy Frog in which the owner of the Whizzo Chocolate Company is taken to task for inadequate descriptions of his products.

Monday, October 1, 2012

A web survey of social fears in people with social anxiety

On September 27, 2012 SL8804 posted a YouTube video that gave the results from a survey of social fears done at a web site having members with social anxiety. These people find life to be scarier than most people do. Members were asked:

“What social situations do you fear the most? Choose three options, out of ten options.”

He said that there were 619 voters, for a total of 1857 responses.





















The first three columns of the table shown above list the situations, number of votes, and percents. (Click on it to see a larger, clearer version).  In the fourth column I recalculated the sample size based on the number and percent. That sample size seems to be about 539 rather than 619, so I recalculated the percentages (fifth column).
















The bar chart shown above plots those ten results from the table. (Click on it for a larger, clearer version). Giving a speech was feared by the most people, 84.6%. That percentage was much larger than for any of the other nine situations (about 40% or less).

The percent of people who feared public speaking was much larger than typically is reported in surveys of the general public. But, it is similar to the percentages reported for people with social anxiety.






















For example, in May I discussed how a survey found that Avoiding giving speeches is the most common social fear for Brazilian university students. The bar chart shown above compares data for 237 students having social anxiety (red) with 2082 students who did not have it (gray).
















In October 2011 I discussed What’s the difference between a fear and a phobia? That article by Ruscio et al. also included results (shown above in a bar chart) for the prevalence of each fear among 1143 people who had lifetime social anxiety (orange) versus the total sample of 9282 people (yellow). The percentages for people with social anxiety were about five times those for the general public.