Yerkes-Dodson law and War in Iraq

menwomen mental.gif
NYT has an article on a study of the effects of military duty in Iraq and its effect on mental capacity;

“A large study of Army troops found that soldiers recently returned from duty in Iraq were highly likely to show subtle lapses in memory and in ability to focus, a deficit that often persisted for more than two months after they arrived home, researchers are reporting today…

The research team led by Dr. Vasterling administered a battery of mental tests to 654 male and female soldiers who served in Iraq at various times from April 2003 to May 2005. The tests, more than 20 in all, were given before and after deployment, and included one in which participants had to pay close attention to a computer screen as letters flashed by, waiting to flag each F they saw. In another test, they were asked to memorize simple diagrams and try to recreate them 30 minutes later.

The soldiers did significantly worse in tasks that measured spatial memory, verbal memory and their ability to focus than did 307 soldiers who had not been deployed to Iraq.

But the returning soldiers scored about the same as their peers on most of the other tests. And they outperformed those who had not been deployed in a test of reaction time, measured in the fraction of a second it takes to spot a computer icon and react. This finding in itself suggests that the soldiers’ minds had adapted to the dangerous, snap-judgment conditions of war, experts said. ..

In effect, the brain, like the rest of the body, builds the muscles it most uses, sometimes at the expense of other abilities, say psychologists who study short-term memory and concentration. If reaction time is more critical to survival than verbal memory, the brain will devote its limited resources to that mental quickness.”

Via The Frontal Cortex blog; a commentator invokes the Yerkes-Dodson law to explain the effect.

I wonder whether there were marked differences among the sexes.

Related; Differences between the sexes; The mismeasure of woman- an article from the latest edition of The Economist, the chart above from the article.


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This page contains a single entry by Paul published on August 3, 2006 3:38 PM.

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