Monday, July 03, 2006

"Thank you very much I'm fatter...I mean flattered"

Got this weird email in my inbox this morning. Strange thing is that this seems to be legit. We’re not talking “generic viagra” (however they want to spell it) or “meeting hot chicks for naughty fun”, either. Nope, this was from a doctor in Germany who wanted to use a picture from my Flickr site for scientific research into how the brain recognizes faces.

“As you can imagine, it is not easy to obtain suitable images as stimulus materials. However, flickr and other freely viewable internet sources provide a rich database of many pictures ideally suited to our purpose. As you may know, the legal issue regarding the use of these materials is currently not resolved. Furthermore, for ethical reasons, we would like to make sure that each person whose picture we would like to show also agrees to be part of this large data base. For this reason, we would appreciate, if you could confirm your consent by replying to this email using the form below this email.”

Well, gee, thanks! I guess I should be flattered. It’s not everyday you are asked to indirectly participate in scientific research. I mean, it’s just a photo -- what harm could come from it? Let’s read along a little further...

“Probably you want to know more about what is done in such a study and therefore I will explain it briefly: In a typical experiment pictures are shown to subjects (mostly university students) and they answer questions regarding the images. Importantly, while subjects are watching the pictures, their brains are monitored using high-level techniques such as EEG (Electroencephalography), MEG (Magnetoencephalography) or fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging). All of these methods are used in order to find out how the brain works during a given task. Using this approach one may try to answer research questions such as “how does the brain react when viewing an attractive face versus a less attractive one?””

...umm, now does that make me attractive or unattractive?

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