Monday, October 20, 2014

Summary of Findings: Wellness Activities (4 out of 5 stars)

Note: This post represents the synthesis of the thoughts, procedures and experiences of others as represented in the 5 articles read in advance (see previous posts) and the discussion among the students and instructor during the Advanced Analytic Techniques class at Mercyhurst University in October 2014  regarding wellness activities specifically. This technique was evaluated based on its overall validity, simplicity, flexibility and its ability to effectively use unstructured data.

Wellness, which includes exercise, diet, and sleep, is an analytic modifier which has been shown in many studies to  improve performance on a variety of cognitive tasks, but does not appear to have been studied in the context of forecasting abilities.  The strength of the current evidence coupled with low cost and relative simplicity of many of the most effective activities, however, suggests that additional  research should be conducted to conclude the effect of wellness activities on typical intelligence analyst activities.

1. Body of research suggests increased productivity across a variety of performance measures
2. Mitigates performance losses associated with involuntary sleep deprivation
3. Potential to increase group cohesion when conducted in a group setting
4. Enables auxiliary quality of life improvements such as enhanced sleep and life expectancy
5. Wellness activities are low-cost in terms of time and money

1. There is no research establishing diet and exercise’s effect on forecasting accuracy
2. There is moderate conflict among existing research describing diet and exercises effect on cognition
3. Stress is interpreted differently among individuals, so mandating a workout or diet regime is difficult
4. Further research on wellness activities and forecasting accuracy must overcome the presence of confounding variables

Step by Step:  
While this modifier is not amenable to a traditional step-by step approach, based on our limited research, here are five recommendations supported by the literature we examined:
  1. Establish a sleep schedule that you can maintain
  2. Regular exercise reduces stress levels
  3. Caffeine and tyrosine improved task performance over a period of four hours
  4. A standard caffeine dose (200mg) reduces cognitive fatigue
  5. A high-fruit content diet shows enhanced neurogenesis, which is likely to increase mental cognition

Participants played a memory game with six sets of shapes.  The participants were allowed 15 seconds to view the pieces for 15 seconds to try and memorize the location of the sets.  They then turned around and waited for 15 seconds while the shapes were flipped face down.  After the 15 second wait period, the analysts turned around and then completed the matching game as quickly as possible.  The second time through the exercise, participants were once again given 15 seconds to look at a new layout of the pieces.  This time, the participants did an exercise (jump squat, push up, sit-ups, wall sit, forward leaning rest) during the 15 second wait period.  Upon finishing 15 seconds of exercise, the participants attempted to match all the sets of pieces.
What did we learn from the Wellness Exercise
Four of the five participants had a slower completion time of the matching game with an elevated heart rate as opposed to their resting heart rate.  One participant had a significant reduction in time (> 30 seconds), one participant had only a slight increase (5 seconds), and the other three had a significant increase in time (> 30 seconds) while having an elevated heart rate.

Due to time constraints and research design, there was no conclusive answer to if having an elevated heart rate helped improve the participant's memory.  The participants each did a different exercise, in which there was no control for each exercise and its individual effects on the participant’s memory.  In the end, the participants agreed that a change in the research design and the length of the experiment may have produced more conclusive results.

Additional Resources Of Interest:

Snake Oil 2

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