Writing Part 2 of my post on the case of Mr G is taking quite a while and so I need a post for today. Unfortunately, once again I demonstrate my poor taste when it comes to blog posts. Today I reproduce in full an article from yesterday's Education section of the Guardian.
As the 21st century arrived, two distinguished psychiatrists offered mankind proof, written proof - in a study called A Preliminary Survey of Rhinotillexomania in an Adolescent Sample - that most teenagers pick their noses.
Dr Chittaranjan Andrade and Dr BS Srihari, colleagues at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences in Bangalore, India, were inspired by an earlier published report by scientists in the American state of Wisconsin. The Wisconsin research claimed that more than 90% of adults are active nose-pickers. But it was silent as to whether teenagers are less or more picky than their elders.
Andrade and Srihari decided to find out. They had a serious purpose. Virtually any human activity, if carried to excess, can be considered a psychiatric disorder. Nose-picking is no exception. "While nose-picking behaviour in general appears to be a common and normal habit," they wrote, "it is necessary to determine the extent to which rhinotillexomania amounting to a disorder exists in the adolescent population."
They prepared themselves by reading other medical reports about nose-picking. With few exceptions, those reports dealt with spectacular individual nose-pickers, most of whom were psychotic. Andrade and Srihari learned that nose-picking, as practised by disturbed individuals, can be chronic, violent and associated with nosebleeds. The two psychiatrists studied Gigliotti and Waring's 1968 report, Self-Inflicted Destruction of Nose and Palate: Report of Case. They scoured Akhtar and Hastings's 1978 report, Life-Threatening Self-Mutilation of the Nose. They marvelled at Tarachow's 1966 report, Coprophagia and Allied Phenomena, noting from it that "persons do eat nasal debris, and find it tasty, too".
Those cases all had their points of interest, but they could serve only as background material for the work Andrade and Srihari had in mind. To determine the nose-picking who, what, where, when, why and how of a community, one must statistically sample the picking practices of many individuals.
Sampling is what the Wisconsin researchers did with adults. Sampling is what Andrade and Srihari knew they must do with adolescents.
Their meticulous survey of 200 students revealed that:
· Nose-picking practices are the same for all social classes.
· Less than 4% of the students claimed they never pick their noses.
· Half of the students pick their noses four or more times a day. About 7% say they indulge 20 or more times a day.
· 80% use their fingers exclusively. The rest are split almost evenly in their use of tools, some choosing tweezers while others prefer pencils.
· More than half said they do it to unclog nasal passages or relieve discomfort or itching. About 11% claimed they do it for cosmetic reasons, and a similar number do it just for pleasure.
· 4.5% said they ate the nasal debris.
Those are just a few highlights.
Andrade and Srihari were awarded the 2001 Ig Nobel prize in the field of public health. At the ceremony, Andrade explained: "Some people poke their nose into other people's business. I made it my business to poke my business into other people's noses."
Couldn't they have picked a more appropriate subject for their research?
I don't imagine many of you reached here. I guess most will have picked their spot and pulled out much earlier.