Last year, the Journal of Religion and Health published an article linking schizophrenia to demonic possession based on the claims of a single faith healer.
Now, they’ve published new research in their December issue which claims that consuming obscene sexual media may have “a negative impact on learning second language vocabulary.” Want to learn German? Better avoid sexy music videos and denim commercials, the study suggests.
“Aside from dire consequences in the afterlife, viewing sexual media can have a detrimental effect on human learning and memory in this life,” it concludes.
Yakup Çetin, the study’s author and a foreign language education professor at Faith University in Istanbul, told The Daily Beast that he stands by his work.
“I find my study objective,” he said, via email. “My study is limited to mild sexual content and second-language vocabulary. I believe that sexual content in media, especially explicit images, has serious and harmful impact on other learning as well. More research is needed to confirm this, however; in Turkey, it is difficult to carry out such a study.”
Here’s exactly how his study was carried out, without exaggeration or embellishment because, frankly, it doesn’t need any: First, Çetin recruited 64 freshmen, ages 17 to 22, from an English preparatory program at a university in Istanbul and divided them into two groups. “They were seated in comfortable chairs and offered popcorn and juice,” he writes.
With the crucial refreshments step of the scientific method out of the way, all of the test subjects, none of whom spoke German, were shown an illustrated slideshow of 18 German words with their accompanying Turkish translations. Then, the control group watched “a [half-hour] National Geographic documentary about animal and plant life in the Amazon (e.g., frogs, birds, trees, flowers, etc.).” This was used as a control because it was “a neutral video…which lacked sexually suggestive distractions.”
The experimental group watched an equally long compilation of sexual media.
What was in this sexy mash-up? Çetin did not provide The Daily Beast with the full list when asked but the study notes that it included the trailer for the Pitt-Jolie action flick Mr. & Mrs. Smith, the music video for “Hero” by Enrique Iglesias, and a television commercial for Mavi Jeans (perhaps this one starring Victoria’s Secret angel Adriana Lima). Because Turkey “strictly censors sexual content in media,” as Çetin observes, he was limited in his choice of sexual material.
Following the videos, all of the subjects “given a surprise memory test” to assess their recall of the German vocabulary from the slideshow. A week later, they took another post-test.
Subjects in the control group remembered an average of 5.53 words immediately after watching the Amazonian frogs, birds, flowers, and trees. Those who had been corrupted by the heavy necking in “Hero,” on the other hand, remembered just 2.65 words on average. That difference was statistically significant. A week later, however, the difference in vocabulary recall was still present but it was “statistically insignificant,” Çetin concedes.
Çetin speculates that unlike the control group, the experimental group “appear[s] to have experienced emotional sensations during their exposure to sexual media,” which could have interfered with their ability to memorize German vocabulary.
“Perhaps every encounter with sexual content evokes a chain of sexual sensations and thoughts, which may delay or hinder the learning of new material, in particular [a second language],” he writes.
Despite his small sample size, mixed results, and bizarre methodology—people typically learn second languages in classrooms, not in theaters immediately before hearing a latex-clad Angelina Jolie ask, “Have you been a bad boy?”—Çetin nonetheless argues that his study “demonstrates that exposure to media with sexual content impairs memory functions for learning,” and that it “confirms the religious warning” of Islamic scholars like Fethullah Gülen and Said Nursî who believe that “sexually arousing material” causes psychological problems including “forgetfulness and poor memory.”
Çetin also believes that his study has “significant practical implications for religion, pedagogy, and society.” People who are learning a second language, he advises, should be “very selective” about the media they consume in the target language.
So much for learning Spanish through telenovelas.
“For instance,” the study goes on to say, “an Internet search for images to illustrate a school PowerPoint presentation about ‘love’ can expose students to large volumes of arousing visual stimuli with sexual content…which may not only distract them from the topic and impair cognitive functions, but also trigger physiological change by exciting their emotions and libido.”
Last year, when the Journal of Religion and Health came under scrutiny for publishing an article on schizophrenia and demonic possession, the journal’s editor-in-chief, Weill Cornell Medical College lecturer Dr. Curtis Hart, told RealClearScience that “[t]he article was published in hopes that it would provoke discussion.”
“The Journal does not agree that demons are a real entity,” Hart clarified.
Instead of retracting the demonic possession paper, however, Hart said that there were plans for two rebuttals in a future issue.
With regards to Çetin’s study, Stephanie St. Pierre, the journal’s associate editor, confirmed to The Daily Beast that the article was peer-reviewed by two outside parties but that this review took place “prior to a decision put in place in the past six months to more fully vet outside reviewers.”
“While the journal is open to publishing articles that express opinions and different worldviews in addition to scientific studies, our standards of scientific rigor are high,” she added. “Unfortunately this article does not appear to reflect that level of rigor. We will be following up once a decision has been made on how to proceed.”
In April of last year, the journal’s publisher, Springer, confirmed that 18 papers across its publications had been written by a computer program “which creates nonsense documents.” Çetin’s paper isn’t nonsense, but it’s not much better. But on the off chance his hypothesis is correct, well, thank God the Rosetta Stone wasn’t a nude sculpture.