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Does smoking really help a person think more clearly ? From recent scientific studies, the answer is a clear 'No'.

In one of these studies, psychologist George Spilich used three test groups of people. The first group consisted of "nicotine-free" people, that is non-smokers. The second group consisted of "nicotine-saturated" people, that is, smokers who were actively smoking at the time of the tests. The third group consisted of "nicotine-deprived" people, that is, smokers who were not allowed to smoke for a period before and during the tests, and were perhaps suffering from nicotine-withdrawal symptoms.

The tests were all based on the subjects' response to stimuli flashed on computer screens. In the first one, the subjects had to pick out a target letter among an array of letters which were flashed on the computer screen. All they had to do was press the space bar when they spotted the target letter. In this simple test, it was found that the three groups performed equally well.

The second test was more complex. The subjects had to scan sequences of 20 identical letters and respond the instant any of the letters transformed into a different one. In this test, the non-smokers were the quickest way to react. Under the stimulation of nicotine, the active smokers were quicker to react than the deprived smokers.

The tests got more complex. The third one involved short-term memory. For this test, the subjects had to remember a particular sequence of letters and numbers and respond when that sequence appeared amidst an array of sequences on the screen. In this test, non-smokers performed the best. The interesting result was that the deprived smokers committed fewer errors than the active smokers in this test.

The fourth experiment involved analytical thinking as well as memory. the subjects had to read  passage and then answer questions on it. Non-smokers were able to remember 19 percent more of the information than active smokers. Again, the deprived smokers performed better than the active smokers.

The final test got the subjects performing in a driving simulator on the computers, like the ones in video arcades. Subjects had to operate a steering wheel, the accelerator, brake and gear shift. Obstacles would appear on the screen, such as oil slicks and sharp corners. Again, the non-smokers performed the best, being involved in the most collisions, more than the deprived smokers.

"As our tests became more complex, non-smokers outperformed smokers by wider and wilder margins," said Spilich.

From the results of these tests, Spilich also concluded that a "smoker might perform adequately at many jobs until they got complicated". He could drive a car satisfactorily so long as everything remained routine, but if a tyre blew out at high speed he might not handle the emergency as well as a non-smoker. A smoking airline pilot could fly adequately if no problem arose, but if something went wrong, smoking might impair his mental capacity. It can also be seen from these tests that, for the more complicated tasks, deprived smokers were able to think more clearly than active smokers.

From paragraph 1-2 :
  1.

(a) What was the main purpose of the tests described in this passage ?

(b) What was the main equipment used in all the tests ?

(c) Explain the meaning of "nicotine-deprived".

   

From paragraph 3 :

  2.

What did the subjects have to do in the first test ?

    From paragraph 6 :
  3.

What two thinking processes were tested in the fourth test ?

    From paragraph 9 :
  4.

In which two conditions would a smoker's performance be unsatisfactory ?

  5.

From the experiment described in this passage, in what way did smoking affect the thinking process of addicted smokers ?

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Answers
 

1.

(a) It was to determine whether smoking helps anyone think more clearly.

(b) Computers

(c) not allowed to smoke so did not have nicotine in the body

 

2.

They had to pick out a target letter from among an array of letters which were flashed on a computer screen.

 

3.

It tested analytical thinking and memory.

 

4.

Their reactions would be unsatisfactory in complicated thinking tasks and in emergencies.

 

5.

They could not think through complicated problems as well as non-smokers.

 
 
 
 
 

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Comprehension 1

 

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