The “black sheep” is a member of a social group or family who is regarded as a disgrace and an embarrassment to the rest of the group. The phrase became popular during the 18th century and is associated with the proverb, “There’s a black sheep in every flock.”
It is believed that the phrase derived from the fact that the fleeces of black sheep were not as valuable as those of the white sheep. While the wool of a white sheep could be dyed many different colors, the black fleece was a lot more limited and, for this reason, people preferred to have only white sheep in their flocks.
Many people rely on a strong cup of coffee to get them through the morning, but new research suggests that a daily fix of caffeine can actually help to improve your proofreading skills.
According to Tad Brunye, a senior cognitive scientist at the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center in Massachusets, caffeine can enhance some of the complex mental processes involved with the brain’s use of the right hemisphere, an area associated with written and spoken language. You can learn more about the brain’s role in proofreading in our guide to why proofreading is difficult.
His study, which was recently published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, involved two separate experiments that were aimed to assess the differences that regular consumption of caffeine appeared to have on an individual’s ability to spot mistakes. In the first experiment, 36 college students who consumed a moderate amount of caffeine on a regular basis were asked to complete a language test within which they were requested to read a one-page news story that contained a number of spelling and grammatical errors. The participants were then asked to identify and correct as many mistakes as they could within a five-minute period. Forty-five minutes prior to participating in the test, each student was provided with a randomly distributed capsule that contained one of four caffeine supplements none, 100 milligrams (the amount found in 8-ounces brewed coffee), 200 milligrams (found in 16-ounces coffee), or 400 milligrams (found in 20-ounces of coffee).
In the second experiment, the test was completed with 38 college students who consumed higher levels of caffeine on a regular basis with each of them having a daily intake of at least 300 milligrams.
The results revealed that caffeine consumption did not make a difference in the student’s ability to identify spelling mistakes but it did make a difference in their ability to detect and rectify “complex global errors,” such as mistakes involving subject-verb agreement and verb tense. According to the research findings, the low-caffeine students were the most effective at locating and correcting grammatical problems, while the highly caffeinated students needed an extra 400-milligram boost to achieve similar detection rates.
Commenting on the results, Brunye said: “Individuals who habitually consume caffeine on a daily basis are less likely to benefit from caffeine’s performance advantages without upping the dose.”
So if your dissertation or thesis is due and you have a long night of proofreading ahead of you, down that cup of Java and get on with it. Either that or get in touch with the experts.