Janae Devika and Dr. Glenda Christiaens, School of Nursing
Many studies have shown a relationship between positive words and enhanced health. In 2005 Masauro Emoto published a book “The Hidden Messages in Water” that gained popularity throughout the world. Emoto collected water samples, exposed them to positive or negative words, and then froze them. He then analyzed the frozen water crystals and photographed and categorized them. The book has many examples of crystals treated with positive and negative words. The crystals exposed to positive words appear to be more organized and have more aesthetic appeal than did the crystals treated with negative words.
In Emoto’s book, there is also mention of an experiment done by many of Emoto’s readers attempting to reproduce this phenomenon in their own homes. This home experiment consists of filling two jars with cooked rice and labeling the first “I Love You”, and the second “I Hate You”. Every day for a month the experimenters would say positive words to the first jar and negative words to the second jar. Many people who did the experiment found that the rice in the positive jar had decomposed much less than the rice in the negative jar. This experiment became popular world-wide and many photos and case studies are displayed online, in magazines, and the experiment was even featured on a brief news spot. However, no controlled study has ever been done. The specific aim of this preliminary study is to reproduce the experiment in a randomized, controlled, and blinded setting; with the hypothesis that the rice treated with negative words would decompose at a more accelerated rate than the rice treated with positive words.
Several test runs were conducted before doing the official study in order to work out any problems in advance. It was difficult to determine the level of sterility necessary, and how to properly blind the research assistance to rule out bias. Finally a protocol was developed that assured proper randomization and double blind parameters.
There were many times when it was unclear if the hypothesis should be changed. During the test runs, the result continued to come back that there was no difference between the groups. However at the same time people who were doing this experiment at home sent many photos and e-mails that showed a marked difference between the positive and negative treatments. Despite this inconsistency, the hypothesis remained the same; that the positive group would decompose less than the negative group.
The controlled study was conducted by numbering 66 sterilized jars and filling them with cooked white rice. The jars were then randomly assigning to a positive group, negative group, or control group. The positive group of jars was labeled “I Love You”, the negative jars were labeled “I Hate You”, and the control jars remained unlabeled. For one month, a research assistant spoke hateful words to the negative group, loving words to the positive group and ignored the control group. The jars were in three covered boxes, and the research assistant merely followed a script and did not know what was in the boxes, or any details about the experiment.
After 30 days, the labels were taken off the jars and the rice was blindly categorized by the amount of mold present, and level of decomposition. After statistically analyzing the different groups of jars, it was concluded that there was no difference between the positive jars and the negative jars. Because there was a discrepancy between the experiments carried out in people’s homes, and the results of the controlled study, it is necessary to repeat the controlled study for validation. In future experiments, a broader rating scale would help to clarify the results.
Several important questions come up as a result of this study. The first question is, why do some experiments show an obvious difference between groups, but the controlled study did not? Was it the intent of the home experimenters that caused the difference, or the actual words they used? What would happen if the experiment was done again, this time training the blinded research assistant to use positive or negative intent along with positive and negative words? How can we bridge the gap between the anecdotal evidence of popular literature the findings of controlled studies.
The findings of this study have been presented as a poster at a research conference in Provo, UT on November 3, 2008. Applications have been submitted to the American Holistic Nurses Association to present the poster at a conference in June of 2009.
My experience with this study has greatly enhanced my knowledge and appreciation of the research process. It has also motivated me to explore various attitudes about alternative and mainstream health care. Working with a faculty mentor during my learning experience has helped me become more confident in my abilities and has provided me with educational assets that are unusual for the typical undergraduate experience. This has been an invaluable experience for me, and I am determined to continue my lifelong pursuit of learning and research.
- Emoto, M. (2005). The Hidden Messages in Water. Atria: New York.
- Philadelphia News. http://www.nbc10.com/news/5476558/detail.html. Accessed April 10, 2008.