"Given playboys and playgirls get a bad press, it would be fair to say they could be the most loquacious of the lot of us," Dr. Harriet Dempsey-Jones, researcher in Cognitive Neurosciences at Oxford University told Sputnik.
In a 21st century evaluation of phrenology, Dr. Dempsey-Jones' colleagues used brain scanning software to look at any potential links between the shape of someone's skull and their personality. The neuroscientists used MRI data from 5,724 subjects along with demographic, lifestyle, language and cognitive tests.
The most striking discovery was that the more sexual partners someone had the more likely it would be that they would be good with words.
"To explore the relationship between lifestyle measures, we correlated each one against every other…the highest correlations between non-identical measures were…between number of sexual partners and ability to generate words," Dr. Oiwi Parker Jones states in the scientific paper.
Using a set of lifestyle measures, the UK Biobank's dataset of questionnaires and cognitive tests, as well as information displayed in the MRI scans, the scientists found the highest correlation between the number of sexual partners people admitted having and their ability to generate words.
"The experiment was carried out in the spirit of fun. It's something my colleagues chose to do as an aside to their other research." Dr. Dempsey-Jones told Sputnik.
"The Biobank means you can ask a lot of interesting questions. It has 6,000 brains on its database. Anyone can have a look at it — all the brains and skulls are sitting there," Dr. Dempsey-Jones explained.
Oxford University neuroscientists used MRI scans from 6000 people to test phrenology’s claims that lumps and bumps on the skull can explain people’s personality. https://t.co/6EoVhFqlJC pic.twitter.com/H7qJzzD1Cm— Paul Kirby (@paul1kirby) January 25, 2018
Phrenology originated in the 19th Century with Franz Joseph Gall, a German physician who believed that the shape and size of the head determined certain personality traits.
"The principles have been taken and used for nefarious purposes which does unfortunately happen in science outside the scientific sphere and used to justify dubious aspects," Dr. Dempsey-Jones told Sputnik. "But Franz Joseph Gall had some dubious practices putting together the phrenological maps."
"He chose women of 'ill repute' and 'widows' to see if there was a correlation between amativeness and the propensity to copulate," Dr. Dempsey-Jones said, "so there was some stereotyping going on and unfairness — however the study was well intended."
This 21st century study is the first time neuroscientists have rigorously tested phrenology. "Although we did not expect to find any significant effects between lifestyle measures and head shape, we believe it is important for scientists to test ideas, even unfashionable or offensive ones," Dr. Oiwi Parker Jones states in the scientific paper.
The findings have been published on bioRxiv.