When bridge isn’t actively being played, there’s a lot of room to study players, habits and patterns. These studies are how we know just how beneficial bridge can be for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, and it’s how we know that playing bridge can increase the body’s immune system and why.
It’s also a continuing level of study that still has a lot to tell us.
Here are some of the must-read studies on the game so far.
GIB: Steps Toward an Expert-Level Bridge-Playing Program
GIB: Steps Toward an Expert-Level Bridge-Playing Program is credited to Matthew L. Ginsberg, and is one of the landmark studies on improving computer-to-human bridge play. It sets the groundwork for the creation of GIB, and how it was taught to play compared to other options of the time.
Players will already recognize GIB as Bridge Base Online’s own AI companion. This study is where it all started.
Preserved Cognitive Skills, Alzheimer-type Dementia and Bridge
Memory loss is a common characteristic of Alzheimer’s and dementia, but increasing research shows that some cognitive skills have the ability to stick around – even when there’s still some information-loss surrounding the skill itself.
For this 1994 study called “Preserved Cognitive Skills in Dementia of the Alzheimer Type”, the current abilities of patients with Alzheimer’s were tested at skills they had been practicing throughout their lives. The basic principles of the skill remained, while some of the surrounding detail didn’t.
One patient was a trombone player (who could play the songs but not name them), others were domino or canasta players, and another solved jigsaw puzzles.
The study also mentions a fifth patient, who could still find his way around bridge, “although he could not name the suits or articulate simple bidding rules.”
Bridge and the Immune System
Today, we know that playing bridge can help to boost the immune system – and this 2000 study is part of why.
According to source articles, it was studies originally done with mice that originally prompted Marian Cleeves Diamond to wonder what the results of another serious study could be. This time with twelve players of a local club and the game of bridge, instead.
Successfully improving dorsolateral cortex activation in mice led to the discovery that playing bridge can make the brain produce the same activating hormones – and this, in turn, helps your body as a whole.
Bridge and Test Scores
It’s thanks to this study by Dr. Christopher Shaw that we know playing bridge can help to improve kids’ test score. In 2006, he compared the test results of kids who played bridge versus those who didn’t – and then he had some of the students take up the game to see what happened.
Of course, the bridge-playing students performed better.
Another mention of this study can be found at this EuroBridge.org link.
Board Games and Dementia
“Playing board games, cognitive decline and dementia” is a unique study performed by surveying 3, 675 different people from Bordeaux, France who played board games over a period of 20 years to see whether or not they would develop dementia or cognitive decline – and whether or not board games could have any effect on the condition’s development.
840 people of the surveyed total would develop full-blown dementia over the 20 year test period.
What the study ended up proving is a significantly reduced risk of cognitive decline in board game players, together with a reduced rate of depression across the group.
The Notrump Study
The Notrump study by Gelman and Falk presents the theory that the mention of the word “Trump” makes bridge players “slightly deranged” – and that any mention of the ex-president might affect their game, making them play a more aggressive game in order to win contracts that contain the words “no” and “trump.”
No, what they’re calling the “Notrump Effect” isn’t a real thing.
Instead, this study was designed to prove a point about academics.
For a study comparing two phenomenon to see if there’s any correlation between the two, there needs to be a p-value of a certain number. (What’s the probability that these correlations are actually related or have happened by pure chance?)
The Notrump Study has a p-value that scores just below acceptable standards for what an academic study should be. Thus, it sounds probable, but isn’t.
It’s the same reasoning that can make it appear like cigarettes are good for you in the fifties, and terrible once you step through a time machine. Or that everyone should eat peas as the next “super food” and that everyone will be running away from peas in the next ten years when another study comes out calling it bad instead.