The prime minister’s (purported) pee principle

The British prime minister could benefit from studying the research that led to this year’s Ig Nobel Prize in medicine, suggests Leo Hickman, writing in The Guardian:

Does David Cameron’s ‘full-bladder technique’ work?

The prime minister conducted his EU negotiations while intentionally ‘desperate for a pee’, to achieve maximum focus. What do the experts think?

…Cameron, it is said, used his tried-and-tested “full-bladder technique” to achieve maximum focus and clarity of thought throughout the gruelling nine-hour session in Brussels. During the formal dinner and subsequent horse-trading into the early hours, the prime minister remained intentionally “desperate for a pee”.

Cameron has reportedly used the technique before, notably during his “no notes” conference speeches during the early years of his party leadership. He heard about it when watching a Michael Cockerelldocumentary about the late Conservative politician Enoch Powell a decade beforehand. Powell – best known for his infamous “Rivers of Blood” speech in 1968 – remarked that he always performed an important speech on a full bladder: “You should do nothing to decrease the tension before making a big speech. If anything, you should seek to increase it.”

But it is clear that Cameron is not a keen reader of the journalNeurourology and Urodynamics, otherwise he would know that the medical research on this matter begs to differ. In a somewhat lampooned paper – it won an IgNobel award in September for “improbable research” – Australian and American researchers examined the “effect of acute increase in urge to void on cognitive function in healthy adults”….

Here are the Ig-winning studies:

Inhibitory Spillover: Increased Urination Urgency Facilitates Impulse Control in Unrelated Domains,” Mirjam A. Tuk, Debra Trampe and Luk Warlop, Psychological Science, vol. 22, no. 5, May 2011, pp. 627-633.

The Effect of Acute Increase in Urge to Void on Cognitive Function in Healthy Adults,” Matthew S. Lewis, Peter J. Snyder, Robert H. Pietrzak, David Darby, Robert A. Feldman, Paul T. Maruff, Neurology and Urodynamics, vol. 30, no. 1, January 2011, pp. 183-7.