The Story in the sentence : analysis of Mini Mental State Examination sentences from the Lothian Birth Cohort of 1921
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Introduction: The aim was to investigate in 79 year olds, the potential usefulness of a single written sentence with respect to making judgements or diagnoses about the sentence writer. Participants: 197 members of the Lothian Birth Cohort of 1921 (LBC1921) who had participated in the Scottish Mental Survey of 1932 (SMS1932), and more recently in the LBC1921 Studies (Deary, Whiteman, Starr, Whalley & Fox, 2004) provided sentences during Mini Mental State Examinations, taken between 1999 and 2001. Methods: The sentences were rated by naive volunteers as to their perception of the health, age and intelligence of the sentence writers as well as the tone and legibility of the sentence. Some of the raters graded the sentences in typed form, while others judged the original handwritten format. The sentences were also scored on a variety of objective features by the experimenters, such as word frequency, use of the first person, and the time orientation of the sentence. Results: Raters were reasonably consistent in their ratings, r values on an intra class correlation ranged from 0.70 for ratings of health to 0.97 for polarity ratings (p<0.001). Furthermore, they were able to estimate the intelligence of the sentence writer at well above chance levels, this was found particularly when ratings of handwritten sentences were compared to recent intelligence test scores (r=0.33, p<0.001). Ratings of sentence tone correlated significantly with subject depression scores (r=-0.18, p<0.02). Health ratings for handwritten sentences, correlated significantly with self rated disability scores (r=-0.15, p<0.04). Conclusions: Naive raters appear to possess a moderate ability to judge various aspects of the state of an author from a single sentence, possibly utilising an experientially acquired awareness of subtle linguistic cues.