Advertising
Advertising

We Often See Quite a Lot of Interesting Research Findings, but How Many of Them Are Trustworthy?

We Often See Quite a Lot of Interesting Research Findings, but How Many of Them Are Trustworthy?

Experimenter bias plagues research publications every year.

Experimenters, their studies, and their results are far from perfect.

We have all heard of the academic misconduct, intentional manipulation, and researchers who blatantly lie in their research.

However, it is safe to assume that most researchers have good intentions when performing experiments and writing publications.

Despite good intentions, it is important to understand that all researchers are subject to one major downfall: experimenter bias.

Understanding Experimenter Bias [1]

In its simplest form, bias is when our mind tends to favor something.

Advertising

We all have our own set of bias, including our political views, our ideology, or what we expect from someone or something.

These biases influence how we speak, what we do, or who we vote for.

This isn’t only the case in everyday living, but in research as well.

Experimenters struggle to keep their preconceived notions out of their experiments. Unfortunately, this can happen during their experiment and influence the results.

This process is termed experimenter bias.

How Experimenter Bias Happens

When experimenters interact too closely with their subjects, or have preconceived notion of what to expect, biases start influencing the experiment. These effects are usually subtle, and often times even unintentional.

Advertising

In fact, most researchers may get so caught up in their research that they get trapped in their own hypothesis.

For instance, a researcher might over explain the intended results to their subjects, and the knowledge the subjects gain can influence their behavior.

Experimenter and subject interaction isn’t the only source experimenter bias either.

Experimenter bias can also be in the form of the design. Becoming too infatuated with their outcome can cause them to manipulate the experiment.

Examples of Experimenter Bias [2]

We are all familiar with the bodybuilding supplement industry. They often show their products producing incredible strength gains or weight loss results through multiple “studies”, while a different study with the same ingredients fail to indicate anything. If these are considered clinical studies, they can often times be an example of experimenter bias.

Essentially, the researchers altered specific aspects of their experiments to produce the results they were hoping to see, either with participants they choose, the way they interacted with their subjects, or by the way they designed the testing.

Advertising

However, not all types of experimenter bias are intentional.

One of the most popular examples of experimenter bias was done by Rosenthal and Fode in 1963 (2). In this example, two groups of students received rats to analyze. These rats were suppose to be judged on their ability to navigate a maze. One group was told their rats were “bright” while another was told their rats were “dull”, although in reality both groups were randomized without any different characteristics.

The students who analyzed the “bright group” rated their rats more highly then did the “dull group”. In essence, the group who anticipated their rats to perform well, influenced their actions to prove it. Rosenthal and Fode noted that this may have even been done unconsciously.

How Researchers Reduce Experimenter Bias [3]

Extensive Peer Review Process

If enough qualified “eyes” review the publication, then hopefully the biases become identified and the experiment isn’t published.

Blind Data Collectors

Advertising

This is achieved by having data collecting personnel unaware of the subjects (both the control and experimenter group) and unaware of the hypothesis. Therefore, they don’t know what the expected outcome is when they perform the experiment and collect the results.

Double-Blind Experimenter Design

With double-blind studies, both the experimenter and subjects are unaware of which group is controlled and which group is experimental. In addition, the design of the experiment can also be done by someone who is unaware of the hypothesis.

How You can Identify Experimenter Bias as a Reader

Look for key aspects including:

  • A control group
  • It is a “double-blind” experiment, both the experimenter and subjects are withheld from knowing which group is the control and which is the experimental
  • The funder isn’t influencing or interacting with the experiment
  • Evidence that the publication went through a rigid review process
  • That the selection of applicants was randomized
  • Assure that the control group was evaluated as thoroughly as the experimental group

If any of these criteria aren’t meant, you should start analyzing the publication more rigidly and start questioning its quality and you should begin questioning if its worth citing.

What Should Be Taken Away From This?

  • It is necessary to read the entire research publication and not just the abstract and results.
  • It is essential as readers that we can identify and disseminate when a bias is occurring.
  • Understanding the context of the experiment is just as important as understanding the results.
  • Even the best researchers with the greatest intentions are still susceptible to bias errors

As readers, it is just as much our responsibility to interpret and understand the literature as it is for researchers to produce honest and quality literature.

The next time you hear somebody talk about a “study” or “research” make sure to question them on experiment, and don’t be afraid to discuss biases.

Reference

More by this author

Nicole Stone

Professional Writer | Content Strategist | Blogger

How to Avoid Deathbed Regrets with This Daily Practice We Often See Quite a Lot of Interesting Research Findings, but How Many of Them Are Trustworthy?

Trending in Psychology

1 How to Detect a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing 2 How to Be Happy: Why Pursuing Happiness Will Make You Unhappy 3 The Desire to Be Liked Will End You up Feeling More Rejected 4 Why a Life Without Pain Is the Guarantee to True Suffering 5 How to Do Meditation at Home to Calm Your Anxious Mind

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on May 7, 2019

How to Detect a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

How to Detect a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

Work in any competitive field long enough, and you’re bound to run into a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It’s a powerful image. A shepherd watches over his flock to protect them from harm. He’d chase away any predator that tried to make its way into the flock. A clever wolf wearing the skin of a sheep as a disguise can sneak by the vigilant shepherd and get into the herd undetected.

The story isn’t just a colorful description–it’s a warning to all of us to beware the wolf in sheep’s clothing. They may seem innocent, but they have ulterior motives. They’ll use different tactics to camouflage their intentions.

The person who is kind to you, but undercuts you when you aren’t around is a wolf in disguise. A wolf in sheep’s clothing might pick your brain for ideas and then pass them off as their own to get a promotion. They’re always looking out for themselves at the expense of everyone around them.

Wearing a Disguise Has Its Advantages

People don’t go out of their way to manipulate others unless they’re getting something out of it. Hiding their intentions gives wolves the chance to manipulate other people to advance their own agenda. They know that what they’re trying to do wouldn’t be popular, or it might cause struggle if they presented themselves honestly.

Advertising

    They’ll be able to do what they want with less interference if they put on an act. By the time people figure out their true motives, the wolf has what it wants.

    Signs That Someone Is a Wolf in Disguise

      Advertising

        1. They live to take power instead of empowering others. A wolf uses people as stepping stones to get the things that they want. They don’t care what happens to anyone else.[1] A wolf at work might make you look bad during a presentation to make themselves look amazing in front of the boss.
        2. Wolves seem sweet on the outside, but they’ll show you their teeth. If wolves revealed their true identity, people wouldn’t associate with them. They develop a friendly or kind persona, but they can’t keep up the act 24/7. Eventually, they’ll reveal their aggressive tendencies. A wealthy person who likes to break the law may make sizable charitable donations to convince people that they are kind and thoughtful. These donations largely keep them out of trouble, but if someone calls them out, they destroy that person’s reputation to stifle the criticism.
        3. They manipulate through emotions to get what they want. Wolves know that they can get ahead by appealing to your emotions. They find out what you want and need, and they give you just enough to keep you quiet and compliant. Imagine that your boss is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and you want to ask for a vacation. She might try to play on your guilt and feelings of insecurity to get you to skip vacation or take fewer days off.
        4. A wolf will charm you first. Wolves are experts at manipulating the people around them. They appear interested in whatever you’re doing, and you’ll get the impression that they care. After they get you where they want you, they do just enough to keep you on the hook. This is the coworker who may start out being your friend, but they end up dumping responsibility onto you. When they see that you are growing frustrated, they’ll surprise you with something to charm you some more. Then, they’ll continue to do whatever they want.
        5. Their stories are full of holes.  Calling a wolf out is the surest way to make them squirm. When this person tries to come up with a story, it won’t make much sense because they are improvising.[2] The classic example of this is the significant other that you suspect has cheated on you. When you ask them why they came home so late, they’ll either become upset with you, or they’ll make up a weak explanation.

        How to Spot a Wolf

          Know What’s Real So You Can Spot the Phony

          Do some homework so that you have as much of the story as possible before you work with them. Research how they respond in certain situations, or give them hypothetical problems to see how they respond.

          A job applicant might tell you that she’s always positive and thinks of herself as a team-player. That’s what every employer wants to hear. During the interview you ask applicants to work in groups to solve a problem to see how they handle the situation. The applicant “positive team-player” is bossy and negative. You’ve spotted the wolf.

          A wolf will tell you something that ultimately benefits them. Gather evidence that proves or disproves their position, and see what happens. Chances are, when you choose the side that supports their agenda, they’ll act like your best friend. If you disagree, they’ll become aggressive.

          Spotting a potential wolf–especially if you are one of the sheep–can present you with some challenges. If your gut tells you that a wolf is lurking among all the other sheep, pay attention, and make sure you take the next step.

          Advertising

          Ask Questions, the More the Better

          There’s nothing wrong with asking questions to uncover the truth. The safety of everyone in your group is at risk. Since wolves often make up stories, you may be able to call them out when their tales lack details.

          When they state an opinion, ask “Why do you think that?” or “How do you know it’s like that?” They’ll have trouble coming up with enough information to pull off the lie.

          Since wolves are always pretending to be something they aren’t, they don’t usually have a clearly thought-out reason for what they say. In a debate, they won’t understand the root of an issue.

          They may also tell you what they think you want to hear, but when pressed for more information, they won’t have anything to add. Their knowledge is superficial. No matter how much you try to encourage discussion, they will not be able to carry on a conversation about the subject.

          Advertising

          Wolves Are Everywhere

          As much as we want to believe that everyone has the best intentions, it isn’t always the case. Some people only do things to benefit themselves, and they don’t care who they hurt in the process.

          Wolves in sheep’s clothing can be found in almost every setting. You can’t get rid of them, but if you can spot them, you can avoid falling into their traps.

          Reference

          [1] Association of Biblical Counselors: Three Ways to Spot a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
          [2] Power of Positivity: Beware of a wolf in sheep’s clothing

          Read Next