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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

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Nicole Stone

Professional Writer | Content Strategist | Blogger

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Last Updated on September 11, 2020

Why a Life Without Pain Is the Guarantee to True Suffering

Why a Life Without Pain Is the Guarantee to True Suffering

No one wants to suffer. As a general rule, people like to avoid hurt and pain as much as possible. As a species, humans want a painless existence so much that scientists make a living trying to create it.

People can now choose “pain-free” labor for babies, and remedies to cure back pain, headaches, body-pains and even mental pains are a dime a dozen. Beyond medicine, we also work hard to experience little pain even when it comes to loss; often times we believe a breakup won’t hurt as much if we are the ones to call it off.

But would a world without pain truly be painless? It’s unlikely. In fact, it would probably be painful exactly for that reason.

If people never experienced hurt, they wouldn’t know what it was. On the surface level, that seems like a blessing, but think for a moment: if we didn’t know pain, how would we know peace? If you don’t know you’ve hurt or been hurt, how would you know that you need to heal? Imagine someone only knowing they have an incurable cancer at the final stage because no obvious symptoms have appeared at early stages.

Without the feeling of pain, people won’t be aware of dangerous situations—what should or shouldn’t do for survival.

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Pain Is Our Guardian

Pain serves to protect human beings from harmful actions. It’s the same reason parents teach babies that fire equals hot, and that hot equals hurt. Should the baby still place its hand in a fire or on a stove, the intense pain remains so memorable, that the child is certain never to repeat that action.

In the same way, pain within human bodies can serve as a warning that something is not right. Because you know what it is to feel “well,” you know what it is to feel poorly.[1]

Along with serving as a teacher of what not to do, pain also teaches you what you are made of in terms of what you can handle as an individual.

While the cliche, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is a tired term, it’s used excessively for a reason: it’s true. Pain helps you learn to cope with life’s inevitable difficulties and sadnesses— to develop the grit it takes to push past hardships and carry on.

Whether it’s a shattering pain, like the loss of a loved one or a debilitating accident, pain affects everyone differently. But it still affects everyone. Take a breakup as an example, anyone who has experienced it knows it can hurt to the point of feeling physical. Especially the first breakup. At a young age, it feels like the loss of the only love you’ll ever know. As you grow and learn, you realize you’re more resilient with every ended relationship.

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No Pain, No Happiness

You only know happiness when you have known pain. While the idea of constant happiness sounds nice, there is little chance it would be. Without the comparison to happiness, there’s no reason to be grateful for it. That is to say, without ever knowing sadness or pain, you would have no reason to be grateful for happiness.

In reality, there is always something missing, or something unpleasant, but it is only through those realizations that you know to be grateful when you feel you have it all. Read more about why happiness and pain have to exist together: Chasing Happiness Won’t Make You Happy

In a somewhat counter-intuitive finding, researchers found one of the things that brings about the most happiness is challenge. When people are tested, they experience a greater sense of accomplishment and happiness when they are successful. It is largely for this reason that low-income individuals can often feel happier than those who have a sense of wealth.[2]

This is a great thing to remember the next time you feel you would be happier if you just had a little more cash.

Avoiding Pain Leads to More Suffering

Pain is inevitable, embrace it positively. Anyone who strives to have a painless life is striving for perfectionism; and perfectionism guarantees sadness because nothing will ever be perfect.

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This isn’t a bleak outlook, but rather a truthful one. The messy moments in life tend to create the best memories and gratitude. Pain often serves as a reminder of lessons learned, much like physical scars on the body.

Pain will always be painful, but it’s the hurt feelings that help wiser decisions be made.

Allow Room for the Inevitable

Learning how to tolerate pain, especially the emotional kind, is a valuable lesson.

Accepting and feeling pain makes you human. There is no weakness in that. Weakness only comes when you try to blame your own pain on someone else, expecting the blame to alleviate your hurting. There’s a saying,

“Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting your enemy to die.”

Think back to the last time you were really angry with someone. Maybe you were hurt because you got laid off from a job. You felt angry and that anger caused so much pain that you could feel it in a physical way. Being angry and blaming your ex boss for that pain didn’t affect him or her in any way; you’re the only one who lost sleep over it.

The healthier thing to do in a situation like that is acknowledge your pain and the anger along with it. Accept it and explore it in an introspective way. How can you learn and grow? What is at the root of that pain? Are you truly hurting and angry about being laid off, or is the pain more a correlation to you feeling like you failed?

While uncomfortable, exploring your pain is a way to raise your self-awareness. By understanding more about yourself, you know how to deal with similar situations in the future. You can never expect to be numb to difficult situations, but you will learn to better prepare financially for the loss of a job and be grateful for an income since you now know nothing is promised (no matter how much you work or how deserving you may feel).

Pain Hurts, but Numbness Would Be Worse

Pain does not feel good, but the bad feeling of it will help you learn and grow. It makes the sweet moments in life even sweeter and the gratitude more sincere.

To have a happier and more successful life, you don’t learn from success or accomplishment, but through pain and failures. For it is in those moments that you learn how to do better in the future or at least cope a little more easily.

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You are the strong person you are today because of the hardships this life has presented to you. While you may have felt out of control when those hard times came, the one thing you will always have control over is how you choose to react to things. The next time you hurt or you’re angry or sad, acknowledge it and allow yourself to ruminate in it. Then take a deep breath and start learning from that pain. You’ve got this!

Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io

Reference

[1] University of Calgary: Why is Pain Important?
[2] Greater Good Magazine: The Importance of Pain

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