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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 April 1, 2019

How to Be Happy: Why Pursuing Happiness Will Make You Unhappy

How to Be Happy: Why Pursuing Happiness Will Make You Unhappy

When we talk about happiness, we often think about staying happy all the time – every single day, every single minute with zero negativity. Many try to pursue this constant state of “happiness” as their ultimate goal, and avoid anything that may take it away from them.

But, what is the meaning of this type of “happiness”?

It’s a lot like your favorite food. The more often you have it isn’t always better. On the contrary, when you only have a chance to eat it sparingly, that’s when you really savor every bite. So is it the food itself that makes you happy, or is it how valuable it is to you when you are eating it?

Always remember that only by experiencing sadness do we understand what it is to be happy.

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Video Summary

Don’t Assume Others Are Always Happy

Most people see those who have seemingly perfect lives and assume they are happy all the time. Since childhood, we are conditioned to chase the idea of “happily-ever-after” that we see in fairytales. On social media, everyone tends to share only the best looking aspects of their lives. So, it’s very easy to have a distorted view of what “happiness” is around us.

In reality, there is always something missing, something lacking, or something unpleasant.

No one has a perfect life. Even the most glamorous celebrities or the richest billionaires have their own set of challenges and problems.

When we feel negative, we’re only focusing on a small fluctuating curve. As CEO of Lifehack, I’ve had to deal with countless problems, and some of them felt like real setbacks at the time. During those moments, it really seemed like these problems would be the life or death of my company and my life goals. But, I got through them; and, weeks, months and eventually years passed with many more ups and downs.

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You need to keep your sights on the extended curve.  Looking back now, a lot of those “really big” problems at the time now seem like only small blips in a long line of experiences. Recalling them in my mind now makes me smile!

Stop Trying to Be Happy–Just Be

It’s natural to want to be happy as often as possible.

So what can we do?

First, throw away the belief that a perfect life means happiness. Personally, I would be miserable if everything was perfect. It’s through experiencing the pains of lifelong challenges that drives us to care for others when they are experiencing similar trials. If life was perfect, you wouldn’t be able to empathize. If life was perfect, you wouldn’t grow.

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To be truly happy, stop chasing permanent happiness.

It sounds like a paradox. But, what I mean is to accept that there will be ups and downs throughout life. Gracefully understand that happiness is a fluctuation of positive and negative events.

Understand the importance of gratitude. Instead of focusing on the unpleasant moment, flash back your memory to when you didn’t have something. I like to think about my career, for example. When I didn’t have a career I was passionate about, I felt lost and demotivated. I felt like everyone was figuring out their lives but me. But, when I found my purpose and started Lifehack, I was deeply happy, even before I realized I would be successful! This memory keeps me going when I hit tough spots. It takes the darkness to make us grateful for the light.

Happiness and Sadness Exist Together

What it all comes down to is this: your life will be filled with beautiful, happy and incredible moments–happy tears and joyous shouts and funny stories. But, your life will also be filled with rain and storms that never seem like they will pass while you’re going through them.

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But, whether your face is warmed by the sunshine, or your heart is dampened by the rain, know that it’s all part of the ebb and flow of life.

Treasure the happy moments and power through the sad ones. Don’t try to avoid “sad” or “negative” experiences, and blindly chase being “happy”. In the end you will achieve a true level of contentment in your life, based on meaningful experiences and achievements. Being able to create growth and meaning out of both positive and negative events — that is the true meaning of “happiness”.

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