confirmation bias

Peer review “does not mean the science is good”

In Psychology Today, George Mason professor Todd Kashdan publishes a brutally honest critique of some of his published work:

“Just because research is published in a peer-reviewed journal by a reputable publisher does not mean the science is good.”

“I had to read through 40 articles to find one that suggested hands-free phones are not that hazardous to driving…but I did it, and now you too can tout scientific evidence that the hazards are overblown!”

“Often our research program starts off slow and I am not confident about each finding that comes out of my laboratory (or from other laboratories). I stay attuned to the main objective of why I am a psychologist…understand some of the mysteries of human behavior and in some small way, reduce the amount of suffering and increase the amount of well-being in the world. This cannot be done with a premature commitment to being right. This cannot be done by blindly accepting theories, research, and treatments that other people promote. But the key is to be skeptical, not cynical. Be curious, keep experimenting, keep learning, and most importantly, keep asking questions. And part of this storyline is to be naked, exposed, and vulnerable every once in awhile.”

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Finding confirmation bias in famous experiments – the Robert Millikan edition

In the NYT, political scientist Michael Suk-Young Chwe recalls his Caltech physics professor showing students Robert Millikan’s lab notes from his famous oil-drop experiments that established the electrical charge of the electron:

“The notebooks showed many fits and starts and many “results” that were obviously wrong, but as they progressed, the results got cleaner, and Millikan could not help but include comments such as “Best yet — Beauty — Publish.” In other words, Millikan excluded the data that seemed erroneous and included data that he liked, embracing his own confirmation bias.”

He also suggests – less credibly – that science take a lesson from literary criticism, a field that – in his view – has “real standards of scholarly validity.”

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“Most Depressing Brain Finding Ever”

At Huffpost, Marty Kaplan is — somehow — surprised that prior beliefs influence how we interpret new information, even blinding us to facts.

But then he quickly realizes that this is — of course! — why “Fox News viewers” and “climate change deni[ers]” are incapable of seeing the obvious truths that are in front of them.

One obvious lesson of confirmation bias: It’s always easier to see confirmation bias amongst those who disagree with you!

HT Althouse.

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