Dealing with data of the damned

There’s an interesting article in Wired about how scientists deal with data that conflicts with their expectations and whether biases in how the brain deals with contradictory information might influence scientific reasoning.

The piece is based on the work of Kevin Dunbar who combines the sociology of science with the cognitive neuroscience of scientific reasoning.

In other words, he’s trying to understand what scientists actually do to make their discoveries (rather than what they say they do, or what they say they should do) and whether there are specific features of the way the brain handles reasoning that might encourage these practices.

One of his main findings is that when experimental results appear that can’t be explained, they’re often discounted as being useless. The researchers might say that the experiment was designed badly, the equipment faulty, and so on.

Mind Hacks: Dealing with data of the damned

The Wired article in question is also worth reading.

1 Comment

  1. “One of his main findings is that when experimental results appear that can’t be explained, they’re often discounted as being useless. The researchers might say that the experiment was designed badly, the equipment faulty, and so on.” Thankfully, we have thousands upon thousands of professional experimenters. More thankfully still, anyone (I repeat, anyone) can perform experiments in general and it only takes money to perform some very complex experiments at the amateur level. So if one or ten or a thousand experimenters don’t ‘get it,’ there are more to keep trying. And even when there is consensus among experimenters it is okay – approved – necessary – that people keep experimenting on received wisdom. While punk suggested questioning authority, science is built on it.

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