Saturday, January 16, 2016

Efficiently revealing truth

Science is the pursuit of absolute truth. In Dan Ariely’sTED talk on deception, he reveals some of the evidence gathered on how people perceive deception. While not explicitly deception, when people form a preconceived idea, they tend to stick with it and ignore evidence that contradicts their idea. In order to avoid this effect, scientists should enter experiments ready to accept any result that occurs. This can be achieved in part by writing out how each possible outcome of the experiment would be interpreted and the impact it would have on the field, before performing any experiments. Thinking through experiments in this manner would help in identifying flaws in the experimental design as well as prevent the formation of preconceived ideas which would in turn aid the scientists in their pursuit of truth.

Ariely’s research also showed that people are less likely to deceive when they are reminded of moral codes, whether or not they claim to ascribe to those codes. Additionally, the closer an act of deception is to money, the less likely people are to commit them. These two observations can be useful in building integrity into the scientific process. For example yearly lectures and monthly newsletters on scientific ethics and serve to remind scientists of their duty to perform experiments and analyze data in an unbiased manner. Some scientists, especially those in training, may not be cognizant of the amount of money needed to support their experiments and publication of the data generated. Reminding them of the financial resources needed to perform experiments could incentivize them to properly prepare prior to beginning experiments or publishing to ensure that the data generated or presented is as informative as possible. Taken together, these findings of Ariely’s can be used to integrate changes in the scientific process to ensure an optimum level of efficiency and integrity. 

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