Mistakes in Experimental Design and Interpretation
Posted on June 19, 2007 Comments (5)
A proper experiment states its hypothesis before gathering evidence and then puts the hypothesis to the test. Remember when you did your seventh grade science fair experiment: you made up a hypothesis first (“Hamsters will get fatter from eating Lucky Charms than Wheaties”) and then did the experiment to confirm or refute the hypothesis. You can’t just make up a hypothesis after the fact to fit the data.
This is an excellent article discussing very common errors in how people use data. We have tendencies that lead us to draw faulty conclusions from data. Given that it is important to understand what common mistakes are made to help us counter the natural tendencies.
Related: Seeing Patterns Where None Exists – Illusions, Optical and Other – Understanding Data – Dangers of Forgetting the Proxy Nature of Data – How to Deal with False Research Findings – descriptive “theory” and normative theory