Friday, March 11, 2016

The Wisdom of Radishes

In the scientific community, there’s a saying: “Truth is repeatable data.”

Before publishing a paper in a scientific journal, the researcher is expected to make sure the results can be duplicated.  

Other labs are also supposed to be able to follow the directions in the published paper, and see duplicate results.

Most of the time, this works. Most scientists are honorable people who care about Truth.

Therefore it makes the news when somebody attempts to duplicate an experiment, and gets different results.

This week the culprit is a paper about depleting ego. In this experiment, the researchers baked chocolate chip cookies.  And while the room was still filled with the warm enticing aroma, they put out a plate of the freshly baked cookies, and a plate of radishes.

The researchers then asked one group of students to eat the radishes, and another to eat the chocolate chip cookies.

After snack time was over, the researchers gave an impossible-to-solve puzzle to all the students.  The ones who ate the radishes attempted to solve it for an average of 8 minutes.  The ones who ate the cookies, spent an average of 19 minutes trying to solve it.

The researchers concluded that
1) students with strong egos try longer to solve puzzles
2) radishes are ego-depleting
3) cookies are ego-enhancing

I reached different conclusions.

1) Smart students can see when a puzzle is impossible and don’t waste their time
2) Radishes are intellectually stimulating
3) Students can be bought – the ones who got the cookies felt they owed the researchers more of their time

In this case, it’s not the data that constitute Truth. It’s the interpretation of the data.  

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