The Best Way to Reduce Research Bias Is Hiding in Plain View – Facts So Romantic

In the late 1970s, groups of soda marketers descended on the nation’s malls. They gave shoppers two unmarked cups, one filled with Coke and one with Pepsi. Tasters were asked which they preferred. The Pepsi Challenge was a marketing gimmick, but it was based on a classic scientific tool, the blind experiment. If a person doesn’t know which experimental treatment is which, her preconceptions are less likely to affect how she interprets information. Blind experiments have been used to avoid unconscious bias for more than 200 years and are among the scientific method’s most important tools.

Yet a growing number of researchers say that scientists in many fields often fail to use blind observation, even when it would be easy to do so. Most recently, Melissa Kardish and fellow researchers at the University of Texas at Austin surveyed 492 studies in the field of ecology, evolution, and behavior. Their analysis, recently published in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, drew from 13 journals, ranging from heavy-hitters like Science and Nature to lower-profile publications like American Naturalist. Of the experiments that could have been influenced by confirmation bias, only a little over 13 percent reported the use of…

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