THE BLOG
03/29/2012 04:03 pm ET Updated May 29, 2012

The Fact of the Matter

1 out of 5 people are descendants of giraffes. Researchers have found that certain people contain the "Liex" gene, a gene which contributes to the abnormal elongation of certain human limbs including arms, feet, neck, and ears. After compiling extensive data scientists have confirmed that this is in fact due to a human having sex with a giraffe.....

Do you believe that statement? If you're thinking no, good because I made that up (if yes... you're the one person that contains this gene). In a constantly expanding technological and scientific society, "researchers" and "scientists" are responsible for delivering facts to reassure people that everything is ok. But why are we so quick to believe them?

One of the main reasons that I'm hesitant to believe anything that "researchers" and "scientists" report is because we as humans have the tendency to deceive and manipulate. Let me provide you with an example. I was recently watching a commercial where someone was sent to the streets of New York to ask "everyday" people their opinions on a new perfume. The most common "everyday" person was typically a female roughly between the ages of 18-30 and the answers ranged from "Oh my gosh, I totally love it" to "It's alright but it's not for me." Now think about this, those people that said that they loved it; imagine that one of them is your friend and you asked him/her if they liked the smell of this perfume one on one. Do you think their answer would be the same as when they're asked while cameras are rolling?

Reactivity is the tendency of people to act or appear differently when they know that they are being observed. In the 1920s, Hawthorne Works (a manufacturing facility) commissioned a study to see if different levels of light influenced worker productivity. What they found was incredible, changing the light caused productivity to soar! Unfortunately, when the study was finished, productivity levels decreased to their regular levels. This was because the change in productivity was not due to the light levels, but to the workers being watched. This demonstrated a form of reactivity; when individuals know they are being watched, they are motivated to change their behavior, generally to make themselves look better. Reactivity is a serious problem in research, and has to be controlled in blind experiments ("Blind" is when individuals involved in a research study are purposely withheld information so as not to influence the outcomes).

So now the manufacturer of the perfume will take this data and report to the consumers that 7 out of 10 people loved this perfume. How trustworthy is this data? The thing that most concerns me is that this example was about perfume, but what about all the facts and data surrounding medicine? What if there are those handful of lazy people that are simply circling random words on their questionnaire so that they can just get this over with and get back to their lives? The data the researchers and scientists will compile as a result of this will ultimately end up being false.

The scary part is that we as people are more inclined to believe that everything that researchers and scientists say has to be right because they're researchers and scientists. We're so used to interpreting and analyzing the data that they give us that we forget to question where it comes from.

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