Cornell Statistics PhD Michael Hu and his work in identifying a key error within a paper on economic policy serve as the jumping-off point for a fascinating (and lengthy) examination of how even scientists are prone to self-deception. Recently published in Nature, "How Scientists Fool Themselves – and How They Can Stop" begins by recounting how Hu exposed a statistical flaw in a 2008 paper that showed U.S. Democratic candidates could garner more votes by supporting a more conservative economic policy. Hu's independent research and findings led to a correction by the paper's coauthor, who in effect declared the paper disproved.
The article, written by Regina Nuzzo, then dives deep into the psychology behind jumping to conclusions:
"In today's environment," Nuzzo writes, "our talent for jumping to conclusions makes it all too easy to find false patterns in randomness, to ignore alternative explanations for a result or to accept 'reasonable' outcomes without question — that is, to ceaselessly lead ourselves astray without realizing it."
Also to note: Regina Nuzzo will be the Statistics Seminar Speaker on Wednesday, November 11.