How can bias affect the application of science in society? What role does a good understanding of science play in this phenomenon?

Scientists are humans too. They may think or promote different things based on their personal views.

Thus, bias can make a scientist misinterpret or misapply data to fit a personal agenda. Understanding science allows us to fairly apply in ways that benefit humanity.

Psychologist Brian Nosek of the University of Virginia says that the most common and problematic bias in science is “motivated reasoning”. We interpret observations to fit a particular idea. Psychologists have shown that “most of our reasoning is in fact rationalization,” he says.

While Chris Hartgerink of Tilburg University in the Netherlands who works on the influence of “human factors” in the collection of statistics points out that researchers often attribute false certainty to contingent statistics.

“I was aware of biases in humans at large,” says Hartgerink, “but when I first ‘learned’ that they also apply to scientists, I was somewhat amazed, even though it is so obvious.”

To learn more, refer to The Trouble With Scientists by Philip Ball as he tackles human biases in science.

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Updated on Wednesday, August 26 2015 at 11:38AM EDT
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