Section 004, Instructor: Larry Dignan

Weekly Question #1: Complete by Jan. 29, 2017

Leave your response as a comment on this post by the beginning of class on Jan. 29, 2017. Remember, it only needs to be three or four sentences. For these weekly questions, I’m mainly interested in your opinions, not so much particular “facts” from the class!

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Here is the question:

“Conventional wisdom” are statements people generally accept as true but are never really tested. One example is the belief that a company should avoid hiring people with criminal records. These can be supported or disproven through data – i.e., Evolv’s discovery that people with criminal records are up to 1.5% more productive than the average worker.

Give an example of a piece of conventional wisdom you’ve heard and explain what data you would collect to test it.

30 Responses to Weekly Question #1: Complete by Jan. 29, 2017

  • A piece of conventional wisdom I’ve heard is if you hold your breath when you have the hiccups, it’ll make them go away. In order to test this theory you would need to collect data on how often this method actually works. To do this you would need to record several people on how long it takes to get rid of them with this method, if it works at all.

  • Conventional wisdom are theories that are widely accepted by many people. A prime example of a piece of conventional wisdom is the saying about having to wait an hour after eating before being able to swim. People believe that due to digestion, there is not enough blood to travel throughout your whole body, which apparently leads to cramps and occasional drowning. We do, in fact, have enough blood to supply the whole body to swim casually. A study conducted found that fewer than 1 percent of U.S. drownings occurred after the victim ate a meal. You could have people test it out by simply eating and going into a pool or other body of water and collect info on how they feel afterward.

  • In the news today, there is always headlines about immigrants committing major crimes. It is true that some immigrants commit crime, but do immigrants actually commit more crimes than the average American citizen? If I wanted to discover this answer I would collect data from a large diverse pool of Americans and an equally large diverse pool of immigrants. I would place the two groups side by side and compare the statistics of each groups number of incarcerations and the number of crimes each has committed.

  • A piece of conventional wisdom that I know is “what goes up must come down.” This theory can be tested by throwing objects up into the air and observing whether they will come back down again. You can only make an educated guess about the nature of all objects, and whether all will eventually come down, based on the data collected through the experiment since to prove definitely that all objects will indeed come back down data would need to be infinitely collected for an infinite amount of time. There could always be the one instance that something does not come back down. The data suggests otherwise, as of yet.

  • Some conventional wisdom that comes to mind is: In American football, on a 4th and short situation, you should run the ball. A notable example of this was Russell Wilson’s infamous interception against the Patriots in the Super Bowl a few years back. To test this I would compare run vs pass plays on 4th and 1-3 yards, looking at metrics like yards gained, first down gained, interceptions thrown, fumbles lost, etc. You could then go deeper with individual examples and account for home field advantage, weather conditions, and which players were involved.

  • A piece of conventional wisdom pertaining to American football is that you have to run the ball on a 4th and short situation. To test this, one would look at run vs pass plays on 4th and inches-3 yards. you could then look at metrics like yards gained, first downs gained, fumbles lost, interceptions thrown, etc. To go deeper you could look at specific examples and look at the players and offensive playbooks involved.

  • A piece of conventional wisdom is the saying “you get what you paid for” when making purchases. Usually, this statement is said when you are displeased with an item that you did not pay much for. To test this, I would purchase the same item at various price points to compare using 10-15 people. This test should be conducted as a blind test, meaning that the person who is examining the item does not know the price. Using a Likert Scale, the blind testers would place value on the product.

  • A piece of conventional wisdom tells us that cracking your knuckles is bad for you, it weakens grip strength, makes that joint swell and can lead to arthritis. I would study if those who cracked their knuckles had more swelling and weakness than others who didn’t crack. Also, I would try to collect data to find out if the rates of arthritis were different between those who cracked and those who did not.

  • I have heard that people should avoid eating oysters and other shellfish in months that do not have the letter “r” in them. The “R” rule has been conventional wisdom due “red tides” that are most prevalent during the months of May through August. Red tides are when large blooms of algae grow along the coast and spread toxins that shellfish can absorb. The rule usually meant that places that have warm water temperatures were most vulnerable to having their shellfish filled with toxins. Most of the seafood sold in US supermarkets is commercially farmed which means one’s odds of being affected by harmful toxins is decreased. Modern farming methods regulate algae concentration and shellfish are monitored for toxins before being sold.

    There are many variables at play when testing out this conventional wisdom. Two of the most telling variables I could use to answer debunk this conventional wisdom could look at US consumption of farmed versus wild shellfish, and reported cases of paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) in the US during “R” months versus reported cases between May and August and from there look at whether the toxic shellfish was purchased from a supermarket, fishmonger, or other source.

  • I have heard that if people stay or walk in the rain then they will catch a cold. We can gather about 10 people that are interested in this experiment and let them walk in the rain and observe them afterward to record the rate of people catching a cold. We can also send out a survey to students and ask them did they catch a cold after they walk in the rain. We then compile the data to see the rate of people catching a cold.

  • An example of conventional wisdom would be “Money can’t buy happiness.” To test this, I would collect data on individual’s incomes, spending habits, and overall happiness. Some ways to evaluate someone’s happiness could be surveys and enrollment in mental health services.

  • A piece of conventional wisdom I’ve heard is “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” The hypothesis I would try to disprove is “People that eat the ‘correct’ portion of fruit daily have less doctor’s visits due to ailments or illnesses.” The data I would collect would be from multiple doctors’ offices; it would examine daily diets for each patient, and how many visits they had due to illness. All patients whose records were to be studied would sign an agreement and would remain 100% anonymous. I believe through this form of study, a true conclusion could be made by the data collected.

  • Conventional wisdom is the generally accepted view of something. They are beliefs by most people that are often viewed as correct. An example of this is “you can get sick by going outside with wet hair in the cold.” I could test this theory by having a focus group go about their daily lives but start the day with wet hair. Like going from your house to car to work to errands, etc, and see how they feel at the end of the day. However, this theory does not necessarily need to be tested because the common cold can only be caused by viruses and infections, so unless they are coming into contact with another sick person, wet hair and cold weather will not effect their immune system.

  • Conventional wisdom is a very common thing, which is a statement that is accepted by people, even though there are no tests proving or disproving it. An example of this would be “you will get sick if you go outside in the cold without a jacket.” The data I would collect to test this statement would be getting a group of healthy people and having some go throughout their day without wearing a coat, and some wearing coats. They would have to do the same tasks and stay isolated from other people with colds. I would then record the data from the different individuals within the group and either prove or disprove this conventional wisdom.

  • A common piece of conventional wisdom I have heard growing up is that “the early bird gets the worm”. In order to actually prove this, one must consistently collect data to support this claim. Things to consider when collecting this data would be the population of birds looking to feed in a particular location, are all birds feeding on the same food supply, or what time is considered ‘early’ to the average bird. If a bird gets up earlier to feed than its counterparts, is it really going to significantly benefit or get more food? Only collecting and studying data related to this scenario can really prove or disprove this conventional wisdom.

  • A piece of conventional wisdom that I have heard of is ” you have to go to college to be successful in life”. To analyze this we can take a group of a large amount of people and divide them to two groups into those who graduated college and those who have not. Then we can ask these two groups of their overall success in life in terms of money, family, and happiness. Once the data is collected we can compare it and see if college really does mean a more successful life.

  • A piece of conventional wisdom I have often heard is that, “money can’t buy happiness”. Yet money (to a certain extent) can alleviate economic and/or other stresses of a person. Is it possible that money really can buy happiness? As many people know, too little money is problematic, while too much money can also be problematic. It seems like there has to be some sweet spot/middle ground where money can buy happiness, to an extent. To go about figuring this out, you would likely have to create some survey with a Likert scale that asks, “ranging from one to ten, how happy are you?” Admittedly, happiness is an abstract concept, and not every single persons’ definition of a 4 on the scale would be the same. You would then ask for respondents income. Then you could ask a series of questions that include finding out if the respondent is surrounded by other factors that are often associated with happiness, which might possibly effect their score (i.e. Are you married? Religious? Education level? Job satisfaction? Health status? Gender?). The reason you might want all the extra/”irrelevant” information is because it could possibly tell you if a person is surrounding themselves with things that generally correlate with happiness. Then you have a more complete set of data that could tell the story a little better and possibly answer the question if money can really buy you happiness, to an extent.

  • A piece of conventional wisdom that I have heard is “an Apple a day keeps the doctor away.” In order to test this theory I would need to collect data on apple consumption and medical records. Due to the unreliability of self reporting, I would need to create a clinical study in which one group of people would receive an apple a day and a group of people with similar backgrounds, family medical history, and daily health hazards would no be allowed to consume any apples or apple containing products. This study would take place over a number of years in order to insure the data could be more closely tied to the change in diets long term.

  • A piece of conventional wisdom that I have heard is “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” In order to test this theory I would need to collect data on apple consumption and medical records. Due to the unreliability of self reporting, I would need to create a clinical study in which one group of people would receive an apple a day and a group of people with similar backgrounds, family medical history, and daily health hazards would no be allowed to consume any apples or apple containing products. This study would take place over a number of years in order to insure the data could be more closely tied to the change in diets long term.

  • Conventional wisdom is a general grouping of ideas and concepts that the public accepts as being true. Since the general public often views whatever is considered the conventional wisdom as correct, deviating from it is often derided as either foolish. For example, my mother often espouses that “an apple a day will keep the doctor away”, but she has never shown me any data that proves this true. She could test several types of apples to see which apples are in fact the healthiest and whether or not the healthiest of these apples can definitely cut down on the number of doctor’s visits you’ll make in a year. You could compare average yearly doctor’s visits to the number one makes when there are no apples involved.

  • A piece of conventional wisdom I have heard is “Milk is essential part of a healthy diet.”. Though it is true that milk contains vital nutrients like protein, vitamins, calcium, these elements are also present in other foods. In order to test the claim that milk is not an essential part of everyday diet, I will need to do a survey in which people can tell weather they drink milk or not, and how healthy do they think they are. This can help me find a general correlation between the two. Then I will also conduct focus group studies in which participants will be required to drink milk and then stop it for some while and study can be conducted every few weeks or so.

  • Conventional wisdom is defined in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “the generally accepted belief, opinion, judgment, or prediction about a particular matter” This term can relate to practically any field of knowledge. There are countless examples of widely held views on particular matters. One example that pertains to the health/fitness field is that being at a caloric deficit will help you lose fat. A simple way to test this is to gather a group of 20 random individuals and have them record their weight and log their caloric intake every day for 5 weeks. They will be instructed to be at a caloric deficit for that period of time. After 5 weeks I should be able to prove that the individuals who successfully at a caloric deficit will have experienced a loss of body fat.

  • Conventional wisdom may be used in many different accounts in our lives. The term also reflects on simple logic and reasoning used through evidence or data. The commonly known phrase, “don’t let the bed bugs bite” is a great piece of conventional wisdom because one can research data that explains the amount of bed bugs or termites that are on the average person’s bed or sheets. This study should be demonstrated through analyzing the statistics of how many bed bugs may be actually biting us without most of us knowing at all.

  • A piece of conventional wisdom I’ve heard is investing your money in the stock market is better than letting it sit in your savings account. This is not true because the volatility of the stock market. There can be data shown of how the stock market has ups and downs that can greatly affect your wealth. This statement is not always true.

  • A piece of conventional wisdom that I can think of off the top of my head is that people say you should not eat right before you workout or you will get sick. In order to test this one could collect data from people who eat before they partake in some sort of exercise. They could measure the amount of time in between eating and working out to see if this shows that their needs to be a certain amount of time in between in order to digest properly. This theory could be proven not true if individuals do not get sick even if they ate before hand. Results could also vary depending on the individual because certain people may be able to digest food quicker than others or it may just not effect them in the same way.

  • An example of conventional wisdom that I have heard is “sleep with a spoon under your pillow for good luck when there is a chance for a snow day”. This can be tested by having people try this day-to-day. Have an experiment done to see what the statistics could be and also a survey. This will prove to be wrong because of the random times that it might work.

  • An example of conventional wisdom that I can think of is “You get what you pay for.” This is proven that many of us wish that the product they buy will last forever, even though they buy in cheap price. In fact, it doesn’t last forever and it will fall in to pieces not so long after. We can test this wisdom by pulling out a data of products that are bought from a dollar stores and see how long it lasts.

  • Conventional Wisdom is generally an accepted theory or belief and an example of this is, “Focus on Managing Returns”. We can test this by collecting data from the performance of investors. Some investors focus now on things that actually can be controlled such as the amount of risks they may take on instead of managing their returns.

  • The belief that people who spend more time watching TV and using other electronics each day are considered lazy could be considered a theory of conventional wisdom. This theory could be tested by collecting the reasons people use their electronics through a survey (some people watch television or browse social media for work, others use it for school or educational purposes), recording what people are watching and whether or not what is being watched dictates the degree of perceived laziness. (Does watching National Geographic documentary marathons make someone less lazy than another who spends more time watching The Bachelor re-runs?) The main challenge would be creating an clear-cut way to determine the degree of laziness; but, this could be resolved with the use of a “lazy scale” of 1 to 5.

  • “Troubles of children are always the parent’s fault” is an example I could think of related to conventional wisdom. By collecting data of the parents of successful people then comparing to the parents of people that have made the wrong choices in life we could probably see if this statement is correct. Usually, for me, if you give a child fast food and do not manage how much you give them that food, that child would most likely become obese.

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Office Hours
Larry Dignan lawrence.dignan@temple.edu Alter Hall 232 267.614.6467 Class time: 5:30-8pm, Mondays Office hours: Monday hour before class, half hour after class or by appointment.