Section 003, Instructor: Laurel Miller

Weekly Question #1: Complete by September 7

Leave your response as a comment on this post by the beginning of class on September 7. 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!

If you sign in using your AccessNet ID and password you won’t have to fill in the name, email and captcha fields when you leave your comment.

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.

50 Responses to Weekly Question #1: Complete by September 7

  • People often believe that by doing tons of cardio you will lose weight faster. However, every body type is different and reacts differently to certain forms of exercise. While some people do lose weight due to cardio, others have gained weight. This can be proven through data saying high intensity intervals work better and that lifting heavy has a more stimulative effect on your metabolism and central nervous system than a long run or spin class ever could.

  • One example of conventional wisdom that I found interesting is “you got what you paid for” which simply means the price of an item represents the quality of the item. The cheaper the item, the lower the quality. This quote can be supported or disapproved by collecting data of the reviews made on online store website. For example, a rice cooker. Collect the customers’ review on different rice cookers in terms of the prices which is the cheap one, the moderate and the expensive one. Then see whether all of the rice cookers have the same positive/negative feedback by the customer or the comments were mixed.

  • I always hear “You get what you payed for” whether it is buying something expensive or inexpensive. For example, when I was in search for a computer for college, everyone recommended an Apple laptop. Apple sells their laptops for over $1000, with a high price it is almost always assumed to be better and receive more. But is that always true? The data I could collect to support or disprove this statement is to gather information on storage, analytical skills, size, versatility, speed and many more characteristics of quality computers. I can collect this data from different computers ranging in different prices and then compare.

  • One piece of conventional wisdom I’ve heard is “money can’t buy you happiness.” As some people may believe this is true, I would test it by developing a list of 150 people (3 from each state, and 1 person from each economic class) and sending them a survey to be filled out. Questions will be constructed to figure out: 1. if they believe in this saying, 2. if they made the transformation from depression to happiness by accumulating more wealth and 3. if they ever went from low class to upper class and if they became happier 4. if they ever had a transition in their life my making more money one year and how that year was for them 5. and the lower and middle class can be given the opportunity to make the transition and if they are happier at the end of the experience, while the upper class will be treated vice versa.

  • One piece of conventional wisdom is that processed foods are bad for you. To prove or negate this statement, we could take a large sample of men with the same BMI, and take blood samples to test their blood sugar, cholesterol, and other health levels. Then we would have half of the group eat 2000 calories daily of only whole foods for 3 months, and have the other half eat 2000 calories daily of only processed foods for 3 months. After the three months, we would test their blood again to see if their levels improved, got worse, or stayed the same, and make a conclusion about processed foods and your health.

  • As a frequent ice chewer, I have been told that “chewing ice ruins/breaks your teeth”. Although I have been doing this for years and my teeth are perfectly normal, it could be proven accurate. In order to disprove or prove this “conventional wisdom”, I could have a dentists examine the teeth of “ice chewers” throughout a duration of time to see if chewing ice actually ruins or breaks teeth.

  • I have often heard people say that exposing kids to violent games, shows, or movies leads to bad or violent behavior from those children later on in life. In order to test this, I would choose two sets of children and have half of them watch violent tv shows and the other half not see them at all. I would then have to monitor their actions as they age. This would be an extensive experiment and hard to truly test because of the amount of time it would take, but if there are enough kids to test it might actually be accurate and I could possibly see if these shows do in fact affect their behavior.

  • One of the most common pieces of conventional wisdom I hear during the winter is that common colds are caused by being chilled, or having wet hair and going outside. I have never known this speculation to be true, so in order to test it, I would need to have a group of people as test subjects. The types of data I would have to collect are: the test subject’s temperature before the experiment, the temperature outside, and the subject’s temperature after walking outside for a set a mount of time. Half of the group would walk around with wet hair and the other half would walk without. Soon after the experiment, I would follow up to find out which of the subject’s had contracted an illness, and figure out what group they were in.

  • I often hear people say that drinking coffee every day is bad for your health. I drink coffee on a daily basis and have yet to notice a difference in my health. Although it would depend on each person’s lifestyle and coffee order, you could collect data to compare the health of people who drink coffee every day versus people who don’t drink coffee to see if coffee can actually have a negative effect on people’s health.

  • A piece of conventional wisdom that I am familiar with is the concept of “If you don’t use it you lose it” in regards to skills both academically and physically. I believe that the data would support this, however it would be interesting to see if it applies to both physical and mental abilities. Of course without any activity an athlete would lose their skill, however certain professional athletes seem to get away with practicing less than their peers. It can also seem that while some students must practice often, others find material comes very easy to them consistently once they understand it initially. We could let athletes practice at a normal rate for a season as something to test against and then have them play a season where they practice half as much to determine an association. A similar test could be applied to ones mental abilities in the form of a timed aptitude test comparing a period of time where they study often to one where they study half as often. After the experiments it could be seen if there is evidence to support the conventional piece of wisdom “If you don’t use it, you lose it”.

  • One example of conventional wisdom is that the more teachers with a much easier class environment will lead to students getting higher grades. This is often not the case. If teachers offer a class with very little work or stress, it often leads to students slacking and getting grades that are much worse than that of a teacher who pushed his or her students much more. This can be proven using data that shows which teachers offer the least amount of work, and the grades of the students in those classes.

  • As a female, something that has always been looming throughout my teenage years is the saying “beauty is pain.” I’ve always found this statement to be quite dramatic because I don’t believe that “with pain comes beauty.” In order to disprove this type of conventional wisdom, I would collect data based on a specific beauty regime that often causes others pain or one of which is known to be painful. In this instance, I’d test the sentiments of women who wax their legs. Seeing as smooth, shaven legs is considered “beautiful,” I would send out a survey asking women 1.) do you wax your legs and 2.) does waxing your legs hurt? Obviously, this would also have a lot to do with the woman’s pain tolerance but it can make the argument that beauty does not (always) cause pain nor is it the same entity.

  • A few statements that people generally think are true that would be considered conventional wisdom are about tattoos. Everyone’s either heard, “tattoos won’t be able to get you a job”, “tattoos show you don’t have a good education”, “tattoos are not professional” and there are so many more statements that are negative towards tattoos. We could test this data by going to large high paying companies and taking a survey on how many people have tattoos, whether they are visible or not. Or we could go into a tattoo shop and ask people who are going to get a tattoo, what they do for a living. Tattoos are becoming more and more acceptable as time goes on, so people should stop hating on them.

  • The ideal path for students to take is usually said to be immediately after high school they should go off to a four year university. However this may not be the best option for them, maybe taking a year or two to attend a community college and get acclimated to a college class work load could do wonders for students. Saying this as a transfer student from a community college, my one year there has helped me not be overwhelmed by the amount college classes want from their students, not to mention it saves money. The potential data to test this could involve observing four year university students’ GPA versus that of a transfer from a community college. Another data that would either prove or disprove this hypothesis would be to test stress level among students from both groups, with my hypothesis saying that transfer students would have less stress. Based on the test results, it could change the outlook on how students view post high school plans.

  • One piece of conventional wisdom that I definitely hear in college, is that beer makes you fat, as oppose to drinking liquor. Hence the creation of the word “beer gut” As a bartender, I never thought this was true. If you drink 10 beers vs. 10 jack and cokes, I am sure the jack and cokes contain much more calories and sugar than the beer, however this needs to be proven. What I would do to test this is to get a group of skinny, ready-to-party freshmen, where one group is only allowed to drink liquor, and the other group is only allowed to drink beer. I would test how much % of their weight increased over their first year at school. There will be many variables, such as how much do they actually drink, however on average each group should drink around the same amount of alcohol.

  • One common example of conventional wisdom is that “Fat people are just lazy and have no self-discipline.” It doesn’t matter how much you weigh because there is no correlation between how much a person weighs and how productive he/she is. The definition of the word “fat” is also different from person to person. In order to test this, I would have people of all different sizes be given an optional task to complete by the end of the day. At the end of the day, I would see who finished the task and who didn’t, and see if there is a correlation between weight and productivity.

  • there are a variety of how person can interact with Conventional point as many of people know is a story in the old century about kings and how they deal with their town. these stories is keep us as reminder of what a wise act can have effect on our life. however not all Conventional wisdom is true as 99% because not all of them is true or fact, and it should be treated this way

  • I have often heard, you must have a good business plan to be successful in the business world. To disprove this claim, I would survey CEOs of long standing businesses. I would use the data to determine whether these CEOs started off with a good business plan or if they didn’t have a business plan in mind at all and how this contributed to their success.

  • Growing up I often heard that you can’t have a good, successful career without a college degree. However, I’ve heard of many CEOs of successful businesses that don’t have college degrees. One of the ways I would disprove this would be to do a survey of current CEOs or top executives of over 100 businesses and see how many of them do and don’t have college degrees. This data would show what percentage of the sample surveyed doesn’t have a college degree, showing just how many people managed to have a very successful career without a formal education.

  • Often the conventional wisdom around working out, is that running and working out is enough to get you back in shape. Although this can be partly true, in the sense that working out is better than sitting around. However that is only part of the equation. I huge part, that conventional wisdom fails to account for, is the ability to clean your diet from unhealthy and healthy. When you combine both results, you will achieve your bodies genetic disposition for putting on lean muscle. The data that could be used can include data of one person who only “cleans” up their diet, compared to someone who does not clean up their diet but does actively go to the gym. Conventional wisdom dictates that only working out is enough, but a combination of factors determines the ability to lose weight and or put on muscle.

  • A common example of conventional wisdom that I have often hear, is that you should get a college degree if you want to be successful in your life. I believe that this can be disproven because some people just might not be cut out for college or sometimes people just do not think it is necessary. Often times society looks down upon others who do not decide to get a degree because they think they are not smart. However, that is not always the case as many successful CEO’s are people who decided not to go to college. One way you can collect data on this topic is by looking at the top CEO’s and seeing who got a degree and who did not. Another way is to research the average income between people who only graduated high school or people who graduated high school and college to see which ones are the most successful.

  • I remember from when I was in high school people would always say that you have to have extremely high grades to get into specific colleges. This I believe is a prime example on conventional wisdom because although intelligence is a major deciding factor in the admissions process, nowadays it seems that many elite colleges are accepting students based on who they are as a whole and not what their transcripts define them as. I would disprove this claim by collecting data on an incoming class based on grades, background, extracurricular activities, etc. I would then use the data to compare what percentages of students were accepted with lower grades but stood out in other areas with the percentage of students who alone had exceptional grades.

  • The conventional wisdom statement I first thought of is that practice makes perfect, or those who practice something more will be more skilled than those who do not. I believe this is generally true, however some people are born to be experts in certain areas. The way to test this statement is to have to groups of people who have never practiced a certain activity, and have one group practice for a specified time while the other group does not. One example could be shooting free throws in basketball, the two groups of people must have no basketball skills prior to the experiment. One group would practice taking free throws for a specified time period while the other does not. After the time period is over, each person would take a few free throws, and the percentage of free throws made could be calculated. From the calculations you could derive knowledge of how practice impacts performance.

  • One piece of conventional wisdom a lot of younger people hear is that if you don’t go to college or get good grades that you won’t end up with a good job. While that may be true for some people there are plenty of other people who have started their own businesses and never went to college. To collect information on this I would survey different CEOs or founders of companies to see if they went to college and if they did what their GPA was when they graduated. Through this data I would determine if there was a relationship between their success in the professional world and their education.

  • Some conventional wisdom I have heard over the years is the idea that being successful in the business world is all about the connections you make with other people and colleagues. Basically, the more people you build relationships with in the business world, the more likely it is that opportunities will come available to you. While I believe this holds true to some extent, I would still test my hypothesis by asking wealthy business owners/ partners how they got started.
    Grace Stuart

  • An example of “conventional wisdom” is people think they shopping on the Black Friday will save their money. in this case, they forget when people see the sale item, they may buy more products even they don’t need it at all. for the test, I will compare the family expense on black Friday to rest of days. also, I want to check the discount rate of the stores. as we know, there also have some good discount in other holidays.

  • I have heard you should never draft a quarterback in the first round in fantasy football. To test this I can collect the point totals for the last 5 seasons of the top twelve quarterbacks, top twenty-four running backs, and top twenty-four wide receivers (standard starting lineup is 1 QB, 2 RB, and 2 WR for a 12 team league) of a standard point system. I will then compare the difference between the best player at their position to the worst player at their position. If the QBs point differential is a sizeable amount then taking a QB in the first round is logical.

  • An example of a Conventional wisdom is that “Money can buy happiness” or “Money can’t buy happiness” is that true? these two quotes are wrong and we can disprove them by claiming that rich and poor people are humans and they’re alike. And there are many rich people that they are not happy because of a health issue or for what ever reason. Either statement can be disprove and can’t be a fact.

  • An example on conventional wisdom is “You have to earn more money.” This is completely subjective and depends on the type of person you are. Some people are completely content with the amount of money making and see no reason to need to get a better job to make more money. People that say this are saying this only to get a better lifestyle to buy nicer things, but that is not what everyone values. You could test this by taking a poll on people and ask them if they think they need to earn more money.

  • Back in the 1900s, it was conventional wisdom that smoking was not harmful to the human body. Nowadays we know that is, but it could easily be tested without the knowledge we have now. Take a person who smokes a pack a day, compare it to someone who smokes under a pack per day, and someone who does not smoke. Study their organs over the years, if not decades, using a CAT scan and see the status and health of each person’s lungs and heart. The effects of smoking would reveal how much of an impact it is negatively to the smokers.

  • An example of conventional wisdom that I’ve heard before is “ignorance is bliss”. I would test this statement by surveying different age groups about their sanctification based on being ignorant or not ignorant. The level of ignorance and response will vary between age groups, but to find a correlation between ignorance and sanctification would be interesting. Responsibility and knowledge are some variables that can be addressed and it will determine the amount of ignorance someone is willing to engage in.

  • A conventional wisdom I have already heard is “you can’t judge a book by its cover”, this can relate to actual books and people. I think it’s easy to prove this wrong, because usually when people give off first impressions, that what a person personality will most likely be. A way to prove this would be to maybe ask people who have been in long term relationships or friendships, and ask what their first impressions of the other would be, and if their first impressions actually lived up to their expectations. You can put together data from peoples views and first impressions, and compare them.

  • A piece of conventional wisdom that I’ve heard is the statement is “past performance is a good predictor of future performance”. This statement has been widely accepted to be true by the people in business, school, and sports. But that isn’t always the case and there are a ton of examples to use to disapprove this statement. The data that I would use to collect to test this is in sports especially since so many athletes are paid because of past performance and many flame out in the future. Collecting data of athletes that performed exceptional in the past, got a huge contract, and were busts in their future performance could be data used to disapprove that statement.

  • Often in life people tell us that if your plan in life isn’t working, you should change directions and try something else instead. Although many people follow this rule of life, I am a big believer in following your goals and dreams until you reach them. I believe that even if you don’t hit your intended end goal, you can still learn a lot about yourself and about life itself by aiming for your biggest dreams and trying to achieve them. To test out this piece of conventional wisdom, you could find a group of people with a set of goals and periodically check on those that decide to give up and those that have stuck to their goal. I would check the progress up to 3-5 years to see what the people that stuck to their goal have learned and if they feel it was the correct choice to stick with it. I would also check to see if those that gave up have regrets about giving up.

  • In China, I heard a lot about an interesting conventional wisdom is that “People who eat a lot of fish will be smarter than other who do not like or never eating fish”. It means eating fish is a vital factor to make people smart. However, it is not tested. I will set several group of people with different range of age. A part of people eat fish everyday, and the rest of people eat foods which they like. Then, several periods later, we can test those people become smart or not. Or we can test whether the people who eating fish is smarter than people who did not eating fish. Collect the data of their IQ&EQ, and comparing different group of people.

  • An example of conventional wisdom I often hear at the gym is “No pain, no gain”. This is a fitness phrase meaning your body has to experience pain while working out in order to gain more strength. This quote can be disproven by collecting data from athletes who have gained muscle mass or improved physically without injuring their bodies. For example, finding a marathon runner who has improved their 5k time without getting injured during training proves this theory wrong.

  • A piece of conventional wisdom that I heard once I entered the college party scene was “Beer before grass you’re on your ass, grass before beer you’re in the clear”, grass referring to weed. Now while I obviously have zero personal experience with this conventional wisdom, I have seen several incidents where people have. There are many different factors that can determine the effects one would receive from weed or alcohol. Therefore, it is needless to say that people are different and react differently. The wisdom can be tested by having different types of individuals, body type, gender, etc. consume alcohol then smoke and vice versa. The behaviors would be noted and we could determine which is the best order to do the following activities for several body types. Until then, party hard.

  • I have always heard that students who attend class get better grades. To test this, I would record all the student’s attendance in a certain class and compare their attendance with their grade. This would allow me to identify any correlation between the two. I would do this for several classes to get a more accurate result.

  • An example of conventional wisdom is that “eating before bed is bad for and or can lead to weight gain.” It is believed that your metabolism slows down when you fall asleep, causing undigested food to be stored as fat. yet many health experts say eating before bed is fine and can even improve sleep or weight loss. I would test this by measuring a person’s fat, weight gain, and sleeping patterns, after eating before bed, compared to someone who did not.

  • An example of conventional wisdom that I hear often is that having the AC on in a car uses much more gas than rolling the windows down. To determine whether or not this is true I would compare the amount of gas used in a car with the air conditioning on to the amount of gas used in the same car on the same route with the windows down.

  • One common example of conventional wisdom is that cracking your joints causes arthritis. This can be proved by going to people that have had a habit of cracking their fingers for a long time and see record the long term results. If you put all the results together you can see the trends and the possibility of arthritis being caused by cracking joints.

  • One piece of conventional wisdom is that you can burn fat in certain spots by doing certain exercises. For instance, you could mainly get rid of belly fat just by doing sit-ups. However, this is not the case. In order to disprove this I would find multiple pairs of people with similar body types and dimensions and nearly identical body fat percentages. I would have the first subject take part a complete workout plan while the second took part in a partial plan that was centered around working one area in particular. I would do this across multiple pairs and have multiple groups each attempting to burn fat solely in one spot. At the end of each workout plan, I would compare before and after pictures, take body fat percentages, and complete a mental wellness test (a test that basically measured their self-confidence and could determine if they feel better about their body images). The conglomeration of all this data would help me to determine that you can not “spot burn” fat away.

  • An example of conventional wisdom is the idea that popular songs at the moment only play on the radio. There are plenty of songs that get as much buzz as songs on the radio that would be considered popular despite their lack of air time. Radio DJs only have so much time in their set, so it’s hard to break in new popular music to people at times. A poll can be taken on a radio station’s website or a forum can be made about popular music to be heard to disprove this belief. If people feel strongly towards a song or two, they’ll make noise about it given the platform.

  • One piece of conventional wisdom I would hear a lot is “violent video games lead to poorly behaved kids/violent adults,” which I never really believed, but most of the adults in my family did. To test this statement, I could collect data from an experiment studying children who do and do not play violent video games, and monitor their behavior for a long period of time. I could also study violent offenders and interview whether or not they played video games growing up, and what kind of video games they played.

  • Many people say that an apple away keeps the doctor away. But we don’t really know if this is true. In order to figure out if this is true, I would conduct an experiment. In this experiment, I will find people of the same age, weight, BMI, etc. and split them up into 2 groups, one of which will be the control group and the other group, who will eat 1 apple a day. Over a period of 6 months, I would assess how many times both groups have doctor’s visits during this period. I will take out doctor’s visits that would be considered outliers, such as emergency accidents, etc. And then, I would see if the non-control group really has had less doctor’s visits in a 6 month period just because they are an apple a day.

  • Growing up I always heard that “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” as I’m sure many of us have been told. While this seems relatively intuitive, I’ve never taken the time to actually verify this statement. In order to figure out whether or not this statement is actually true, I’d make the assumption that eating one apple every day will decrease the number of sick days I’d experience within one year. You could collect day for half of the year measuring number of sick days while eating apples every day and then continue measuring for six months without eating any apples. Once you complete measuring for the year you could compare the number of total sick days and debunk/prove the myth.

  • A piece of conventional wisdom I would test is that you shouldn’t eat before swimming. my whole life I followed this rule but there is no data behind it to prove it true. I will single handedly test all the children from one elementary school for belly aches after swimming after lunch. This will give us the facts we need!

  • A piece of conventional wisdom that I’ve heard was that its not always about what you know instead its about who you know. One could collect data on this by figuring out how often jobs hire based on GPA vs. the references. You could also test this by taking a student who didn’t have such hot grades but was involved with many different organizations and compare them to kids who studied all the time and got good greats but didn’t have any organizations on their resume and see which of the two get the job more often.
    Sorry I posted in section 1.. don’t hate me.

  • One piece of conventional wisdom that I’ve heard is that you shouldn’t go outside when it is cold because you will get the common cold. One piece of data you can use to disprove or prove this statement is looking up data showing a link between common colds and cold weather. Another piece of data you could use is the data on the common cold posted by the CDC and see the ways to attract a cold. This will either prove or disprove this piece of conventional wisdom

  • Conventional wisdom would say that getting a job with good job security and adequate compensation is much more likely when having a college degree. To measure the truth of this wisdom, I would first identify specific occupations and group them by their likelihood of requiring a college degree. Then, consulting sources such as the U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, I would collect occupation-specific data such as figures on compensation and amount of jobs in the market. This data could then be summarized and evaluated across the previously made groups. Perhaps this method would find that most of the better paying jobs available to the workforce are trade-based or in fields of manual labor.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Office Hours
Laurel Miller (instructor) 1:00-2:00pm, Tuesdays and Thursdays, Speakman Hall 207F or by appointment.
ITA information
Rebecca Jackson (ITA) By appointment only. Email: