Section 003, Instructor: Ermira Zifla

Weekly Question #1: Complete by January 27, 2017

Leave your response as a comment on this post by the beginning of class on Januar 27, 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.

41 Responses to Weekly Question #1: Complete by January 27, 2017

  • A piece of conventional wisdom that I’ve been told is to put hydrogen peroxide on wounds to disinfect them, however Advanced Tissues states otherwise. According to the article the effectiveness of hydrogen peroxide is being debated amongst medical practitioners with evidence supporting that hydrogen peroxide is both ineffective and slows down the healing process by destroying cells that assist in the healing process.

  • Conventional wisdom says that eating food that is high in fat content will make you fat.
    Data: IN order to test this idea we would have to get a sample group of people representing different groups of people and keep them om strict diets. Some receiving food that is high in fat, others eating food that is very low or contains zero fat. All sample subjects would be limited to the same amount of physical activity also. All other variables would have to be identified and factored into the test in addition. This sample set would have to be continuously weighed and body fat measurements taken in order to see if the fat content in food is the determining factor in gaining fat.

  • A piece of conventional wisdom that I’ve been told is that if you do not go to college, you cannot be successful.
    Data: To test this, surveys should be disbursed across America from cities to suburbs. Within the surveys there will be questions about jobs, salaries and college attendance. This will prove or disprove the idea that if you do not attend college you will not be successful.

  • One of the most common pieces of conventional wisdom I’ve ever heard was to never eat any snacks or junk food before having dinner because you’ll no longer have an appetite. To test this piece of wisdom, I would two sample groups of people. One of the groups doesn’t eat anything before dinner and the other groups eats as much candy and junk food as they like. Then I’d give both groups the same amount of food on the same and they could have as many plates as they’d like. Finally I’d compare the amount group #1 and #2 ate and compare the numbers to see if this piece of wisdom turns out to be correct in practice and theory.

  • One piece of conventional wisdom that comes to my mind is, “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.” The phrase means that if something is functioning as it should be, then there is no need to tinker around with how it is working. Some data I would want regarding this statement would be how efficiently the thing is working. If the thing is working, but it isn’t working to its full capacity, then it could possibly use some fixing.

  • “Eating chocolate will give you acne” is a piece of conventional wisdom I was always told. The data I would collect to test this is taking a group of people and recording, as well as photographing the amount of acne they have on their face. I would them have them eat a set amount of chocolate weekly, increasing the amount every week. The amount of acne growth would be recorded on a weekly basis. Other factors such as food allergies/ sensitivity, stress, skin care regimen, hygiene, hormones, preexisting conditions, and lifestyle would also have to be considered.

  • The other day I received some conventional wisdom: Star Trek is more popular than Star Wars.
    Data: One way of testing this is to compare the amount of money the new movies of both respected franchises made, then see which one made more.
    Another way to test this is to show random individuals pictures of some of the most iconic symbols of each franchise, then ask them if they know where said symbol is from.

  • Conventional wisdom can be defined as the theories or knowledge that accepted by most people. Here’s a conventional saying, the treatments that are told on the published medical thesis are always right. The way I will test this conventional wisdom, is to collect the medical papers or thesis that are published on Academic Medicine (One of the most popular medical journal) and see if the treatments are proved or not. However, the amount of medical paper is too much. So I will just collect the best medical thesis in ten years. “The best” I mean the medical papers that are quoted over 1000 times. Then, extract the papers that are telling something is helpful healing a disease. And finally see if I can find out the treatments are told in those papers were strictly proved or not.

  • “If you work hard you will be successful” is a conventional wisdom I have heard all my life. This is not necessarily true hard work doesn’t automatically equals success. The are people who have worked hard all their life and they are not successful and there are people who just attempted something and became successful. To test this I would take of survey of people who are successful and compare how hard they work to achieve their successful.

  • The first conventional wisdom that comes to mind is “the more time you spend studying, the better you will do in class”. They conventional wisdom flat out states the greater the amount of time you spend studying the better you grades will be. This also brings forth a relation or correlation between time spent studying and grades. The way I would test this is by collecting data of all the students with their grades and the amount of time they spend studying.

  • One conventional wisdom, which is widely spread is the assumption that males are naturally better at science than females. To test this conventional wisdom I would start with collecting data on the grades of boys and girls of our standardized tests. The math section on the SAT test could be a first source of data, as it is easy to obtain and has enough data point to be a reliable sample. Still, I would try to also get more data from different sources, which e.g. ask questions differently, as we know that boys and girls respond differently to different styles of teaching/learning, to avoid bias and jumping to conclusions and missing the actual reason behind the widely believed phenomenon that boys are better at science than girls.

  • One example of conventional wisdom that I always used to hear is “Eat your carrots their good for your eyes”. As a kid I would actually think if it was true. A possible way of testing this theory would to start by using child sample groups of 100, A and B. Group A would all have 20/20 vision and have excellent overall health. Group B would also be children who have 20/20 vision. For the next 5 years group A would have carrots in their lunch and dinner. After a long 5 year term I can make all 100 participants take another eye exam and see the results and if any overall difference in the groups vision has stayed at 20/20 or had worsened.

  • One piece of conventional wisdom that I have heard is “No pain, No gain.” The data I would collect for this would be to use two weightlifters. I would have one go extremely hard until he starts to feel the pain of the lift by using more weight and less reps. For the other lifter I would use a smaller amount of weight but maybe use more repetitions. I would then keep this up for a few months and see which lifter has more muscle. I would then be able to see if pain allows a lifter to gain more muscle.

  • One conventional wisdom that I’ve always been told is, “if you get wet in the rain you will get sick”.
    I would collect data by observing how many people get sick by going out in the rain and getting wet. I would conduct this data multiple times with many different types of people on different days. I would see how soon the subjects get sick and also take note of the weather outside on the days they got wet in the rain.

  • Some Conventional Wisdom I received was that Star Trek was better than Star Wars.
    Data: One way I could test this is by looking at the amount of money the newer films in both respected franchises made, then compare them. I could also collect data by showing individual, who were chosen at random, iconic symbols of both franchises and see if they can tell where the symbol is from.

  • An example of a conventional wisdom would be that lightning never strikes in the same place twice. I was always told this as a kid and wondered if it was actually true. The data that I would collect is the different places that lighting strikes and evaluate how many times it strikes in a period of time. I could also travel to the site of the lightning strike and see if this claim is actually true or not.

  • Some Conventional Wisdom that I think about on a daily basis is when they say “Money cannot buy happiness”. I believe that statement is false, based upon today’s society and how the world is so materialistic (based off of social media). The way I would collect data based up this conventional wisdom is creating and joining a group of 10 people. Within these 10 people, they will have a span of five days to spend a sum of money given to them. On the first day they will receive $10, the second $20, the third $30, the fourth $40, and finally on the fifth day each person will receive $100. They will spend the money on anything of their choice. Each day the group will be monitored and asked how they feel based upon what they bought and if they are happy with it. On the final day with the $100, we will see what items were bought and if they are happy. My point, $100 can get someone something nice, and maybe its something they always wanted. With that item in possession, it is almost guaranteed happiness.

  • A piece of conventional wisdom I have heard/been told is to wait at least half an hour after eating before swimming to avoid cramps. To test this, a sample group of people would be needed. On one day they would consume the same meal and swim in a pool immediately after. On the next day, they would again consume the same meal and wait half an hour before swimming in the pool. On both days, each person would be monitored and evaluated to see if they experienced muscle cramping. This could potentially prove whether or not this specific piece of conventional wisdom is true or not. However, I am aware that there are factors/variables involved (i.g. weight of each person) that need to be acknowledged in this test.

  • A piece of conventional wisdom that I have always heard is “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” In order to test this, I would gather two sample groups. The people in each group would be varied, such as their ages, weight, height, etc., but the two groups should be kept as similar in makeup as possible, including their current health. I would gather information about how much each person visited the doctor in a certain time frame, as well as record other aspects of their health, such as weight, blood test results (for vitamin levels, etc), and overall health. I would have one group eat an apple a day, while the other group consumes no apples. Their exercise, diets, supplement/vitamin intakes, and environments would be strictly controlled, as to help determine whether or not the apple is the cause in maintaining good health. I would monitor the group and record any illnesses or doctor visits that occur during a certain time frame (comparable to the time frame in which I first collect data from how many times they went to the doctor), and then reassess their health comparable to the tests taken before the experiment. Holding all other factors constant, I would then be able to see if eating an apple a day yields less doctors visits/improves or maintains health as opposed to not eating an apple a day.

  • An example of conventional wisdom would be that same-sex couples are unfit parents. I would test this by finding same-sex couples throughout the US with kids. I would collect subjective and objective data. The subjective data would come from surveying the parents and children through a series of questions like: “On a scale of 1-10 how happy are you?”. I would collect the objective data through school test scores and physical reports from doctors to see how the parents affect the children’s health and academics.

  • An example of Conventional Wisdom that comes to mind is, “You will not be successful without higher Education.” Even though higher education has some correlation with success, it does not guarantee it, nor does it mean that you will not succeed without education after high school. I would test this by doing research on individuals who have become successful with and without higher education, and look at what paths they took to get to that point.

  • An example of conventional wisdom I’ve been told is that, “you have to wait 30 minutes after you eat to go swimming”. To test this conventional wisdom, I would have to get 2 large groups of people. I would first feed group one a large meal and wait 30 minutes and let them go swimming to see if they get sick or get cramps. I would record the data and move on to group two. I would feed the same meal to group two and let them go swimming right afterwards. I would record the data and see if group two gets sick compared to group one.

  • A piece of conventional wisdom that I have always been told is that you should wait at least 30 minutes after eating before going swimming because it can upset your stomach and affect your ability to swim. One could use data to test if there is any truth to this piece of conventional wisdom by conducting two separate studies on the same group of people. One day, the group of people could go swimming immediately after eating the same meal and evaluate their ability to swim and their health status. The next day, they could eat the same meal, but this time wait 30 minutes, and see if their swimming ability or health status changed because they waited to swim.

  • A piece of conventional wisdom is the old saying, “You get what you pay for.” The idea behind the phase is that whatever one pays for, its’ price and value should surely match its’ quality. If you pay for something and you spared no expense, its’ quality should be top notch and above all else, you should be satisfied with your product or item of purchase. If you buy something dirt cheap and it is soon after falls apart or renders itself useless after one uses it once or twice, then the quality of the product matched its’ low market value. Usually things that are cheap are cheaply made and also not made to last. More expensive things tend to be better quality. In layman’s terms, in essence, buying a two dollar shirt is likely to fall apart in the wash, but buying a twenty dollar shirt may warrant one more wears and uses from said shirt.

  • A piece of conventional wisdom that I have heard is that being a gymnast makes you short. To test this statement, I would look at data stating the average height of both male and female gymnasts during childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. Then, I would examine the type of impact gymnasts endure on their bodies and determine through medical research if the kinds of falls and landings they perform do indeed stunt the body’s growth. Finally, I would compare the average height data set and the impact data set and look for a correlation between the two. Depending on this, I will be able to discern if being a gymnast actually makes someone short.

  • One piece of conventional wisdom that I have heard is that eating green vegetables will make you stronger. I would take a random sample of 100 kids aged 16-18 who are relatively the same sized height and weight. I will evaluate each person’s muscle mass before any vegetable eating or working out has been performed. I will flip a coin, heads being Group A and tails being Group B. Both groups will go to the gym five days a week, but only Group A will have the vegetables. They will have the portion of vegetables at dinner as stated by the food plate by the government. After about six months, I will retest the muscle mass of both groups and see which group has grown stronger, or if there is no difference at all.

  • One Conventional Wisdom that I have to hear often is “great things come to those who wait”. This statement does not always prove to be true, I am sure we can all recall hearing stories about people who were in good positions but waited too long and let opportunities pass them by. Great things are sought after, not waited for. In order to support my claims against the old conventional wisdom, I will use big data. From a business aspect, I would test how long senior VPs, CEOs, CFOs, other executives, and managers have been in base roles before moving up into their respective roles compared to other business professionals who are relatively the same age and not yet advanced in their careers.

    -Jibreel Murrray

  • A piece of conventional wisdom that I have heard before is that drinking one glass of red wine each day is good for your heart. I don’t believe this to be entirely true, because the statement itself is vague: it doesn’t state exactly how red wine can be good for one’s heart. I would test this piece of conventional wisdom by first determining factors that indicate heart health, such as blood pressure and cholesterol. I would test these factors on groups of people that regularly drink red wine and those who don’t, in order to determine whether this piece of conventional wisdom is true.

  • A conventional wisdom I’ve constantly heard is “You are what you eat”. I personally don’t agree with this because I am definitely not what I eat. I can eat unhealthy and healthy all I want but it won’t look like I do, at least currently. The data that could be used to test this is to get two sample groups between the ages of 20-35, one group who eats healthy and one group who eats junk and unhealthy foods. With both of these groups, we can evaluate each person’s body weight, size, etc. and keep track of what they eat on a daily basis.

  • A piece of conventional wisdom which is well known however can be disproven is swimming right after you eat a meal. Parents always stress that you need to wait some time before jumping in the pool after a meal. To test this piece of conventional wisdom, I would have a group of subjects of all different ages eat different sized meals and then swim a lap in a pool. I would variable the size of the meal and the time waited in between the end of the meal and when they jump in the water. I would also have a few people who do not eat anything at all before swimming the lap. I will test performance relative to athletic ability and stature.

  • One conventional wisdom I have heard is that getting up when your first alarm goes off in the morning will help you be more productive, energized, and alert throughout the day, as opposed to setting another alarm for 10 minutes and going back to sleep. I have tried to test this myself by comparing how productive and alert I feel when waking up right away vs. going back to sleep for 10 minutes and I have not noticed much of a difference. However, to officially test this conventional wisdom I would ask a group of 10 people to go to sleep at 11:30PM the night before and have them all set an alarm for 8AM the following day, I would have 5 of them get up right at 8 when the alarm goes off and instruct the other 5 to wake up at 8 and then go back to sleep until 8:10. Then I would ask them at several points throughout the day how alert, productive, and energized they felt. I would also check that they are all eating and drinking the same products, as consumption throughout the day can play a factor. I would also study what time they felt the need to nap or go to sleep the day the test would be done. This data would help me conclude whether or not waking up right away vs. going back to sleep for an additional 10 minutes has a profound impact on a person or if this is simply a myth.

  • A piece of conventional wisdom is that juice cleanses are healthy. Many claim that this process cleans one’s body of toxins and provides necessary nutrients for sustaining health. I would argue that juice cleanses seem like an attractive idea, yet don’t yield benefits that many presume they hold. Juicing a fruit produces only a sugar filled substance and leaves out the flesh of the fruit, usually containing fiber, that is necessary for proper digestion of fruit-suger.

  • A conventional wisdom that I have heard is that drinking one glass of red wine per night is actually beneficial to your health. Although too much red wine can cause detrimental effects such as alcoholism, cancers, and high blood pressure, other studies show that a glass of red wine per night can lower incidences of cardiovascular disease, mortality, and type-2 diabetes. In order to conduct my own experiment, I would establish two coed groups. Each group would have a range of ages from 21-60. Group A would be the group to test the idea and Group B would act as the control group. Group A is to drink a specified amount of red wine every night for 3 years (this amount would not exceed one glass per night). Group B would be asked to refrain from drinking red wine for the 3 years. Throughout the 3 years, the members of each group would have regular doctors appointments where they specifically analyze the changes in their health and compare the two groups’ doctor reports.

  • One conventional wisdom I have heard is that “cleanliness is next to godliness”. I would test this out by sampling 100 people, 50 religious and 50 non religious/atheist and document their habits including hygiene, work and home settings and how clean they are. If the data correlates and supports the convential wisdom that “cleanliness is next to godliness” then the data will show that religious people are cleaner (or at least the ones we sampled are) than non-religious/atheist people.

  • The Pareto principle, or the 80/20 rule, is a piece of conventional wisdom that purports that 80 percent of productivity comes from 20% of the time and energy spent on something. This claim can be tested most accurately if I measure the amount of time studying and the grades that I receive. I would more specifically test this by first measuring a normal “section” of studying. I define section here as the interim before a test. After measuring the amount of hours I spent studying and analyzing the grades that I achieved, I would then work more effectively and efficiently during the second section. During this section I would utilize more specific pieces of conventional wisdom that were applicable to my studying habits. For instance, it has been said that if you read the first and last paragraph, as well as the first and last sentence of each paragraph between the introduction and conclusion, that you can obtain 80% of the information in a chapter. I would use additional methods to study more effectively, and ultimately measure the amount of time I spent during that second section. Then I would analyze the grades that I got at the end of it. Comparing the results with my first section, as well as with the inference that if I did no studying I would receive a 0%, I would attempt to quantify how effective less but better studying habits are, to see if the 80/20 principle held up.

  • A piece of conventional wisdom that I’ve received is that you should look both ways before crossing the street. In order to test whether or not that advice is worthwhile, I would gather the information on how many people in the 19121 area have been hit by cars while crossing the street, and distinguish whether or not they were found to have admittedly looked both ways before crossing the street. In addition, I would most likely discount people who were struck by cars while under the influence.

  • One piece of popular conventional wisdom commonly used to ease a person’s concerns is “you can’t know what will happen in the future.” Obviously no one can be certain about the future, but I think it would be useful to test the correctness of this statement by evaluating if we can, in fact, have a high enough level of certainty about future events. To test the accuracy of this statement I would have two groups of people participate in the stock market, a marketplace commonly accepted as unpredictable. One control group would live by this conventional wisdom and just make decisions based on historical data, not concerning themselves with predictions of the future since they believe they can never know what will actually happen. Another group will focus on using data from the market and other sources to make predictions or forecasts about the future with a great enough level of certainty to be confident that something will likely happen or not. Then I would measure the accuracy of this group’s predictions against the market performance of the control group and evaluate whether or not it simply more beneficial to not be concerned about knowing the future.

  • A example of conventional wisdom that I have heard of is that “orderliness leads to success”. I would collect the data by testing two different groups, in one would be people with bad order habits and in the other there would be people that are really organized. Then after leaving them in the room to study I would test their success rate on a test and see which group did better in a organized environment or a disorganized environment.

  • Conventional Wisdom is something that we experience on a daily living basis. One example of this is when people say “Television and video games make children more violent”. I would disprove this idea by doing a study on 100 kids of ages 7-16. I would first see what type of video games and television the child is playing or watching, then I would have to see their family dynamic, such as household values. I would then follow each child individually around for a day to see if this data holds true. My opinion is that video games and television is part of this eras culture. I believe people who are already extremely violent inside or outside of their homes are the ones attracted to violent video games and television, not every child that plays or watches violent activity is violent in real life- that is totally false.

  • Conventional Wisdom includes stuff you hear from your parents and believe because they’re your parents. So considering that, one piece of conventional wisdom is that if you get wet in a rainstorm or anything of that sort, you’ll get sick. To test this, I’d go to different parts of the world and wait for rainy days and record the people who get very wet, maybe kids playing in the rain, crazy grandmas watering their plants, business men hurrying to their offices. A diverse population. Then I’d contact those people and ask them how they’re doing for about a week after that, every day. That way I can see if there’s any truth to that statement. Perhaps there is a certain population that gets affected, or maybe the entire saying is based on a lazy old man trying to make an excuse to not go outside.

  • One piece of conventional wisdom I’ve heard before is that the earlier you leave out for work, the less traffic there will be. I would measure this by measuring traffic speeds and car density on a particular stretch of road like a highway during every time period. Because maybe it is possible that being on the road early is too popular of an idea and that the roads may be actually more crowded earlier in the morning.

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Ermira Zifla (instructor) 10:00am-12:00pm Wednesdays, Speakman Hall 207C or by appointment.
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