Section 006, Instructor: Shana Pote

Weekly Question #1: Complete by September 7, 2016

Leave your response as a comment on this post by the beginning of class on September 7, 2016. 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 disproved 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.

26 Responses to Weekly Question #1: Complete by September 7, 2016

  • For new drivers, the rule of thumb is often to avoid all unnecessary distractions. This could be having other passengers in the car, eating or drinking, listening to music, reading a map, etc. However, I find that listening to music helps me stay alert and focused. If I were testing this theory I would collect data from drivers under the age of 20 who have been in a car accident. Then I would ask a series of questions to determine if there were any outside “distractions” that may have caused the crash. I would use this data to see if there is a positive or negative correlation between the two.

  • Many individuals do not travel by flight due to fear of air crash inicdients. A lot of people would rather go by road because they believe it is safer than air transportation. In my opinion this is a conventional wisdom. And to test it i would compare the rate at which air crash incidents occur in a year to the rate at which car accidents occur in a year.

  • The piece of conventional wisdom that I chose is that ‘the most important thing is family.’ Even though this is generally accepted as true in most households, many others think differently about their families. Many people have family-related problems and would consider others (not immediate family or blood relatives) as more important to them than their own family. To prove my point, I would send out a survey that would ask the participants to rank the most important people in their lives and tell me their relation to said person. This would then prove or disprove my point.

  • Conventional wisdom is something that is widely accepted as true, correct, or proper. An example that I thought to be most interesting was that “if you work hard, you will succeed”. This phrase leaves a bitter taste in my mouth because what truly is hard work? Some may think hard work is easy to another person. To prove the point I am trying to make, I would gather information from my participants of the different levels of easy to hard in their perspective. Once I would have this information, I can prove or disprove my explanation.

  • I’m not sure if it’s the same in the states, but back in where I grew up, doctors/dentists are considered rich people. However, this, in my opinion, is a conventional wisdom. Doctors/dentists’ wealthiness differs due to different incomes, working hours, family expenses and etc. To further discuss about this theory, I would compare the average income and outlays of doctors/dentists.

  • A piece of conventional wisdom that I receive frequently is to get a good night’s sleep- that is 8 hours a night. Without getting 8 hours of sleep a night, it is said that one will not be as productive or refreshed the next day. However, I know plenty of people who function on a high level on just a few hours of sleep a night. To see if 8 hours of sleep a night is necessary for a productive day, I would have a sample of participants over a two week period. The first week, the participants will receive 8 hours a night and the the second week the participants will have receive 6 hours. I would then assign work and see how long it takes to complete a task with 8 hours and the 6 hours the following week.

  • A statement that many people claim is that vitamin C supplementation will prevent you from catching the common cold. To test this, I would have multiple groups, including a blind test group, and have them take a certain amount of vitamin C each day. When a person comes down with the cold, we will document how long they have the symptoms for. After a period of six months, we would then compare the amount and severity of the cold for each person to determine whether vitamin C supplementation is, or is not, a viable option to prevent the common cold.

  • Many individuals seem to go by the piece of conventional wisdom: “you get what you pay for.” Simply judging from personal experiences, whether it be purchasing technology that broke down after a few months or clothes that tore from normal use, I do believe the cost of an item relates to its quality. In order to test this statement, I would survey various groups of demographics and simply ask for their most expensive item and how long it last, then their least expensive item and how long it last. Judging from their results, it would prove this piece of conventional wisdom to be true or false.

  • Many people say one’s behavior is highly influenced by their environment. There are an infinite amount of ways to show and prove examples of this. There are many aspects of one’s behavior that can be influenced by their environment such as accent, fashion style, music genres, hobbies, etc. If I were to support this through data science, I could collect data through case files by taking individuals and noting aspects of their behavior. Then place those people in environments different from their current environments and after a certain amount of duration of the study, reconvene with the selected individuals for the case study and “measure” the change in behavior in as broad or specific means as I want to record.

  • A piece of convention wisdom that I hear often is “Video games make children violent”. However, this is not true. I would conduct a study where children from the same living environment will play games that are deemed as violent. Later I will see how their behavioral attitudes have changed over the following months, while only playing the game as a source of entertainment.

  • Often I hear people say “grades aren’t everything” in regards to being in college and finding work after graduation. Obviously that’s true to a certain degree, but how true is it? I’ve met plenty of people who performed quite well in college and struggled after graduation, as well as people who managed just middling grades and yet ultimately ended up being quite successful. To find out the answer to my question I would examine the salaries of individuals with professional and academic degrees in numerous fields (regardless of typical salary) and cross reference their salaries to their performances in college. I would also consider other traits and experiences that are generally considered useful in a professional world like being able to speak multiple languages or having been exposed to business from an early age.

  • One example of conventional wisdom is that you have to drink 8 glasses (or 64 ounces) of water a day to stay healthy and hydrated. To test this, I would have 2 groups of participants. The first would be the control group; all participants would drink normally each day. The second group would drink exactly 64 ounces of water a day. After a month, test the health of participants of both groups. Did drinking 64 ounces of water significantly improve the participants’ health, or is this just a saying?

  • One piece of conventional wisdom I have heard throughout my life is that college is the gateway to a high paying and enjoyable job. Without going to college, you are left with limited options for employment due to a majority of the work force having a bachelors degree at minimum. I personally do not agree with this piece of conventional wisdom as I know several very successful individuals who only have a high school diploma or equivalency to their name. Another important factor to consider before collecting or analyzing any pieces of data pertinent to this statement would be to define what is high paying, what is “enjoyable” would be harder to quantify since a metric like that is largely subjective and would differ from person to person. Once this has been established, a survey of individuals could be conducted to see what kind of educational background these individuals have, and whether or not they would be willing to disclose what their annual salary is. Alternative forms of higher education such as technical schooling, and specific certifications would also be considered in this type of data analysis. Once all the data has been collected an analyzed, a better understanding of how much of an impact a college education has on one’s ability to earn a higher income and get their foot in the door to better career opportunities.

  • The thing I was told playing sports growing up and is still true today is ” Practice like you play”. Everyone has practiced something in there life at some point or another, but I am mainly pertaining this example to sports but it is true in life. If you think about it sports teams have more practices than they have games, and reason is that you want to practice your athletic ability at the same level you would in the game. When kids growing up are introduced to the sport they have to learn it and constantly go over what they have been taught to become more proficient in that new sport and if it is a team sport to acclimate the other players to one another to get them to mesh as a team. If you are a coach and tell someone at a young age ” Practice like you play”, they are going to absorb that logic and create a great work habit in that sport. I would test this by taking two teams, the first team practicing at a high level of play or an actual game level for a week and then the second team just letting them have no direction and pushing them into a game ready tempo for a week. After that week have both teams play each other in a game.

  • There has been an increasing demand in for higher education as parents urge children to go to college after high school, believing that college will facilitate a successful future for their children; however, I don’t think this is always the case. College isn’t for everyone, but as more and more high school seniors adopt collegiate pride and enroll into college, students who don’t feel fit for college are most likely to feel peer pressured and to ‘follow the crowd’ and to pursue a degree. There have been many notable people who drop out of college and become successful, such as Bill Gates or Mike Zuckerberg. In order to test the claim, “going to college makes you more successful,” I would consider measuring the net worth of senior high school students who don’t go to college and compare them to the net worth of senior high school students who do go to college.

  • A common phrase told is an apple a day keeps the doctors away. Most people accept this statement as true and include fruits such as apples in their daily diet. In order to prove this as true, I would conduct a study involving the number of visits a person has with the doctor and how often they consume apples. But, in order to stay away from having to visit the doctor one needs to consume a variety of healthy foods and make sure they don’t eat processed foods even if they are having an apple a day. In general, this piece of conventional wisdom is good because you need fruits in order to live a long and healthy life.

  • There is a conventional wisdom about karma, “whatever you done, good or bad, it will return back to you.” However, there is no scientific explanation of that, many people get away with lots of things. I have an idea of creating a database that would monitor both good and bad things that person did, and whether or not they came back to him or her.

  • Conventional wisdom is not always true. For example, a lot of people say that the way to lose weight is by doing tons of cardio. This is not true. Research shows that highly concentrated intervals of work are better than just running as much as possible. To test this I would collect data on a select group of people that are around the same age and weight. One group would train by going on long runs every day, the second group would train by doing short sessions of hard, intensive work. Each group would do their select workouts every day for a month. At the end of the month I would compare the results of weight loss.


  • It is said that boys perform better than girls when they are learning mathematics. To test this “Conventional wisdom”, I would like to collect all the boys’ and girls’ grades of mathematics recent 10 years in Temple. Separately calculate the average of grades and then compare them.

  • Conventional wisdom can be found in a multitude of areas of interest in today’s world. One example of conventional wisdom that came to mind when researching this topic, was how football coaches assume that quarterbacks must be a certain height to have success. The conventional thinking of quarterbacks needing to be a certain height to see over the line has caused for not only players, but teams to have missed opportunities for success. Despite majority of quarterback in the national football league being above average height, in proffessional football standards, they are still shorter than majority of the lineman blocking in front of them. Therefore, I would test this conventional wisdom that has seemingly implanted itself in the game of football, by taking an equal amount of below and above average height quarterbacks and running them through a series of drills that requires them to complete a multitude of passes at least ten yards behind a full offensive line and against a full fielded defense. After doing so, I would compare the quarterbacks completion percentage and efficency to determine if height actually does effect a quarterbacks ability to complete passes on a football field.

  • One example of conventional wisdom is that “you get what you pay for.” This example of conventional wisdom can can be tested using the car market. The data needed would be car sales and the Kelley Blue Book’s 5 Year Cost to Own data. While a car may cost more money upfront, it may cost less over the long run than a cheaper car with inferior parts and engineering.

  • It is widely accepted that caffeinated beverages dehydrate your body. But not all caffeine is about coffee. Tea, too, contains caffeine (though less concentrate than coffee.) Many people drink tea for its known benefits and even replace tea for water. Does this mean they are dehydrating themselves? I would have three groups of people (each contains people of all age group) to test this. The first group drinking tea daily as a usual habit, The second group drinking water the same amount of those who drink tea, and the third group free to drink whatever they usually drink or they can choose not to drink at all. All of the people in these groups will be tested for the amount of water their bodies hold after 1 week. The test can go on for 2 weeks or more if needed for more accuracy.

  • An example of conventional wisdom is the widely accepted fact that “work hard, and success will follow.” But what is working hard really mean? This is the essential question or problem that arises when trying to debunk this piece of conventional wisdom. But in order to prove this notion I would simply collect data from a wide range of participants through a questionnaire and then synthesis this data to produce an outcome.

  • An example of Conventional wisdom that i have experience is that ” People will not respect a woman that is very out spoken and to be seen and not heard in the workplace “. Having a older family that are sometimes trapped in their old ways of women should not have a voice, i have always stood out. To prove this i would have to collect data from current times and the past of leaders in the workplace. The data would show the growth and change in the power of women in the workplace.

  • A conventional wisdom that I grow up on is cover up tattoos. Because if tattoos are shown people will look down or even think that i am less educated. Tattoos to the people around me when i was growing up was a sign of being wild and disrespectful.

  • A conventional wisdom I always heard is that “Don’t just stand there. Do something.” However, in the real world, when people meet catastrophe, like the earthquake, it is better to do nothing rather than trying to do something. I think the data of casualty rates in the earthquake can be used to disprove this conventional wisdom.

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Shana Pote (instructor)
By Appointment Only! Email to schedule time between 6-10 pm, M-F, or 9-12 S-S. Office hours will be via Google Hangout, Skype or WebEx
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