Section 001, 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!

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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.

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

  • An example of conventional wisdom is the belief that women are more “right-brained” or creative than men. This could be tested with a sample group of both men and women where they are given a task, and brain scans reveal which parts of the brain were used the most for both gender. The findings from a study done at UPenn, where studies show that on average women “zig-zag” between the sides of the brain, could disprove this idea (

  • Statement: “You get what you pay for”

    In order to test this statement I would collect data such as the prices of different brands of the same items and also record reviews or how last that said product lasts compared to another differently priced product. An example of an items where this can be tested is different brands of iPhone chargers. Everyone knows how expensive iPhone chargers that are purchased directly from Apple can be, but can “knock-offs” purchased from amazon get the job done? Or even do a better job? I would use the system I laid out above to test this.

  • One conventional wisdom I heard was that the higher up the degree of education you have, the higher your salary will be.
    One way to collect data that will prove or disprove this statement is by recording salaries of people that only have a high school education, a undergraduate degree, doctorate degree, and so on. You would get the average salary for this level of education and compare the average numbers.

  • One example of conventional wisdom I often hear is the belief that you will get a cold if you go outside with wet hair. Could this be true? Every time I go out in cold weather after a shower I always fear getting sick. In order to test this, it is important for one to understand what a cold really is and how one “catches” it. It would also be important to collect data regarding when colds occur most during the year, how they are passed from one person to another, and if there is any information linking weather to sickness. While it is true that there could be a cold/flu season in the winter, there is no proof that there is any correlation between the two without looking at the proper data and testing.

  • A bit of conventional wisdom that we have all heard is that being organized makes you more productive. However, I believe it could be easily tested and possibly disproved. Data could be gathered by a test in which individual office employees of roughly the same experience level are each given an identical task to complete. In a large sample, half the workers would be operating in an organized space while the other half works in a disorganized space. The amount of time taken to complete the task by each would be recorded, and the groups’ mean or median times would be compared. Once complete, we would have a more concrete conclusion showing if organization impacts productivity in a significant way.

  • One example of conventional wisdom I have heard is that one needs to go to college to have a rewarding career in their lives. I would interview and survey numerous college graduates and non college graduates. I would ask them their job satisfaction, approval, and overall sense of purpose.

  • One example of conventional wisdom that I have been told is that you should not swim for 20 minutes after you eat because you could cramp. One way we could test this is to take a large test group of people and feed them a meal. Then have each person leisurely swim back and forth for 20 minutes and we can see the data of who cramped at all, when did they cramp, where did they cramp, and even the correlation to the type of food if we were to change the food for another group.

  • My example of conventional wisdom is the statement “money can buy happiness”. To test this, I would collect data by measuring the differing levels of happiness and unhappiness in individuals from different socioeconomic classes. I would then ask those individuals questions that pertained to their personal lives and finances. Through these questions, I would be able to prove or disprove a correlation between happiness and wealth. In my opinion, money can buy happiness but only up to a certain point. What money provides is a means of taking care of your basic needs and staying out of debt.

  • It is typically believed or known as “Conventional Wisdom,” that watching violent TV/Movies will lead to violent acts done by the viewer in real life, but that may not always be the case. At first reading, it would seem logical that one would mimic what they viewed, however the correlation would need testing and in the end, this “Conventional Wisdom,” may not hold true based on results. To test one must gather two groups, one being forced to watch only violent multimedia while the other group does not watch any violent multimedia, and following the groups around their daily routines observing interactions to see if watching violent media results in violent altercations and vice versa.

  • When thinking in depth about the example above, I find it believable and astounding that so many companies automatically shun away people who have made mistakes, and are solely looking for a second chance. Based off personal experience in which I’ve worked with people with criminal records, I can vouch for these “criminals” being more productive then regular workers, as they have more to prove to change around their life. One example I can think of that uses conventional wisdom is in basketball, after scoring a basket the scoring team automatically retreats on D. However, I think a way to break conventional wisdom to help teams win would to play a full court press at all times, and I would measure the percentage of possessions taken away from the opposing team by using this full court press, and the amount of points scored off these types of turnovers.

  • One conventional wisdom/belief I learned in my life is that drinking a lot of water no matter the amount is very beneficial to any human’s health. However according to the article, “Drinking too much water can be bad for your health” by the The Balochistan Times found several negative symptoms caused by the consumption of excessive amounts of water including causing the brain to swell, kidney damage, and concentration impairment. If I were to conduct my own experiment, I would gather around 30 people and have them drink at least 25 liters of water per day and then meet their physician after 30 days for a checkup on the status of their bodies. I would probably have this experiment last around 30 days and I feel with 30 people participating for 30 days per person would provide enough data to make an assessment based on what their physicians tell me.

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  • People who wakes up earlier in the morning are tend to bere succesfull than those who wake up later. This could be proven or disproven by collecting sample of X amounts of people who wakes up early in the morning and Y amount of people who wakes up later. Conduct tests and give results of what they do for living, daily activities and productivity.

  • An example of a conventional wisdom that I have personally heard in my life is that listening to too much music at a high volume can make you lose your sense of hearing as you grow older. A way this theory could be tested is to survey a large group of older adults and ask them on average how many hours a day did they spend on listening to music when they were younger and how extreme the volume was. We would then test their hearing in a different series of hearing tests and see the correlation between their hearing and the average amount of time they spent listening to music at different volume points.

  • One piece of “conventional wisdom” that is often said is “you are what you eat.” While it is true you should eat your fruits and vegetables instead of ice cream for every meal, there certainly can be exceptions to this logic. Some people have faster metabolisms, exercise more, etc. To test this I would look at the habits of people eating fast food or takeout. Are they eating there because it’s quick, because it tastes good, they forgot to go grocery shopping? Just because someone might be eating unhealthy for one meal does not mean they live a completely unhealthy life.

  • When I was growing up, my mother always told me to drink a glass of milk before I go to bed in order to develop strong bones. This made sense to me, considering I knew milk contains a lot of potassium, which promotes bone strength. However, I could verify this information by looking up actual the vitamin/mineral contents of milk and seeing which, if any, encourage bone strength.

  • A piece of conventional wisdom that has affected our society is the idea that “If you go to college you will get a good job.” Although this statement can be proven to be true, there are plenty of successful people who did not attend college. In the same light, people who do go to college, do not always end up receiving a “good job.” I believe my generation is swept up in this idea of college being the answer to success, but it’s all about what you do with your time, regardless if you are attending college or not.

  • One conventional wisdom that I have heard several times throughout my life is that investing with diversification is the best way to make money. I believe that this could easily be disproved. While diversification may limit your downside as an investor, it also hinders your upside drastically. Because of this, I believe that having a strong position in a few areas could be the optimal way to generate profits. The data used to test this could come from many places. For example, some of the world’s most profitable investors could have their portfolios studied to see where the largest percentage of their profits have come from. The question would be “Is his/her success moderate in a lot of areas, or is it large in a few areas?” This data could possibly be obtained through brokerages such as TD Ameritrade, E-Trade, etc.

  • One example of conventional wisdom that I heard of is that students need a four-year degree to make it in today’s economy. In order to see if this statement is true, I would look at all sorts of data on students who pursue an education that is career-centered as well as students who pursue an academic credential. I can also collect date on my own by questioning people who have all sorts of jobs. With the combination of the two, whether the statement is true will be clear.

  • A conventional wisdom usually believed is that “a college degree means you will have a good job and career”. To test this, I can collect ask a large group of college graduates how many are employed or unemployed. I would collect data from the amount of people that have a college degree versus the amount of people that have a college degree and are unemployed. For comparisons, I should also research data to see how many people are employed (with a career job) and do not have a college degree. While asking these college graduates and non-college graduates, it will also be useful if I ask why they are unemployed or employed. There will clearly be different reasons from both aspects such as for unemployed “can’t get hired” or “relocating” or “going back to school”. While employed reasonings can be “I have a connection” or “started my own business”.

  • Conventional wisdom that I have heard is video games make children violent. To test this I would gather a group of children who play violent video games. I would interview the children to see if they are violent before they play the video games. The children will play the video games and then I would interview them after to see if they were violent, more violent or not violent.

  • After being done several interviews one of the most often questions get ask is “What are you greatest strength and weaknesses. A conventional wisdom statement i think follows this would be “One’s best success comes from their greatest disappointments”. To test this statement I would go around and ask whats one of their greatest disappointment and have what they learn or experienced from their disappointment change them for the better or worst.

  • When I was a little boy my great-grandmother would always tell me that if I did not wear an undershirt in the cold I’d freeze myself and get sick. Because of this you will not catch me without a plain white t under my hoodie on a day under 40 degrees, but I would be interested to know if this was really a fact. It could be tested by taking a thermometer reading of people outside on a cold day, and surveying them to see if they were wearing an undershirt or not. Additionally, some research would have to go into body science and how temperature affects health. The combination could give an average temperature for the two groups and valuable background information to allow me to determine if my Bubby was right.

  • One thing that I’m sure that everyone has heard at least once in their lives is “watch your salt intake.” People today are becoming more and more health conscious, and the notion that salt in one’s diet will have a negative impact on one’s health, more specifically their heart, is one that is widely accepted. To debunk this piece of conventional wisdom, I would take data comparing sodium intake to one’s risk of heart disease, to make a conclusion on how salt in one’s diet affects their heart health. Experiments of this kind are already being performed, and the Journal of the American Medical Association was not able to find any connection between “over consumption” of salt, and an increased risk of heart disease. As a matter of fact, they did find that the less sodium found in their subject’s urine samples, the higher their risk of heart disease. Quite the opposite of the piece of conventional wisdom with which we are all familiar.

  • With the rise of video games many have questioned the effect of more violent games on the youth that indulge in them. This is a hard issue to observe, however one could track the growth of several kids before being exposed to violent video games, figure out which ones are and are not playing video games and observe their behavior over the next few years. Unfortunately as I said this is hard to test as already between males and females their is a discrepancy as males are more likely to play video games, moreover their are so many other factors (such as home environment, friends of the child, etc.) that could possibly influence a child towards violence then just video so this would be very difficult to observe.

  • One example of conventional wisdom is that graduation elite colleges leads to higher salaries. To test this, we need the ranking of colleges to pick top colleges and the data of salaries of alumni. I think this conventional wisdom cannot be any data we can refer anymore because the society has changed a lot. Getting high quality education is important but the more important thing is a person’s qualifications. Nowadays, so many young people make their own successful enterprises under their own experiences and skills. The conventional wisdom can be true if we research about the data but it might not be reasonable data to apply in our real society.

  • There are several phrases regarding automobiles and driving that my parents told me growing up. I was told that the faster a person drives, the worse fuel economy a car has. Data can be collected from recent cars that track MPG on the dashboard to disprove this. I would collect data from drivers driving different brands of cars (Toyata Camry, Ford Focus, Honda Civic, etc), at certain speeds (30 Mph, 40 Mph, 50 Mph, etc), and average the MPG of each car at said speeds. Using this data, I could see which cars are the most efficient and at which speeds.

  • A conventional wisdom I have heard is that going outside with wet hair can cause a cold. I can test that by going outside with wet hair on especially cold days 3 times a week for 2 weeks. After that I can see if I feel sick or think that I have gotten a cold.

  • A conventional wisdom people often believe is that people that are self-conscious about salaries and status criticize others’ jobs. To test this I will interview about 30 people who have low paying jobs or are not financially stable. During the interview I will ask how do they feel about certain people who work at different jobs such as; McDonalds, Super Markets etc. and use their answers to test the theory. Those who aren’t comfortable with their financial status and bash those who work at places such as McDonalds will prove that people that are self-conscious about salaries or status criticizes others’ jobs.

  • A piece of conventional wisdom that I have heard is the belief that avoiding all fats is a good way to lose weight. However, many studies have shown that healthy fats in moderation can, in fact, aid weight loss. In order to test this, I would collect the weight loss of two groups of people. One group will avoid all fats for a certain amount of time, while the other group will eat healthy fats, such as avocado, olive oil, and nuts. I would see which group lost more weight in a set amount of time

  • A piece of conventional wisdom that I have heard is that cracking one’s knuckles leads to arthritis. To test this, I could collect data on people who both frequently crack their knuckles and those who do not. Over time, I could find out how many of each group eventually developed arthritis.

  • Conventional wisdom I have heard is that soccer is a less popular sport in America than the rest of the world. To test this I would ask different age groups and genders what is their primary sport preference to watch and to play, and compare to the popularity of soccer throughout the world. Understanding what they prefer to play and watch would help establish a base in the actual interest of the sport in America.

  • Conventional Wisdom: “The Early Bird Gets the Worm”

    Something that I often hear, especially in the world of business, is the phrase “the early bird gets that worm”. To put it in simpler terms, I believe that the saying suggests that people who wake up earlier in the morning are more likely to seize an opportunity than those who wake up later. To test this theory, I would have a job hunt simulation where a sample group would venture to pre-decided locations to try and get a job interview. One group will be the “early risers”, the others being “late starters”. Each group will be sent out on the job hunt at different times of the day to see whether or not the location had filled its interview quota. I would then look at the data to see which group got more interviews.

  • One Conventional wisdom that I have heard is that, “Watching goofy cartoon shows a young age will make you grow to be less intelligent.” For this I would gather a group of young children between the ages 6-7 and have them all watch the same cartoon such as SpongeBob for about an hour. I would test all the children’s knowledge before they started to watch SpongeBob and after watching SpongeBob, to see if there is any changes.

  • One example of Conventional Wisdom is that people believe those who have a busier schedule tend to get better grades. We do not know if that is true so we would to test this on a bunch of students. One set of students we could use are those who are involved in multiple clubs and organizations and then those who are usually sitting at home doing nothing.

  • A example of conventional wisdom that I have heard is that you needs to go to college to have a good career. I think this is wrong because with a college degree you get a beautiful job and a good salary. No one thinks about dirty jobs such as electrician, HVAC, plumber or jobs with unions. I know people that make a lot of money and they don’t have college degrees. To test this theory I would interview and survey college graduates and non college graduates. The years on the job should be the same so i can see if the amount of money the make is the same, higher or lower.

  • An example of conventional wisdom, especially in Asian culture, is that playing basketball during your childhood will make you taller while doing exercises like weight lifting and gymnastics will stunt your height growth. A way you could use data collection to disprove or prove this piece of conventional wisdom is by conducting an experiment. One possible experiment is to select a random sample of 200 kids in the population. Randomly distribute the kids into two groups. Expose one group to basketball early on and the other group to gymnastics early on. Measure the expected height models and current heights for the kids throughout the years to see if growth if stunted or affected at all by the activities. This form of data collection would provide information necessary to make a judgement on the piece of conventional wisdom.

  • One example of conventional wisdom that I was often told by my parents was that if you stretch every morning when you wake up as a child, you will grow to be taller. To test this I would get gather two groups of children and follow their height throughout their adolescence stage. One of the groups would be the children who stretch every morning when they wake up and the other will be the children who do not stretch and see which group of children grows the tallest. This data could be broken into height order, stretch order, age, etc.

  • Growing up, whenever I had a stomach ache my mom would mix Ginger Ale and Orange Juice as a concoction that’s supposed to settle my stomach and ease the pain. I’ve also heard of many other parents and people doing this in general but never once thought to look into it to see if, or how much it actually helps. Data I could use would be anything that shows that Ginger Ale, Orange juice, or them combined either does reduce or help the pain of a stomach ache or doesn’t. Some researchers could have a number of subjects use medicine such as Tums, and then another series of subject use Ginger Ale and Orange Juice and then compare the results of the subjects.

  • An example of conventional wisdom I have heard is that money can buy happiness. Many people in today’s world associate your level of happiness with your economic status. However, many of the people who say this come from different backgrounds and have not walked in a wealthy person’s shoes. To test this conventional wisdom I would find and interview those who are on the wealthier side of the economic spectrum and ask them about what makes them happy and if money has a role. Likewise I would ask other citizens who come from all economic backgrounds what brings them true happiness and if money is involved.

  • One example of conventional wisdom that I’ve heard is that money can buy you happiness. This could be proven right or wrong, but personally i think happiness comes from more than just money. To test this you could take a survey and on it would include income and a scale of happiness. With this data you can make spreadsheet and a chart.

  • A conventional wisdom that my grandmother used to tell me when I was a little girl was that to always invest in gold. She claimed that investing in gold coins and/ gold bars will yield its investors a very handsome monetary reward than investing in stocks. A way to prove or disprove this conventional wisdom would be to look at gold prices from previous months and/ years and comparing to the value of nation’s currency, in this case, it would be US dollars, at the same month and/ years.

  • A Conventional Wisdom that I have heard is that you should always eat a hearty and healthy breakfast every morning in order to maximize your success at either school or work. To test this, I would take a handful of students/workers who eat a healthy breakfast every morning and also take a group of workers/students who do NOT eat breakfast in the morning at all, and compare their grades at school/performance at work. There are certainly many benefits from starting your day off by eating breakfast, however do those “benefits” necessarily lead to better performance in school or the workplace? Someone may just not have the appetite in the morning to eat anything, but still may be an “A+ student or worker”.

  • 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.

  • A conventional wisdom that I have heard constantly is that one should alter their point of view. By doing this, it will supposedly open up one’s mind and allow one to expand their mind on different topics. However, humans are creatures of habit and are more likely not to change their opinions on many topics even after learning more information. A way to test, I can gather individuals with certain views on a topic. I would then expose them to new information proving that their view is slightly flawed or just flat out not based on facts. Lastly, I would question the individual to see after being exposed to new information if their point of view is “altered”.


  • An example of a conventional belief that Ivy league students are more competent workers than their public University counterparts. I’ve been told by many people in my field that this assumption is highly inaccurate. I would like to find out how true this statement is. A way to find this information is to pull data from companies that hire an equal amount of Ivy league and Public school students and compare their work performance and employment outlook after 3-5 years after graduation.

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