Section 004, Instructor: Mark Sabat

Weekly Question #1: Complete by January 26, 2017

Leave your response as a comment on this post by the beginning of class on January 26, 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.

56 Responses to Weekly Question #1: Complete by January 26, 2017

  • An example of a piece of conventional wisdom that I’ve come across is age determines level of leadership. Often time people do not think that one is capable of responsibility and efficiency due to age. I myself am a falsifiable example. At a very young age I have been in several leadership positions despite what people thought about it. The data that would have to be collected to test this is age, survey of opinion as well as an analysis of efficiency and accuracy. Young people are very capable of not only being in leadership positions but also thriving.

  • If Your Plan Doesn’t Seem to be Working, Change Direction. Try Something Else. It means that some of our decisions , efforts are not productive we should change our plan. This can be discredit through different data and experiments i.e Thomas Edison had to fail more than thousand times before he had to prove his idea about bulb. As an inventor, Edison made 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb. When a reporter asked, “How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?” Edison replied, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.

  • Individuals with DUI on there driving record shouldn’t be driving after midnight. This can be tested by collecting data from the fiscal year and determining who ended up with a DUI for the second time on their record and seeing at what time did the DUI occur.

  • One conventional wisdom is that attractive or good looking employees tend to get higher salary than the less attractive ones. This can be tested by gathering the data from worker’s salary, employers’ opinions, abilities of both groups of people and online survey.

  • “College education is most important to be successful.” – It is understood that having a college education alone will guarantee success, but many people with college degrees get a job and perform poorly because they have no real-life, work experience. Michael Price, a writer with the Huffington Post, found a study from Accenture that stated, “80% of graduates from the Class of 2014 expect to be trained on-the-job by their first employer; however, more than 50% of graduates from the Classes of 2012 and 2013 report not receiving any training from their first employer which has led to a tremendous turnover rate because more and more companies are finding that recent college grads are simply unprepared” ( To test this wisdom, one could compare employee performance at a company using certain metrics (e.g. – how many sales they made, how much revenue was created, asset turnover, etc.) and compare their educational backgrounds. Also, companies could turn in their employee turnover rates, along with reasons for termination and those employees’ educational backgrounds. The key is for the data to show if success or failure is correlated to educational history.

  • An example of conventional wisdom that comes right to mind is “TV and video games make children violent”. Obviously this isn’t true, as well as this has been tested and proven wrong recently. The data that I’d take to test this is observing kid’s behavior that do watch TV and play violent games and observe kids that don’t watch TV and play video games. Essentially I’d see how they react and find information that way.

  • Men tend to hold higher positions of authority at their jobs than women do. This statement could be tested by collecting the job status and gender of each employee in power from various different companies across the United States. If the number of people collected from each company is kept consistent, you could then compare the ratio of men to women at each of these places. The positions that are considered of “high status” would first have to be defined and kept consistent throughout the study.

  • A good example of conventional wisdom that I think of would be that SAT scores determine how smart you are. I never understood how one test you take determines so much of your future. There are so many other factors that could have happened that day or days leading up the test that could alter that students test score.

  • One example of conventional wisdom that I can think of is that people believe that if they have bad grades, their GPA will go up if they take extra classes with a tutor. This can be tested by gathering data about people’s grades before and after the tutoring and surveying the students and the tutors.

  • An example of conventional wisdom that I have come across is that people believe that IQ determines how successful they will be. However, being successful requires a lot more than just intellect.

  • A good example of conventional wisdom that standardized tests accurately judge and place students in the correct course based of their “intelligence.” Students are all different in their interests and in the way they process/learn information. Testing all students on the same scale may be “fair” in the sense that everyone has the same problems to answer but it does not account for the different styles kids have. Making judgments about kids intelligence based solely on a single test is not the proper way to evaluate students, it should be based off the body of work by the student as well as extra curricular activities and community service.

  • A good example of conventional wisdom is that students with higher college GPA’s tend to have higher incomes post-college (I don’t have an opinion on this statement, so I don’t know if it’s false or true). Although I don’t know much about the translation of these statistics, I believe it would be interesting to take an entire graduating class’s individual GPA’s and record their average salary over the next 10 years. I would assume that the higher GPA students would tend to have slightly higher salaries than the lower GPA students, but I’m unsure.

  • One conventional wisdom is that Latinos in general are more dishonest and more tending to corruption than Europeans or North Americans. This conventional wisdom can be tested by collecting data on behavioral surveys with daily situation that demand small or large amount of honesty to set comparison parameters between them. Another way to evaluate this is using the number of criminal records related to corruption and compare them.

  • An example of conventional wisdom is “Money can buy you happiness”. This never made sense to me, you can buy things that can contribute to your happiness but it could never be the root cause. Happiness cannot be sustained by money alone there must be other contributing factors. Money can buy you things like a comfortable bed, good food, or a ticket home to see loved ones so it can contribute to happiness but is not the sole cause.

  • An example of Conventional Wisdom would be the idea that 90% of people don’t remember their dreams when they wake up. This can be tested by an observational study of how many people can remember their dreams word for word when they wake up. This is definitely something that is said, but not fully true because as soon as I wake up I have a story about my dream; without having to remember.

  • A example of conventional wisdom would be “Men are better drivers than women”. There are many ways of testing this conventional wisdom, one for exam would be taking data of car crash records and comparing men versus women. There is a problem with this testing because if the data shows that a woman got in a crash you could assume that men are better driver, but really you would have to look at who’s fault it was for the accident because it might not be the woman’s fault. Than you would be able to tell which gender are better drivers.

  • An example of conventional wisdom relating to the workforce is that a pay gap exists between men and women simply because women choose lower paying jobs. This is often explained through stating that women tend to take less demanding, more flexible jobs in order to care for their children. This is falsifiable because not all women choose to have children and there is proof that pay gaps exist between men and women at similar levels in the professional workplace. Data collected for this could include a survey of salaries comparing men to women within the same industry and position.

  • One piece of conventional wisdom always said is that a high GPA will lead to a better career path(I.E Salary). This theory could be tested by gathering the GPA’s from a class of college graduates, and tracking their salary throughout multiple years and compare between the high GPA students and the low GPA students. At the end of the study, you would be able to tell if there was a major salary difference between students who had high GPA’s in college and students who had lower GPA’s.

  • One example of conventional wisdom would be players at the position of wide receiver, running back, and cornerback in football are some of the fastest people on the field. I would prove this by taking the 40 yard dash times that each WR, RB, and CB ran at the NFL Combine. One may find that not all of the players at these positions are the fastest when it comes to game time because their acceleration matters more than their speed since most plays in the NFL don’t go over 20 yards. Therefore, in order to prove that these players are the fastest people on the field one could look at how fast their split was at 20 yards.

  • An example of conventional wisdom that comes to mind is the saying “Money can’t be happiness.” While the overall takeaway is commonly accepted for obvious reasons, this is a statement that is never tested and may be found to be untrue. The data I would collect to possibly debunk this statement would be the general happiness of citizens living in poverty compared to citizens in the upper economic class. I would collect this data by providing a survey that will ultimately quantify the happiness of individuals.

  • One example of conventional wisdom is that money can’t buy happiness. Sometimes however when people buy things and are able to buy more things they find they can enjoy themselves more. You can gather data on this buy finding people’s salaries and then testing the happiness they have in their life. You could also gather data scientifically measuring how a person feels when they purchase an item.

  • An example of conventional wisdom is that you loose memory as your age increases. To test it you would need data on an experiment that tests memory. For example if you were to make a group look through a set of pictures then recall which ones they were after they went away. You’d test their accuracy then compare by age. Ultimately the analysis of the data would lead to a conclusion.

  • A good example of conventional wisdom is that talking to teenagers about pregnancy prevention leads to a higher rate of sexual activity. I feel that people assume if you talk to teenagers about ways to prevent pregnancy it means that you are giving them permission to partake in sexual activity. A way this could be tested would be to collect data from teenagers by asking whether they are or are not sexually active and whether or not they have received information on preventing pregnancy from someone older, and seeing if there is a correlation between the two.

  • Everyone has heard the old adage, “money can’t by happiness”. In fact, many have found that the opposite is true. While money can’t literally buy happiness, spending it on the right things has been shown to increase mood and life satisfaction. For example, investing in a comfortable bed will give you better rest at night and more energy in the day. Similarly, moving closer to your job and reducing your commute will directly improve your happiness levels by decreasing stress. This example could be tested simply by surveying a population of individuals about whether investments have directly elevated life satisfaction.

  • Stretching before exercise could avoid injury. Since there isn’t any sufficient evidence that pre-exercise stretching reduces injury risk. We can test this statement by conducting an analysis of people who stretch on a regular basis and people who don’t stretch

  • An example of conventional wisdom is that landlords should not rent to people with a pet pit-bull because they are a dangerous dog. I think this is an example of stereotyping based on what we see in media. Pit-bulls are often represented as dangerous in movies for example. This could be tested by gathering police reports of dog attacks and compare the number of pit-bull reports to that of other breeds.

    • An example of conventional wisdom is that people who enjoy reading and read for leisure are better students and have higher grades. To test this hypothesis I would collect data on the scores of students who read a lot and students who dislike reading and compare these to see if the readers really have better scores.

  • When professors allow cheat sheets for Exams or Finals, conventional wisdom tells you to write down as much as information, notes, formulas, and examples as possible. However, this is not the most efficient approach. While it makes sense as to why you should write down as much as possible because of the complexity of the exam, it is always important to keep things simple. The best way to make a cheat sheet work is to use it as a supplement to your knowledge instead of relying on it completely. That means writing down key formulas, key examples, and key notes of topics that are of interest to the professor, you, and the review sheet. The best way to test this is to compare the exam scores of individuals with packed information on their sheets with individuals who only wrote down key pieces of information.

  • An example of conventional wisdom that I have heard a lot in my life is the idea that money plays a big part in people’s happiness. Basically stating that the more money you have the happier that you are and the less money that you have the more depressed or more sad you are in life. I do not think that this is a true statement but it has not really been tested but I feel like there is more to happiness than the amount of money that you have because you can have a huge amount of money but still be miserable and depressed and you can have no money at all and still be a very happy person but this is an example of conventional wisdom that I have heard a lot in my life. A way to test this is to talk to people on both sides of the spectrum and see if this is the case or not.

  • An example of a conventional wisdom is that students who live in a city are more likely to get underages more than students who live on a college campus. I don’t think this has been proven but because it makes sense that it would be true because there are lots of places to go in the city and lots of bars and you are limited in a college campus. The data to check this could be: college campuses, city campuses,number of students at the school, number of underages at each, and maybe the number of places that students can drink in a certain radius of campus.

  • An example of conventional wisdom is a bench has a “wet paint” sign, but doesn’t have a sign that doesn’t that says “do not sit” , you should know not to sit on wet paint.

  • The example of conventional wisdom that came to mind was ‘money can buy happiness.’ In order to test this bit of conventional wisdom, I would collect data from people who have large amounts of money and record what they say makes them happy. I would see if money is the root of their happiness or if there is something in their life that makes them happy. I prove this piece of conventional wisdom wrong because I have no money and I like to consider myself a genuinely happy person.

  • An example of conventional wisdom is the saying “Beauty is pain”. Though, everyone has their own views of beauty; therefore you cannot actually test this theory with actual evidence. To become beautiful, it should not be painful, in my opinion. There are so many ways to attain beauty, one cannot pin that each way is painful.

  • An example of conventional wisdom that I can think of is that drinking water while drinking alcohol helps you avoid hangovers. This could be tested by having a group of people drink water while they are drinking alcohol and another group not drink water at all. After that, we could collect surveys and look at the results. This would be very testable and we could see if the conventional wisdom is true or not.

  • Wait half an hour after eating before swimming. There’s no evidence of people being impeded while swimming upon eating. It can be tested by finding records of people who have drowned as a result of swimming immediately upon eating.

  • A piece of conventional wisdom is that coffee is bad for you and has heath hazards such as stunting your growth and increasing heart attacks. In reality, people with heart attacks happen to drink coffee because they have very demanding and stressful jobs. In moderation, coffee has been proven to help with anxiety and depression and increases metabolism. You could test this with a control group who didn’t drink coffee and those who did and note any health problems the test subjects have.

  • One piece of conventional wisdom that I have heard of over the years is that, the more hours one spends studying, the better their final grade at the end of the semester. To test this, I would collect data on how many hours each student in my sample spent studying for a particular course, and compare that to their final grade at the end of the semester.

  • One piece of conventional wisdom I’ve heard over and over is that people wake up early are more successful than those who wake up later in the morning. I recently read an article a colleague posted on LinkedIn that said that this really was not a very true statement and even went as far as saying that people who woke up around 8 AM (“late in the morning”) rather than 5 or 6 AM (“early in the morning”) actually tended to be people who would be considered more successful by general standards. If I were testing this, I would have to create some type of measurement standard for how to determine if someone is successful in their life vs not successful and then find out when they regularly wake up for the day. I’d then compare the data to see if waking up earlier actually correlates with being more successful in life.

  • An example of conventional wisdom is, you cannot have a prosperous career without a college degree. Many would agree blindly without any evidence. This could be tested by comparing the amount of successful people in the work industry with college degree versus ones that are without.

  • An example of conventional wisdom is that the more years of experience a driver has, the better a driver they are. This can be tested by looking at car crash reports to see which age group has more accidents. This can also be tested by putting a test group of drivers, of various ages, through a driving obstacle course to things like, reaction time, field of vision, and maneuverability.

  • An example of conventional wisdom is eating cholesterol will increase the chance of having a heart attack. However, there is no relationship between the dietary cholesterol and serum cholesterol level. Furthermore, sugar and simple carbs contribute more to an increase in cholesterol in the bloodstream.

  • Lazy people work smarter. I believe this saying stems from Bill Gates, who is quoted to say “I choose a lazy person to do a hard job. Because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.”
    Personally I believe it can be true because they will find a way to get the job done, no fluff. Satisfy the requirements and move on, if they want something extra, they better be paying for it.
    A way you can test this would be by taking personality tests of people who are in high positions and if they fall under the “lazy” personality type, then I’ll have an excuse to get some people off my back…I mean prove my hypothesis is true. Bill Gates, truly, a wise man.

  • An example of conventional wisdom is that people who spend more hours practicing a sport are better than those who spent less time doing it.This can be tested looking at the amount of time people practice a sport and the overall performance at it.This can also be tested by comparing different athletes and the amount of practice they put on each of the respective sports they do.

  • An example of conventional wisdom is that marijuana is a gateway drug to other illegal drugs. However, there is no evidence that marijuana is a gateway drug to other hard illegal drugs. Matter in fact, studies suggest that the most common “gateway” drug for people is alcohol, which later leads to doing other form of illegal drugs.

  • An example of conventional wisdom is that people who spend more hours practicing a sport are better at it than those who spend less time practicing it.This could be tested by observing the overall performance of athletes and looking at the amount of time they put on practicing that sport.Also you can test this by comparing different athletes looking at the amount of time they practice for their respective sport.

  • An example of conventional wisdom I’ve come to think of is that Temple’s proposed off-campus stadium will cost more than $125 million. I came to believe this through my own research about other university stadiums as well as interviews I’ve done with Temple officials as an editor at The Temple News. To see if a $125 million stadium is possible, I could collect data of how much materials would be needed and how much they cost. Also, I would need to collect data from local unions or construction firms of their pricing for constructing/designing a 35,000 seat stadium. This is just some of the beginning of the data I’d need to collect to find the cost of a stadium, but it’s a good place to start!

  • An example of conventional wisdom is that if you work hard, you will succeed. This saying means that whatever you put your mind to, you will get, which is sadly not the case. A way to disprove that saying is by equating working hard with getting more education. Success is a tough ultimatum because if you are truly successful, you should never have to reach it since you should be constantly living it. Ignoring that, I will equate success to income level. While having more education makes you more eligible for better paying jobs, it doesn’t mean you will get them. Also some of the most wealthy people in the world didn’t even go to college! The ones who did go merely got a bachelors or at most masters. Ultimately, success doesn’t lie in results, rather in efforts and it is difficult to collect data on that basis.

  • An example of conventional wisdom can be when you don’t come to class lectures and as a result you can fail your exam. However, you could be a student who got injured and for some reason you can have additional suggestions like recorded lectures from the professor to help you follow along with what everybody knows to study for the exam. Moreover while you’re out recovering you could see if your professor can give an incomplete for the course so that way you can have more time to obtain the information on a one on one based.

  • One example of conventional wisdom you commonly hear is the concept that “you get what you deserve” while in many circumstances this may be a valid statement, there are plenty of examples that this statement can be proved as conventional wisdom, for example if a man and woman in the acting industry work the same roles but the woman get paid less, that’s not something that has a valid supporting stance for this statement. In order to see if this in fact is conventional wisdom, I would collect data on the average salaries of women and men with the same background in the same roles and compare the yearly salaries to see if there is a trend of equal pay or not. In the case, that there isn’t, I could conclude that clearly “you get what you deserve” isn’t appropriate if these people are working equally hard but one earns more than the other merely because of the gender.

  • In American high schools, students are taught Castillian Spanish, which was believed to be the most commonly acknowledged dialect among Spanish-speakers in the western world. However, as more Latin American immigrants make their way to the United States, Castillian Spanish is becoming obsolete. Studying native Spanish-speakers living in the United States would allow language professionals to identify the most accurate dialects that would benefit the language education of non-native speakers.

  • An example of conventional wisdom is that people who listen to music while working are less productive. This could be measured by testing two or more groups of people and providing them with the same workload and deadlines. You can measure quality and time to work completion of these two groups to determine whether or not people who listen to music while working are less productive.

  • A piece of conventional wisdom is that students who live on campus make it to class earlier than students who commute. I could measure this by collecting the data of students who live on campus in a class or two and students who commute and calculate how early each group makes it to class, rating being late as 10 minutes after the start of class time.

  • Conventional wisdom says an apple a day keeps the doctor away. Someone could test this by tracking peoples apple consumption and general doctors visits.

  • A piece of conventional wisdom is that “A apple a day keeps the keeps the doctor away.” This could be tested by tracking people Apple consumption along with number non routine doctor visits.

  • An example of conventional wisdom is attractive and good looking employees get more salary than the people who are not attractive and good looking. We can gather the data from employer’s and take an online survey for that concern to see if the data is true or false.

  • An example for conventional wisdom is that you must have a business plan for a successful business: Well then what do I do with that brilliant idea that I come up with tomorrow that wasn’t part of the plan but that is now gonna change everything for the better?

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Mark Sabat (instructor) 2:30-3:30pm, Tuesdays and Thursdays, Speakman Hall 207h or by appointment.
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