Section 005, Instructor: Joe Spagnoletti

Weekly Question #1: Complete by January 25, 2017

Leave your response as a comment on this post by the beginning of class on January 25, 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.

51 Responses to Weekly Question #1: Complete by January 25, 2017

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    • The “crash position” on a flight is an effective method of preventing death/injury in the event of a plane crash. I would gather data from crash tests with non human sensors as well as actual crash results of average deaths before the standardization of the crash position and after (as it would be difficult to ask dead people whether or not they assumed the position. Of course, this has been tested before and it is proven that the crash position is effective.

    • An example of conventional wisdom that I’ve heard is that pulling all-nighters is an effective method when preparing for an upcoming test. I would test this hypothesis by comparing the scores of those who pulled an all-nighter and those who got a full night of sleep when taking the same test. I myself am pretty sure that those who got a full night of sleep before the day of the test would have better scores, but this assumes that they prepared to the same extent as those who pulled an all-nighter during the day.

    • One example of conventional wisdom is that smoking damages lung. In order to test this conventional wisdom, I would simply ask a group of people who regularly use cigarette to have their x-ray taken. Additionally, I would ask a group of people who do not smoke cigarettes to have an x-ray of their lungs taken also. I would use these observation to conclude that the smoking compartment’s lungs are clearly damaged from frequently smoking, whereas the non-smoker’s lungs are healthy.

    • An example of conventional wisdom is that essential nutrition is the reason teenagers grow taller during puberty. To test this reasoning I would collect health records from teenagers actively going through puberty that are on a healthy nutrition status, to calculate how fast their height is increasing during puberty. Next, I would collect the parent’s height charts as well from their medical provider to take detail in their height to make sure it is not in their genetics. Finally, I will compare them to a teenager that is actively going through puberty that nutrition is not healthy. In conclusion, the results of the height scale from all participants will determine if the conventional wisdom is accurate.

    • An example of one conventional wisdom that I have always heard of was, “the better your grades are, the more successful you will be in life”. Although grades are absolutely important, grades nowadays are not everything, experience and relevant extra-curricular activities are just as important in comparison to grades. The data that I could collect to test this would be to survey new hires from top fortune 500 companies and collect and compare the hires GPA’s along with experience + relevant extra-curricular activities, and see the correlation between the two.

    • One example of “conventional wisdom” that I have heard is the process of unplugging your electronics from wall outlets to save money on your electricity instead of solely turning off the electronics with a light switch or other kind of switches. The data I would collect would be from friends in an apartment building. I would ask both groups of friends in the two apartments to use close to the same type and amount of appliances for that month. During this month long test, one apartment would unplug all of their electronic appliances after using them and the other apartment would just turn the light switches or other switches off for each of the wall outlets. I would preface the test by asking all of my friends to follow a certain guideline of how long they should actually use each set of appliances.

    • I personally think that there are so many ” theories” in today’s world, but they have not really been tested and received an accurate result yet. I could think of an example that many business companies have spent a lot of money on commercials and thought that they will be able to earn a lot of profits since many people are able to recognize their products on media and would buy it. Nevertheless, it’s not always true, especially when there is not many accurate statistics showing the significant profits that companies have received. In my opinion, for this particular issue, we should take a lot of surveys from different groups of people who might be interested in the products. Or maybe, if we really want to make sure that we are on the right track to make the business successfully, we should spend more time on research asking people of what they think or might be interested and would like to purchase. After the survey, we are able to state whether the statement of spending a lot of money on commercials will help the businesses to receive great profits or not.

    • An example of conventional wisdom is eating healthy would result in you having a better facial skin condition. I would test this hypothesis by using pre-existed research on the cause of skin issues and do a survey on people who are having a healthy diet to see if it correlate with their skin condition. This is tested before and it is proven that diet plays a small role in the skin condition of a person, it is mostly genetic.

    • An example of conventional wisdom that I have heard is that it is better to leave a balance on you credit cards rather than paying the balance. To prove this wring I would compare the credit scores of people who pay off their balance to those who do not. Another way to test it is to ask credit bureau’s which is better or other companies such as Clarifi Credit Counseling.

    • One example of conventional wisdom is that Asian students tend to be better at Mathematics than other students. I would test this hypothesis by giving a group of Asian students and a group of other students a Math lesson. Then, I would give them a quiz and compare the average scores of these two group of students to see how they acquire the lesson.

    • A good example of conventional wisdom is that if work hard, you can have the American dream. The belief that we live in a meritocracy is conventional wisdom. However, some people just don’t have access to the resources others do. So no matter how hard they work, they will be at a disadvantage

    • There is a conventional wisdom that a person shouldn’t eat more than one egg in one day, because eating too many eggs will gain bad cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein) quickly. However, eating egg actually won’t let people gain low-density lipoprotein directly, so people can eat as many eggs as they want. A research shows that 70% subjects didn’t have their low-density lipoprotein raised after they had high cholesterol food. If I want to do the test, I’ll have my subjects eat 2 eggs per day for 6 weeks, and see if their low-density lipoprotein rise.

    • Young children who spend copious amounts of time playing violent video games are more likely to exhibit violent behaviors in their everyday lives. In order to begin testing, I’d first set out to define, “violent”. The use of “violent” in regards to video games would be those in which possess an ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board) rating of Mature or higher and are listed as containing at least one of the following types of content: violence, blood/gore and/or language.

      For data collection, my method would consist of gathering statistics that gauge the role of videogames in childhood development. Here, I’d be trying to gain a better understanding of the video game industry and how children and teens use videogames. I’d then collect a sample of users who define themselves as “heavy gamers” and analyze their total game usage per day – highlighting those who participate in gaming for more than 8 hours on average per day (“pro gamers”). I would look for any documented behaviors of violence among these pro gamers. For clarification and accuracy, I’d classify violent games by type (shooting, fighting, war) and check for patterns against the type of violence perpetuated (if any) in the past 12 months. If there is overlap between game type and type of violence, I’d then identify if there were correlations between when a violent video game is activated and when the violence occurred. This methodology would allow me to examine the full picture of how violence in video games may affect the real-life behaviors of children and teens who can be defined as, “pro gamers”.

    • The “if your plan doesn’t seem to be working. change direction. try something new” piece of conventional wisdom is completely mis-leading in a quite literal sense. Telling a dedicated individual, who is persistent on ascertaining a specific outcome, to change course can very well rob him/her of the results they might’ve been steps away from. I feel that persistence and a core set of priorities, in any matter or fashion, is key to reaching any desired model of success. Trying something new can help , however changing direction might very well deem the knowledge and progress attained thus far to be useless.

    • Conventional wisdom can be defined as the theories or knowledge that accepted by most people. What comes to mind when I think about conventional wisdom, is the saying, “Go to college, without higher education you will lack success. Surveys would be helpful to determine the outcome along with researching individuals and comparing success with and without higher educations in various fields.

    • A piece of “conventional wisdom” I have come across is that pressing an elevator button multiple times does NOT make the elevator come faster. The type of data that I would collect to test this is elevator travel times. Have the elevator begin on a specified floor and call the elevator twice. Once by only clicking the button once and again by clicking that button like you’ve never clicked a button before. The difference in times should indicate whether this conventional wisdom is right or not.

  • A common piece of conventional wisdom is that people who drive without distractions such as the radio and having lots of passengers are safer and get into fewer accidents. In order to test this idea, I would look at public accident records provided by the DMV to see how many accidents occurred in a year and how many of those occurred when the driver reported additional distractions such as listening to the radio and having lots of passengers in the car at the time of the accident while also removing those who convicted of other more pressing things such as a DUI.

  • An example of Conventional wisdom in some context could be ” Generally individuals who watch television obtain less sleep”. This idea can still be proven through data, through survey collection and as well as measurable comparison to those individuals who don’t watch television.

  • An example of conventional wisdom that I have heard is that “Ivy League students get the best education”. Not being an Ivy League Student causes me to oppose this belief, but in fact it is believed by many. This statement can be proven or falsified by giving a test to the top 10 students of a set number of colleges, some being Ivy Leagues while others not and then comparing the results.

  • An example of Conventional wisdom could be that ” People who smoke’s cigarettes are often having less life span than people who aren’t smoking”. This idea has been proved by many organizations. Also in a survey by most of the government hospitals most of mouth cancers is found in the people who are smoking cigarettes which causes death to many people. This statement can be prove very easily through Surveys.

  • An example of conventional wisdom is “practice makes perfect”. Practicing doesn’t necessarily makes everything perfect. Professional athletes always have practices before games. And even considering years of experience they’ve had. They still seem to makes basic mistakes during important games. Practicing does make you better for sure. But perfect? No !

  • An easily testable conventional wisdom is one that comes from Hollywood; films cannot succeed if they do not star a famous actor or actress. For testing purposes I would define “famous” as being rated an A-list celebrity based on the industry standard guide in Hollywood known as The Hot List, developed by James Ulmer. A comparative measure of box office sales would be definitive for the definition of “successful” in reference to the film. Data collection would rely on already-published box office numbers and celebrity list position of casted actors for those films in the year that the film was released. Using the top 100 box office grosses for each year from 1960 to 2010, separated by decade (i.e. 1960-1969, 1970-1979, 1989-1989, ect) two lists could be formed for each decade: movies starring at least one A-list celebrity and movies starring no A-list celebrities. By averaging gross box office for each list in each decade, conclusions could be made such as, “In the decade from 1970-1979, movies that starred at least one famous actor were more successful than movies that did not star at least on famous actor.” Further conclusions could be drawn from averaging all box office grosses for both lists, by which I mean results like, “Over the last 50 years, films starring at least one A-list celebrity were more successful than those starring no A-list celebrities.” Ultimately this data could also be used to draw many conclusions like which actors might lead to more sales or which directors produce the highest grossing films to name just two. Possible confounding factor would be the production cost of each film, genre, and time of release (seasonality) to name a few.

  • An example of conventional wisdom that I have heard is “you get what you pay for”. In a growing world, companies are becoming more and more competitive, especially in pricing their products. To test this is through food and other products. In regards to food, I would grab a couple of cereals that would be generic brand like Fruit-Os and stack them up against their brand named counterparts like Fruit loops and offer a wide range of people to compare the two through surveys.

  • One piece of conventional wisdom I’ve heard is “no pain, no gain.” While this is a phrase used in a multitude of contexts, for my purposes Ill be testing out workouts that result in delayed onset muscle soreness, aka “the pain”, and compare them to workouts that do not cause delayed onset muscle soreness. The comparing factor, aka “the gain”, will be strength on the lift, and after a month of workouts you could compare who had more gains, the pain crew or no pain.

  • A conventional wisdom I have frequently been told is “going outside with wet hair when it’s cold outside will make you catch a cold”. I’ve never actually researched if this was scientifically proven to be true but I have always believed it to be true and accurate. A way I would test this notion is through experimental testing. You can take two subjects who both have wet hair and place them in two rooms, one warm and one cold, and see if either catch a cold and which faster.

  • In the NFL, it is assumed that if you are the best team in your conference, you should definitely go to the Super Bowl; however, during 1975 through 2011 seasons, 40 out of the 74 one-seeded teams did not even make the Super Bowl. People do not realize that just because you have home-field advantage throughout your conference playoffs doesn’t mean you will go all the way to the big game. This is why we play the games!

  • An example of a conventional wisdom back in South Korea is that ‘a morning apple is a golden apple, but a night apple is a poisened apple’. In my personal experience, my mother allows me to eat chocolate, but not apples because night apples were really bad for your health. I googled some of the reasons why people think apples are bad for night, and I found out that it is mainly because of insulin and gastric juice comming out. To test if this wisdom is right, I would test three groups of people. The first group would be the ones that eat apple at night, and the second group would be the ones that don’t eat apples at night. The third group would be made of people who eat something else but apples. By looking at the amount of insulin and gastric juice comming out, I would be able to know if eating apples is actually bad particularily at night, if it doesn’t matter for your health, or if it is just said as so because eating at night is generally bad for your health.

  • A piece of conventional wisdom that I have heard is that ”Grandmas are the best cooks”. To test this claim I would get four groups, one being grandmas, and the other three being, grandpas, moms and dads. I would have these groups make several of the same dishes in a restaurant kitchen and have people come in and test and rate the food a 1 out of 5. Afterward I would compare the results to test the statement.

  • Conventional wisdom states that technology in classrooms hinder learning for students.To test this theory, I would select multiple classrooms with similar students and subjects. Half of the classes allow students to use technology and in the other half there is no technology. Then all classrooms would be tested and the group with the average higher scores will reveal if technology really affects learning.

  • An example of conventional wisdom I heard before is that “Shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations”. It means that the wealth of a family can last for three generation. However, the fact is that the 2nd generation may see the value of hard work, the 3rd generation might forget how their ancestors put their effort in the work. In order to test the theory, I might look up the “The World’s Billionaires” in three consecutive years and find out the 50% of the billionaires who inherited the family property in each year. At last I’ll gather the information and make a sheet to look if there’s any changes in the three consecutive years.

    • I would like to modify the collection of my data. I would look up the “The World’s Billionaires” and find out the 50% of the billionaires who inherited the family property. Then I’ll trace back their background and find out which generation they are.

  • One example of conventional wisdom is “Money can’t buy happiness”. A lot of times, people spend their money on huge items they don’t necessarily need, such as expensive clothing or even an expensive collectible. However, usually people lose interest in these expensive objects which brings the question; “Money can’t buy happiness’. To test to see if money can’t buy happiness, i will get together a small group of people and give them $100 to buy whatever they want as long as it isn’t illegal. I would observe their reactions over time to see if their object(s) make them happy for over a month, six months, a year, etc. I will keep track of their happiness level to see how the object makes them feel. At the end, I will notice if money can or cannot buy happiness.

  • One example of a conventional wisdom is “Drinking milk is good for your bone”. Parents always tell their children that drinking milk can make them taller then other kids, but some people says too much milk can make your bone weak recently. I want to do a survey on people who like to drink milk and those who do not, ask how much milk they drink a day and see their health report.

  • An example of conventional wisdom is that diets where the participants cut out fats are the best and most effective form of dieting. The general consensus for the last 40 years has been that fats are the worst thing for you to eat. Recently more people have been trying low carb diets and are having dramatically better results. There have been studies done that have proven that not only are diets like this result in less weight loss but they also have a higher chance of the participants gaining the weight back. Testing this would be easy, there could be a group of low carb dieters and a group of low fat dieters. They could follow their diet strictly for 6 months with periodic weigh ins every week.

  • A frequently stated piece of conventional wisdom prevalent in the real estate industry is the idea that one should buy “the worst house in the best neighborhood” in hopes of achieving that highest possible appreciation on equity. This would be easily testable and, I suspect, would be disproven. Data miners could first create a definition of “best neighborhood,” probably highest average asset value combined with steady high-percentage appreciation. Then define “worst house,” the one in the neighborhood that has the oldest construction, the most differed maintenance, and that has appreciated the slowest over some span of recent time. They could then compare the performance of renovated “worst houses” in “best neighborhoods” with that of all sorts of other examples, such as moderate homes in up-and-coming neighborhoods. This line of research could even be extended to develop very specific instructions of which house to buy in which neighborhood, specific renovations to make to create the most value, and exact dates and price points to put the house on the market for resale in order to achieve the highest net profit.

  • An example of conventional wisdom that I’ve heard is “if at first you don’t succeed try,try again.” I would test this hypothesis by selecting various different tasks and seeing if doing it over and over again could help a person succeed at this task. For example a task like walking on water is impossible for a human. Even if you try several times to try to walk on water it will not work because it is just not possible. Sometimes in fact it is possible to be able to do something if you keep trying to do it after multiple failures.

  • One example of a conventional wisdom is “Drinking milk is good for your bone”. Parents always tell their children that drinking milk can make them taller then other kids, but some people says too much milk can make your bone weak recently. I want to do a survey on people who like to drink milk and those who do not, ask how much milk they drink a day and see their health report.

  • One piece of conventional wisdom that people often say is that you will perform better on a test if you get a good night’s sleep. For measurement purposes, I would define a “good night’s sleep” as 8 hours or more of sleep, an okay night’s sleep as 5-7 hours, and a poor night’s sleep as less than 5 hours. By studying whether students got a good, okay, or poor night of sleep the night before the test and comparing that with the scores they got, one could test whether or not there is a relationship between grades and how much sleep a student got.

  • An example of conventional wisdom that I am familiar with is that animal protein is essential for getting the proper amount of protein in a person’s diet. To measure this, I would see how many grams of protein vegans eat per day as compared to someone following a standard, animal product-based diet. Then, I would compare the results from each side to the daily recommended amount of protein (I think it’s 60 grams but don’t quote me on that) and see which side leans more in the right direction. Finally, I would look at the health reports of each group and see if the differences in protein consumption make a difference in overall health.

  • One example of conventional wisdom is ”women will do better on nursing, because they’re more patient and gentle ”, most patients are willing to see a female nurse. If i want to eliminate such prejudice, i will collect the statistic of the gender distribution in nursing, and the satisfaction from the patients who met the male nurse. I will make a contrast between the feedback from the patients who met different gender nurse.

  • Example of conventional wisdom: people who do better in school are most of the times smarter than the people who don’t.

    I completely disagree with the statement, but the truth is that I never collected data, made sense of it and finally got to an educated conclusion. My believe that this example of conventional wisdom is wrong is based on a couple of instances that it was challenged: Albert Einstein, for example, was a “bad” student. Also, because I believe there are a thousand factors that come into doing good in school, other than being smart.

    To develop a model to test it, I would collect data that would define smart, that would give me most of the factors that come into play to be a good student and that would give me knowledge in person’s psychology. Then, I would get a large set of students and cases to study from and where I could apply what I learned from the data I would collect mentioned in the previous sentence. Finally, I would be able to take my conclusions.

  • One piece of conventional wisdom that I have grown accustomed to is that “organic food is healthier than processed/artificial food.” I would test this by finding people who eat only organic and other people who eat only processed/artificial food. After the trial, I would then have the subjects get tests done and see what their nutrition levels are.

  • One example of conventional wisdom that “sports teams always perform better when they are at home.” In order to test this you would have to take multiple teams from multiple different sports and leagues and compare their records and overall performance in home games to that of away games. Also you would have to take into account if things like crowd noise, field size or dimensions, or even the temperature of the location have a bigger impact on a team’s home field advantage. Even a team’s strength of schedule would need to be taken into account to see if their home schedule is easier or more difficult than the away schedule. Taking all those things into account you would be able to see if all teams have a home field advantage or if its just a myth.

  • The example of conventional wisdom I have heard is that students who get high scores are always the students who try hard to study. I have asking all my friends who are either the outstanding students or who always fail the tests to prove that whether this is right or wrong. I find that some say it is true based on their experiences or their friends, but some tell me that it is totally wrong. Some people are smart, so they can catch up the lesson just once the professor explains. Without the reviewing before the test, they usually get high score on the test. However, no matter some people focus on lecture or review the lessons before tests, they rarely get a better score in their tests like smart people do.
    According to my interview for my class about this topic last semester, half and half as the result show that it can be either true or not true.

  • One piece of conventional wisdom I have always heard is “Money buys happiness”. I would test this by collecting data from people with incomes over $100,000 and below $20,000. I would use surveys with questions regarding their personal satisfaction and happiness. I would then use the results to either verify or debunk the “myth”. Personally, I would hope to debunk this piece of conventional wisdom because I believe money doesn’t determine personal gratification or happiness.

  • An example of convential wisdom that I have heard is that coffee stunts your growth. In order to test if this is actually true or not, I would look at people who drink and do not drink coffee. I would compare their heights to the heights of other family members (parents, grandparents, etc.). I would look at the height of someone who does drink a lot of coffee and a young age and see if their height makes sense with the heights in their families.

  • An example of conventional wisdom is that you get what you’re paying for. Lets say you go to the steakhouse for some steak, and then the next night you go to 4 star restaurant and order the same thing. the 4 star place will of course be much more expensive but is it actually that much better. I would test how each place prepares the meat and how they cook it. How long they let it soak in the seasoning and how long its on the grill. after all, its still coming from a cow so how much different could it actually be?

  • An example of conventional wisdom is the statement “Don’t fix what ain’t broke”. You could test this by taking two companies that sell similar products using advertisements. You could have 1 company run the same advertisement for a year while the other runs different advertisements through out. you could then see which has better earnings

  • One of the many pieces of conventional wisdom that I hear from people all the time is that salt is unhealthy in a diet. For some reason people think that salt is bad for you, and while that is true in certain doses, the right amount of salt is actually very good for you, as proven from many tests in different cases. People never actually think about it. They just hear that salt is bad, so they do not eat it when they are on a diet. This is false.

  • I think an example of conventional wisdom could be that 2 days before a athletic event, that night’s rest is more important than the night before the event. This was something told to me by my track coach. To test this, I could take 2 groups of varied athletes of a certain sport. I would have to make sure that both of the groups were relatively equal in performance. Then one group would stay up for most of the night 2 nights before, and the other group would stay up most of the night the day before the event. I could compare overall group performance and see the results.

  • One piece of conventional wisdom I’ve heard is that “you should not go swimming after you just ate” or that there is a specific time an individual should wait to swim after they have consumed food. I would test this by grouping people who have just ate and those who have not, and have them swim for the same amount of time in the same pool. I would then conduct interviews based on the participants own concept of their health and if eating affected them in a negative way.

  • Being a Criminal Justice and Pre-Law major, one interesting piece of conventional wisdom often discussed in Criminology is how the “increase of ice cream sales indirectly contributes to the rise in homicide rates.” Although our own common knowledge alone tells us that the sale of ice cream holds no empirical validity as being conducive to greater rates of homicide, observational field research and its relative data suggests that a positive relationship exists between warmer temperatures and violent crime. In other words, as temperatures rise so does the rate of violent crime according to most demographics of US populations. This theory posits that hotter climates attribute are known to trigger behavioral responses of anger and hostility. And considering that temperatures are said to rise during late spring into summer, these are times of the year when people are known to actively socialize and consume copious amounts of alcohol. And if a situation were to turn sour, the factors of heat and alcohol can lead to impaired judgments among people to spur a destructive altercation like a fight that could possibly result in someone’s death.

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Office Hours

Joe Spagnoletti (instructor)

Office: Speakman 207H

Hours: (1:20-1:50, 3:00) M, W, F by appointment.


TA: Prince Patel