Typically, findings are consistent with multiple hypotheses and further research is needed to decide which hypothesis is best supported. However, in a rival out hypothesis principle, we should ask ourselves if there is a confounding variable that we have excluded for plausible explanations for a claim. In Dr. Joan Twinge’s study, there is a confounding variable that has not been considered. The study states that there is a positive correlation between how frequently people said they used Twitter and how many times they looked at the TV when they were supposed to be solving the puzzles. However, the hypothesis that the study did not rule out is that the puzzle plays a significant role in their ability to pay attention. The puzzle might have not been interesting, or it might have been too easy. Hence why they found the TV more fascinating and kept getting distracted. She failed to consider that the puzzle plays the third variable in why the participants were getting distracted. Here’s an idea that the research could have done better and that is to take all the possible variables into consideration without excluding any. The participants can be given a task that most people don’t consider boring or too easy. In other words, to get people to pay attention, the task must be something most of the participants enjoy, and it must provoke a challenge to them so that they are fully engaged in trying to complete the task.
Correlation vs Causation
Correlation vs Causation is one of the most crucial principles in the book. It states that just because two variables are correlated, it does not necessarily mean that there is a connection between them. Sometimes there is also a third variable that can cause the two variables, however, it still does not mean that the two variables are related. In other words, correlation isn’t causation. In Dr. Twinge’s study, she states that increased use of Twitter leads to a decrease in attention span, which is why the participants who used Twitter frequently were getting distracted from doing the task. However, Twitter did not have to be the cause of distraction, a third variable which is the actual TV might have been the cause of distraction that Dr. Twinge failed to outline in her research. There might have been some interesting news shown on TV that the participants were distracted by. Correlation between Twitter use, and attention span does not demonstrate a direct connection between them. Dr. Twinge could improve her research so that it follows the principle by also taking into consideration the role that the TV plays on the participant’s attention span. Instead of stating that use of Twitter (variable A) causes a decrease in attention span (variable B), she should outline any effects the actual TV (variable C) can have on the other two variables and on the results.Extraordinary claims
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. In other words, in this principle, we should ask ourselves if a claim contradicts what we already know and if it does, it needs to provide evidence that is as extraordinary as the claim itself. The bigger the claim is, the more evidence the claim needs to back itself up. In Dr. Twinge’s study, she made a very extraordinary claim which is the fact that frequent use of Twitter relates directly to a reduction in the attention span of an individual. Dr. Twinge conducted one experiment that coincidentally supported her claim, however, the second experiment she conducted did not even support her own claim. In her second experiment, she also states that the effects of Twitter might take longer than a month to show, however, there is no evidence provided to back this claim up in any way. In other words, she made claims too big that her evidence could not support, therefore her research does not do a good job of following this principle. Here’s an idea that the research could have done better to follow the principle and that is to do further research and provide further evidence that supports her claim. Additional experiments need to be performed by various researchers that support Dr. Twinge’s claim of twitter affecting our ability to focus.
Pseudoscientific Claims: Overreliance on Anecdotes
Anecdotes are studies based on the observations of a single person rather than results produced through experiments performed on a group of people. In science studies backed up with data from a group of people are more preferred over data based on a single’s persons observations, hence why it is not appropriate to rely on anecdotal evidence. This is because anecdotal evidence can be hard to verify, it does not tell us anything about cause and effect relationship and it can be based on all sorts of biases. Anecdotal evidence is also hard to generalize because it is based on just one person’s observations. In Dr. Twinge’s research, the anecdote that arises a warning sign is when she states that she has noticed the same effect of twitter decreasing her ability to focus, on her own life. This is because, to begin with, she is making this claim through her own observations rather than from a data produced through experimentation. In other words, this claim is being made through a single individuals observation rather than a group of people. Therefore, this claim cannot be verified to find out to what extent it’s true. It cannot be generalized because we are talking about just one person’s observations and not a group of people and lastly there is a possibility that it is a biased claim made by Dr. Twinge in hopes of supporting her claim.