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Thread: Outcome decided before evidence collected

  1. #1
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    Outcome decided before evidence collected

    Is there a term or phrase in science where someone decides on the outcome they want, despite the lack of any evidence, and then they go looking for evidence that would support that outcome?
    Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.

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    I think you're looking for Confirmation Bias.

    Confirmation bias is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms or supports one's prior beliefs or values.[1] People tend to unconsciously select information that supports their views, but ignoring non-supportive information. People also tend to interpret ambiguous evidence as supporting their existing position. The effect is strongest for desired outcomes, for emotionally charged issues, and for deeply entrenched beliefs.

    <snip>

    Science and scientific research
    A distinguishing feature of scientific thinking is the search for confirming or supportive evidence (inductive reasoning) as well as falsifying evidence (deductive reasoning). Inductive research in particular can have a serious problem with confirmation bias.[86][87]

    Many times in the history of science, scientists have resisted new discoveries by selectively interpreting or ignoring unfavorable data.[1]:192Ė94 The assessment of the quality of scientific studies seems to be particularly vulnerable to confirmation bias. Several studies have shown that scientists rate studies that report findings consistent with their prior beliefs more favorably than studies reporting findings inconsistent with their previous beliefs.[7][88][89]

  3. #3
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    There's also "experimenter bias":
    any systematic errors in the research process or the interpretation of its results that are attributable to a researcher’s behavior, preconceived beliefs, expectancies, or desires about results.
    and the "expectancy effect":
    when an incorrect belief held by one person, the perceiver, about another person, the target, leads the perceiver to act in such a manner as to elicit the expected behavior from the target.
    Both of these are relevant to the behaviour of scientists designing and conducting experiments or clinical trials. (The Stanford Prison Experiment, recently mentioned in another thread, was a classic example of the expectancy effect in action.)

    Grant Hutchison

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    I think it may be more like "making the facts fit the theory."

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    That would be anti-science, as in the opposite of science.

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    I like to say, "Don't let the decision making process get in the way of taking action."
    Solfe

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    Maybe this is how the expression "Jumping to conclusions" originated?

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    So Iíve got to ask: did you find the answer you were looking for?

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    Quote Originally Posted by schlaugh View Post
    So I’ve got to ask: did you find the answer you were looking for?
    I have just a hint of an inkling that it was a rhetorical question, drawing attention to a topic That Dare Not Speak Its Name on this forum.

    Grant Hutchison
    Last edited by grant hutchison; 2020-Nov-13 at 04:31 PM.

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    ^^^ If that's truly the case then I'd call it the Impossible Dream.

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    Quote Originally Posted by schlaugh View Post
    So Iíve got to ask: did you find the answer you were looking for?
    I guess confirmation bias is the closest, but it's still not quite exactly right. And of course Grant is right, but that really need not come into it. It's just a word for a way of proceeding. Maybe I should not have necessitated that it was "term or phrase in science," since it appears outside that discipline as well. There is certainly bias involved, but the initial impetus for seeking evidence of the predetermined concusion is not so much to enlighten, but rather to advance an agenda. Which makes it kind of a dastardly act.
    Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cougar View Post
    Maybe I should not have necessitated that it was "term or phrase in science," since it appears outside that discipline as well. There is certainly bias involved, but the initial impetus for seeking evidence of the predetermined concusion is not so much to enlighten, but rather to advance an agenda. Which makes it kind of a dastardly act.
    That's the difference between scientific announcements and media pronouncements.

    I saw one media headline the other day that said something like "Scientists prove that Climate Change is real" and I automatically thought that fait accompli would be an appropriate description.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cougar View Post
    There is certainly bias involved, but the initial impetus for seeking evidence of the predetermined concusion is not so much to enlighten, but rather to advance an agenda. Which makes it kind of a dastardly act.
    If you're portraying this as a deliberate act in pursuit of an agenda, then it's being "economical with the truth", "lying by omission" or "exclusionary detailing".
    More interesting, to me at least, are the cognitive biases that lead us to unconsciously pursue our own agendas.
    So we have "anchoring", in which an early piece of information or decision leads us to interpret subsequent information to fit our initial impression. (This can have terrible consequences during medical emergencies, if the doctor forms an erroneous idea of the cause of the problem early on, and then sticks to it, while filtering evidence to the contrary.) There's also "selective exposure", in which people seek out sources of information that conform to their preconceptions, and "motivated reasoning", in which people contrive to spin contrary evidence so that it falls into line with their preconceptions. (Clever people are unfortunately very good at motivated reasoning.)

    ETA: I think it's interesting to speculate about, but usually impossible to determine, how much of their own rhetoric demagogues believe--to what extent they're deliberately employing exclusionary detailing to further their own ends, and to what extent they are victims of cognitive biases. To supply a non-political example, I find I can't guess to what extent Neil deGrasse Tyson is ignorant of medicine, and to what extent he has used rhetoric that makes him appear ignorant of medicine. (See the YouTube snippet here, if you want an example of what I'm talking about.)

    Grant Hutchison
    Last edited by grant hutchison; 2020-Nov-14 at 02:59 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cougar View Post
    Is there a term or phrase in science where someone decides on the outcome they want, despite the lack of any evidence, and then they go looking for evidence that would support that outcome?
    I couldnít help wondering, but are you asking about scientific studies, or other areas of life? Just because of the timing, I couldnít help thinking of a major news item that this question might be applicable to.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    As above, so below

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    Cherry picking.

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    The OP does not imply wrong doing, just going out, maybe biassed, to gather evidence following a hunch. In science the evidence does arrive after the hypothesis, using tests inspired by the hypothesis. The extra step of cherry picking, ignoring outliers, tampering with data all come later. So I think the phrase is “applying for a grant”.
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cougar View Post
    Is there a term or phrase in science where someone decides on the outcome they want, despite the lack of any evidence, and then they go looking for evidence that would support that outcome?
    Not science.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

  18. #18
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    To me, the words "decides on the outcome they want, despite the lack of any evidence" (my emphasis), suggested the endevour would be purposely biased against contrary observations. Maybe that's just me.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cougar View Post
    I guess confirmation bias is the closest, but it's still not quite exactly right. And of course Grant is right, but that really need not come into it. It's just a word for a way of proceeding. Maybe I should not have necessitated that it was "term or phrase in science," since it appears outside that discipline as well. There is certainly bias involved, but the initial impetus for seeking evidence of the predetermined concusion is not so much to enlighten, but rather to advance an agenda. Which makes it kind of a dastardly act.
    Motivated Reasoning comes closest to the named concept, I think.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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