Saturday, June 12, 2010

A Biased View

Alternative therapies often rely on the "It works for me" declaration. This, usually proclaimed by the user rather than the vendor, claims that an alternative therapy was used, improvement in the condition was perceived and, ergo, the therapy was the causal factor in the improvement.

EoR's readers will recognise the fallacy in this view, and just how difficult it can be to separate perception from reality. We desire to see an improvement, so we ignore any other issues. We habitually look for patterns, so we see them, often when they aren't there.

Yet separating perception from the real is much more difficult than simply being aware of any errors it might induce.

Here is a hypothetical: You want to travel from City A to City B. City B is located south of City B  A. Which direction is longer: travelling from City A to City B, or travelling from City B to City A?

They're the same! you cry. You're right, but the brain apparently doesn't think so.

Volunteers also estimated that it would take considerably longer to drive between the same pairs of U.S. cities if traveling from south to north, as opposed to north to south, says psychologist and study director Tad BrunyƩ of Tufts University in Medford, Mass. For journeys that averaged 798 miles, time estimates for north-going jaunts averaged one hour and 39 minutes more than south-going trips, he and his colleagues report in an upcoming Memory & Cognition.

Of course, if you're using an alternative therapy then that's always the shortest distance between a treatment and a miracle. At least, according to the unbiased anecdotal reports.

Edit: Corrected faulty geography.

1 comment:

  1. "City B is located south of City B"

    That's some town planning! :)


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