Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Mind reading maths horse advances scientific method

Clever Hans was a horse. He was a horse who did maths. People held up a card with a arithmetic puzzle to him and he would clop out the correct answer. Now this is a clever trick but the really odd bit is what happened when a guy called Pfungst figured out how he did it.

Pfungst realised that when the person posing the question did not know the answer the maths horse was suddenly thicker then pig shit. When the questioner expected another clop they leaned slightly forward. When the horse had clopped out the right answer they leaned back in amazement.

From this Pfungst realised that in experiments you give off subtle clues that can be picked up and influence the experiment. This was called the "clever hans effect" and is the reason we carry out experiments where the researcher does not know the "correct" answer. This double blinding was an important advance in the scientific method. The lack of double blind is a mistake a lot of paranormal and alternative health experiments make.

Still though Mind reading maths horse, that is just a random collection of words. What non equine advances to the scientific methods have been made? Was the first journal editor was a wiley aristocratic unidexterous fox? Peer review was originally carried out by psychic chemistry goats?

And while were on weird shit, did you know bees can recognise faces? I would have thought the chief advantage of being a social insect was being immune from embarrassment. Now there going to be all "Oh whats your name, I remember I met you by the gladioli yesterday". Forget shitting sugary water maybe we should use bees as bouncers. Giant swarms of bomber jacketed fuckwits baring entry to the pubs of Dublin.

5 comments:

The Beer Nut said...

I don't think it counts as a mistake if lack of double-blind is being used in a fool/money separation matrix.

Luke said...

That's awesome stuff and, when you think about it, still a damn smart horse. In terms of "actually succeeding in life" if they were human, possibly smarter.

The bee-faces thing opens up a world of possibility. Targeted attack swarms?

David Curran said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David Curran said...

"fool/money separation matrix" that is a great phrase.

"still a damn smart horse"
Yeah you have to wonder whats more impressive being able to do division or to spot really subtle clues people give off without realising it.

The Beer Nut said...

Spotting subtle changes in movement and reacting appropriately is something you learn very early on in your career as a prey animal.