The 'decline effect' haunts science

— Phenomenon Ended Subjects

U.Cal-Santa Barbara psychology professor Jonathan Schooler has a difficulty. The certitude of a phenomenon that made him a rock star in educational circles — he called it “verbal overshadowing,” and he published the benefits 20 years ago — is beginning to break down. And its fragility is calling the entire scientific method into question.

"We can not escape the troubling conclusion that some -- probably numerous -- cherished generalities are at very best exaggerated in their biological significance and at worst a collective illusion nurtured by strong a-priori beliefs typically repeated.' -- Richard Palmer, biologist, College of Alberta

In a compelling piece in the twelve/12/10 issue of The New Yorker, Jonah Lehrer reports on the developing unease inside of the scientific community concerning one of its foundational tenets — the infallibility of repeatability. From psychology to medicine, theories engraved into the granite of typical knowledge primarily based on reproducible lab work are wilting beneath the statistical heat of yet another phenomenon referred to as the “decline result.”

Schooler’s verbal overshadowing concerned a collection of experiments that appeared to show how subjects who ended up revealed difference faces, then instructed to explain them, ended up less most likely to subsequently establish them than subjects who had been demonstrated faces but had been not asked to vocalize their descriptions ( via ).

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