Wetenschap - 25 januari 2018

Triple blind

tekst:
Guido Camps

So how do you know what’s true? Karl Popper declared it to be impossible, and said falsification is as close as we can get: you posit a hypothesis, and as long as it hasn’t been disproved, it is assumed that it could be true.

Guido Camps (34) is a vet, and will soon graduate with a PhD for MRI research on stomach emptying in humans. His hobbies are baking, beekeeping and unusual animals.
Guido Camps (34) is a vet, and will soon graduate with a PhD for MRI research on stomach emptying in humans. His hobbies are baking, beekeeping and unusual animals.

But of course you can only do that disproving properly if you are objective. I did my most recent study with researchers from Yale University. One of their experiments produced a surprising result, which they wanted to replicate. It’s not easy to be objective about a replication because you already know what came out of the original experiment.

Nobel Prize winner Richard Feynman once gave scientists a piece of advice: ‘The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool.’ Because I think I am smart enough to be able to fool myself, I am doing this study triple blind: the test subjects don’t know which drink they are getting, I don’t know either, and even during the data analysis, I don’t know who got what.

Normally, as you do the analysis you can’t help thinking about whether the outcome will be what you think it will be.

This is a new experience for me, and I am very positive about it. Normally, as you do the analysis you can’t help thinking about whether the outcome will be what you think it will be. Hopefully I can present the results at a conference later this year: ‘After you’ve not fooled yourself, it’s easy not to fool other scientists. You just have to be honest in a conventional way after that.’ 


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