Friday, March 1, 2013

Perspective - Test Results?

I was considering an older experiment that's been repeated over the years. Originally the test was designed around authority and it's influence. The setup was that they would take the volunteers and have them ask a series of questions to what they thought was another subject but was actually an actor. Each time the "subject" answered wrong they were given instruction to press a button they were told would shock the subject and of course the actor would react. Each time they pressed the button the voltage would go up and the actor would complain of heart problems and the end result would be that people thought they'd killed the other subject. The concept was that people were willing to simply follow orders if they didn't feel directly responsible for the results.

I happened to wonder what if rather than the results reflecting on authority if rather they reflected on general apathy and people's lack of care for their fellow human. Simply put how do the results show that people simply didn't care about what they were doing? Granted some subjects refused to continue however they were in the minority and each subsequent test to my knowledge has had fewer such people. Though it may also be that people caught on and therefore those results can't be leaned on as heavily. Some variants, such as were you were the subject being asked the questions and getting shocked even when giving the right answer or almost constantly, might prove useful in getting more accurate results. Granted people are less likely to cooperate when they're in pain but that's not to say there might not be some other variant equally as effective and less painful.

I've been considering how often research results are considered from entirely different perspectives and to what extent. Not just the results themselves but how they were obtained. Looking at that example experiment above I would say there are quite a few potential views on what the study could've been used for other than authority and apathy. How often do people stop to consider each step in the process used to bring them these kinds of results.

I'm also curious how often the same results are used for different purposes. While results can be interpreted in different ways, sometimes quite drastically, how often are they significantly different from purpose. Consider that almost everything you see and touch has more than one purpose and as such test results also reveal a lot more than what you see up front and are often open to interpretation.

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