In the academy(1), research is not always a collaborative experience, but rather, publishing is very competitive, somewhat like a World Series or Super Bowl championship game, but still different–extreme individualism rules! In competitive sports, as example, all season long, even the players on the same team compete amongst each other for a chance to start and be noticed.  This makes for a very interesting tension.  I call this “collaborative competition.” Likewise, one would assume that each research practitioner is working in concert with other researchers in a quest to uncover scientific truths, achieve superordinate goals(2); challenging assumptions, validate and confirm, thus, adding to the field of inquiry something new and important, a revelation or paradigm shift. The truth is, this rarely ever happens.  Yes, as many of you have pointed out in prior blog posts, some researchers do develop interesting insights that help validate existing studies but, most researchers simply focus on the results that merely reflect their own research bias. And… here is the rub, researchers don’t play well together. Unlike professional team sports, researchers are biased and prefer to play only with those that agree with their findings and perspectives, (Kuhn, 1991).  This is the very definition of group think and the conspiracy of mediocrity. Some scientists have observed that this particular pattern of interaction, working with only people that think alike, often leads to collaborative cheating (Ariely, 2012).

Indeed, philosopher Thomas Kuhn (1991) captures this interesting dynamic in his classic book, The Structure of Scientific Paradigms. Research bias is the seeds of group think and functional fixedness(3). How can we break away from this academic echo chamber?  How and where can one find the truth? Unbiased researchers will challenge assumptions and carefully and precisely reconstruct an experiment or study to see if the results hold up over multiple trials? This is called construct validity. It rarely ever does (Lash, 1999). 

The epistemic challenge for researchers is to seek the Spirit of Truth without wavering or pandering to a particular group’s perspective or bias.  I believe, researchers, everyone really, tend to fall into one of two camps; 1.) group think (everyone thinks alike) or, 2.) seekers of the Truth. The later group respects the autonomy of the First Amendment, one that embraces deep-level diverse opinions, alternative perspectives and actively engaging in inspired conversations. The prior group shuts down independent thought and free speech. To illustrate this dynamic, picture the normal distribution bell curve. God loves the bell curve. Everything in God’s creation fits into the normal distribution. Take all the leaves on any tree as example. You will have a small percentage of very large leaves and a small percentage of very small even tiny leaves. Overall, the vast majority of leaves will fall into the middle of the bell curve, thus, normal distribution. But, group thinkers, want to draw a skewed curve, over representing a very small sample of the population. I’ll say it again, God loves the bell curve. Think about that profound statement. Sadly, many academics, those teaching in higher education institutions today, cluster together around group think and the functional fixedness of their own biases. They “kick out” and shame anyone that does not agree with their opinions and perspectives. This is perhaps why there is so much division between alternative perspectives on research or anything for that matter. 

Remember, God loves a bell curve. What does this mean? It means that the normal distribution represents the vast majority which fall in-between either/or thinking. This is what some observers might call the “moral majority” or, “independent”. From a biblical perspective, we might recognize this as more integral. It is indeed ironic that, so called. progressives, those that hold a more radical group think perspectives, fit more neatly in the extreme pinch points (ends) of the bell curve. Yet, they will argue for “inclusion” which represents the average or, normal distribution. Another example would be advocating for radical changes in the Constitution–a “living document” perspective–while at the same time arguing for “impeachment” based on the original framers intent of the document. You can’t have it both ways unless, of course, you are a liberal progressive. Unfortunately, the constructivist’s narrow-minded narrative seems to gain more traction than the truth.  But, I believe people are smart and can see through this cruel ruse. Only through authentic, honest and open (AHO) inspired conversations can we have the opportunity to break free from the bondage of liberal progressive social-constructivism. We represent the next generation of research practitioners that are committed to seeking the truth.  What is your perspective?

Ariely, D. (2012). The honest truth about dishonesty: How we lie to everyone–especially ourselves. New York: Harper Press.

Kuhn, T. S. (1991). The structure of scientific revolutions. (3rd ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Lash, S. (1999). Another modernity: A different rationality. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

  1. A society or institution of distinguished scholars and artists or scientists that aims to promote and maintain standards in its particular field.
  2. In social psychology, superordinate goals are goals that are worth completing but require two or more social groups to cooperatively achieve.
  3. Functional Fixedness is a cognitive bias that limits a person to use an object only in the way it is traditionally used. A concept that rooted in Gestalt psychology,

5 comments

  1. With regard to research bias, where can we find the truth?
    I’ve thought a lot about bias in research, and so to biased reporting. To a certain extent, the way things are displayed tends to be skewed at very least slightly in one direction or another. I’ve come to the conclusion that truth can only be found through the honest search for truth. Jeremiah 29:13 says “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (NIV). Being honest about our motives tells us a lot about what we will find. If you are after the truth, just like if you are after a relationship with the Lord, you will find it. But you have to be committed to seeking out the actual truth. Delving into this, I would have to assume that an honest examination of a variety of different datapoints would lead you closer to the truth, and give you a better understanding of which researchers data was ‘out of line’ with what may be more accurately reported elsewhere. In some cases too, however, you must evaluate the sources for inherent motives for bias. You could find a similar datapoint across a variety of sources, and this could seem to prove consistency (which you might assume is truth), but then realize that the companies providing that datapoint are all being funded by the same foundation for this research.

    What is “apodictic” truth?
    Apodictic truth is like one-hundred percent certainty. To call something an apodictic truth is to know that it is. In many cases, especially in research, it is not possible to reach this fullest certainty. Often you can only state that you believe something to be true.

  2. With regard to research bias, where can we find the truth?
    I believe this is where individual truth pokes its head out and proclaims what the reader, researcher or topic proclaim to be truth. You point out that there are many that would seek the inclusion of their skewed view, or “pinched end” of the bell curve, into the normative, and statistically speaking, this is mathematically possible as the curve can easily be manipulated by both parties, or numerous parties, involved. Through selection of bias measurements, researchers can share results that seem to be of the majority when in reality may only represent a small portion of the topic. How can we determine what the normative should actually be? Those seeking to critically analyze the data provided by researchers would need to examine all involved parts to determine where credibility and truth may lie. Again, this may be influenced by researcher bias, yet through a meta-analysis of large amounts of data on the topic a clearer picture can be seen. Still, with the introduction of projects like Wikipedia, we can see how misinformation can be shared easily and accepted as truth or fact. Even approaching subjects with a Biblical worldview begins to put a bias reading into results or information. Each observer of the research or data will need to determine what they hold as truth, and thus the qualifications for truth in research, and statistics, I fear will always have a bias undertone.

    What is “apodictic” truth?
    Apodictic truth is that which many believe to be self-evident or a necessary truth. This is evident in areas like gravity where gravity must be present, or we would not be able to maintain our grounding on the planet. Or, looking at a series of cause and effect situations; I put my hand in a fire, it gets burned.

    Is the author of this blog (emic narrative) reflecting his own research bias or, making a “inductive,” evidence-based truth statement?
    I believe the author attempts to facilitate a non-bias assessment in the statements concerning bias research through offering the varying views of researchers studying that very subject. However, bias thought and opinion still expose itself in the manner of trusting that “God loves the bell curve”. The author definitively takes a stance that supports the normative in research that develops and supports the normative found in the bell yet seems to ignore the possibility that the bell was originally created from a bias approach to the existing research. I feel that once a direction is decided, outside or opposing views may be left out both intentionally and accidentally to maintain this accepted normative making it difficult to introduce new and different options and opinions and discoveries at times.

  3. With regard to research bias, where can we find the truth?
    Finding truth lies in the mind of the beholder. That being said, can we ever deduce down to absolute or ultimate truth understanding that all humans view “truth” through their subjective lens? This lens is altered and shaped by preferences, lived experiences, belief systems, exposure, and willingness to embrace intellectual diversity. Research bias is exactly that, bias based on the mind and intent of the researcher. As academic-natured people, the best we can do is promote intellectual diversity in research. That is, encouraging one another to take a multiplicity approach, presenting all ideas and results, even those that may not align with our chosen answer as truth.

    What is “apodictic truth”?
    According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, apodictic truth is “expressing or of the nature of necessary truth or absolute certainty” (2020). This means that the truth is absolutely, without doubt, true. Relating this back to research bias, is it possible to have apodictic truth? How do we control all possible variables to ensure our results are universally truth and applicable? I believe the best we can do is generalize and leave room for further study (again, promoting intellectual diversity).

    Reference:
    Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Apodictic. In Merriam-Webster.com dictionary. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/apodictic

  4. Bias in research is an interesting topic of which we must all be aware. This is not only to conduct valid truth-seeking research, but to also ensure we are receiving information into our own minds in a careful manner. Here, the author is being cautious not to project bias through his own words and instead is providing us with a challenge induced by his experience in research development. The author reminds readers there is only one real source of the truth and infers that all other presentations must be viewed as a ruse unless proven to be apodictic. Apodictic truth exists when there is zero doubt that it is true. Today, this doubt or certainty is clouded by new variables such as social technology.

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