The gold standard: double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized tests - Deepstash

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The gold standard: double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized tests

If you are looking at a clinical trial, a psychology study, or an animal study, it must be a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study.

  • Randomized: The participants in the study are randomly placed into the experimental group and the comparison group.
  • Placebo-controlled: In medical studies, one comparison group gets a placebo, such as a sugar pill. This is to see the effects of the actual drug. (However, placebo effects can be so strong that they often relieve pain, among other health problems.)
  • Double-blind: A study is "blind" if the participants don't know whether they are in the experiment or the control group. A study is "double-blind" if the researchers in personal contact with participants also don't know which treatment they are administering.

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Correlation is not causation

  • Correlation: Scientists may find that two variables are correlated. They may be related, but it doesn't mean that one is causing the other. It could be a coincidence, or perhaps a third variable is causing both of the other two.
  • Causation: Lots of ...

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Not all journals are created equal

  • The Impact Factor is the most commonly used metric to assess a scientific journal's influence. It counts the number of times a journal's papers have been mentioned in other papers, relative to their own output.
  • You can find a journal's Impact Factor in the Journal ...

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Understand "significance"

In science, "statistically significant" is the effect that can be picked up with a particular statistical tool called a p-value. A good p-value (or calculated probability) is arbitrary and can vary between scientific fields. The cut-off for statistically significant is a p-value ...

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Problems with how we view scientific studies

Problems with how we view scientific studies

The world is full of evidence and studies, some good and some poor.

  • One major problem is that scientific lingo often means something different from everyday language. Words like theory, significant, and control have entirel...

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The difference between a hypothesis and a theory

  • A hypothesis is often the first step of the scientific method. It is a proposed and still-unproven explanation that can be tested through experiments and observations.

  • In science, a theory is a widely accepted idea backed by data, observ...

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Peer review isn't perfect

In a peer review system, independent, anonymous experts read over a paper submitted to a journal. They can recommend revisions to the text, new experiments that should be added, or even that the journal shouldn't publish the paper.

But reviewers aren't asked to ensure that...

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Selection bias

Studies can suffer from selection bias when people are recruited from a specific group that are not representative of the whole. Scientists select a smaller group to study, but the chosen set isn't random enough and is therefore somehow biased in favor of a specific outcome of th...

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Be aware of conflicts of interest

One type of conflict of interest is financial. It could be someone who received funding from a company with a vested interest in the study's outcome. Or that person has a relationship with the company that could lead to benefits in the future.

A recent analysis found t...

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Placebos in research

Placebos are often used in clinical drug trials to determine how well a potential medicine will work.

  • There are two different groups of subjects in a placebo-controlled trial - one receives the experimental drug and the other the placebo. Neither researchers nor subjects know which ...

The placebo prescribing controversy

The American Medical Association created a policy concerning placebos that states that "physicians may use placebos for diagnosis or treatment only if the patient is informed of and agrees to its use."

  • Generally, doctors who prescribe placebos say that they have something th...

The subject-expectancy effect

When people know what the result of taking a pill is supposed to be, they might unconsciously change their reaction to cause that result or report that result has taken place even if it hasn't.

However, studies show that a placebo doesn't trick the brain - the brain reacts differently to ...

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