Monday, August 20, 2007
The human brain is an excellent pattern-recognition machine. When it comes to an 'obvious' detector, it can fall short - tricking a person into thinking something is obvious when it's not. How a toilet works seems obvious, until you're asked to explain it, for example. The idea that the obvious isn't necessarily so is an important one in science. After all, why test for something if it's a forgone conclusion? This seems particularly true for psychology - a field where many conclusions seem obvious after the fact. (I've been guilty of accusing a psychology-major roommate that "It's all just common sense" in my undergrad days. After all, it's not *real* science, right?) There's a nice little article in The Psychologist discussing the nature of obviousness, some examples of non-obvious findings and the importance of testing 'obvious' ideas. If you're interested in reading other examples of counter-intuitive science, Lim at Freshbrainz has been running a series on his blog.