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The nonsense math effect
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Centre for the Study of Cultural Evolution.
2012 (English)In: Judgment and decision making, ISSN 1930-2975, Vol. 7, 746-749 p.Article in journal (Other academic) Published
Abstract [en]

Mathematics is a fundamental tool of research. Although potentially applicable in every discipline, the amount oftraining in mathematics that students typically receive varies greatly between different disciplines. In those disciplineswhere most researchers do not master mathematics, the use of mathematics may be held in too much awe. To demonstratethis I conducted an online experiment with 200 participants, all of which had experience of reading research reports anda postgraduate degree (in any subject). Participants were presented with the abstracts from two published papers (one inevolutionary anthropology and one in sociology). Based on these abstracts, participants were asked to judge the qualityof the research. Either one or the other of the two abstracts was manipulated through the inclusion of an extra sentencetaken from a completely unrelated paper and presenting an equation that made no sense in the context. The abstract thatincluded the meaningless mathematics tended to be judged of higher quality. However, this "nonsense math effect" wasnot found among participants with degrees in mathematics, science, technology or medicine.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2012. Vol. 7, 746-749 p.
Keyword [en]
unintelligibility, mathematics, humanities, social science, quality of research
National Category
Cultural Studies Psychology
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-82909OAI: diva2:573051
Available from: 2013-01-18 Created: 2012-11-29 Last updated: 2013-04-10Bibliographically approved

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