Watzlawick1 recounts the following experiment:
That there is no necessary connection between fact and explanation was illustrated in a recent experiment by Bavelas (20): Each subject was told he was participating in an experimental investigation of “concept formation” and was given the same gray, pebbly card about which he was to “formulate concepts.” Of every pair of subjects (seen separately but concurrently) one was told eight out of ten times at random that what he said about the card was correct; the other was told five out of ten times at random what he said about the card was correct. The ideas of the subject who was “rewarded” with a frequency of 80 per cent remained on a simple level, which the subject who was “rewarded” only at a frequency of 50 per cent evolved complex, subtle, and abstruse theories about the card, taking into consideration the tiniest detail of the card’s composition. When the two subjects were brought together and asked to discuss their findings, the subject with the simpler ideas immediately succumbed to the “brilliance” of the other’s concepts and agreed the other had analyzed the card correctly.
I repeat this account because it illustrates the impact that “reward” systems can have on results.
Whether the “rewards” are members of a crowd or experts.
- Should you randomly reject searches in training to search for subjects?
- What literature supports your conclusion in #1? (3-5 pages)
This study does raise the interesting question of whether conferences should track and randomly reject authors to encourage innovation.
1. Watzlawick, Paul, Janet Beavin Bavelas, and Don D. Jackson. 1967. Pragmatics of human communication; a study of interactional patterns, pathologies, and paradoxes. New York: Norton.