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THE RESEARCH GAME

  1. The player's first obligation is to maintain the status quo of the Game. Within the Game, the object is to rise above the other players.

  2. Do not research an entirely new field
    Example: an actual conversation which took place in a university Psychology department in 1988.
    Student: There seems to be a need for good quality research in the field of hypnosis.
    Professor: I would never allow it in my department.
    Student: Why not?
    Professor: Because hypnosis is not a respectable field for research.
    Student: Why not?
    Professor:Because it has no serious published literature.
    Student: Why is there no literature?
    Professor: Because nobody has done the research.
    Student:Why has nobody done the research?
    Professor:Because it's not a respectable field of research.

  3. It does not matter if the ground explored is old or obvious. The way the Game is played is much more important than the practical significance of the research results.
    To give an example, Maier and Seligman review the literature on research into the phenomenon of learned helplessness. The article is 44 pages long and contains 6 pages of references to research which often involves the infliction of considerable suffering on laboratory animals. How do they define their theory? 'When an organism is faced with an outcome that is independent of his responses, he sometimes learns that the outcome is independent of his responses. This is the cornerstone of our view and probably seems obvious to all but the most sophisticated learning theorist.' It is fine for the Type 2 expert to throw common sense out of the window, and discover the obvious; it reduces his chances of making a mistake.

  4. Doing something that is useful outside the Game is not only irrelevant, but is seriously discouraged.
    A player finding a solution for a real-life problem seriously disrupts the Game. Other players' 'expertise' is lost, and such a result may give rise to embarrassing questions about why other researchers are not doing something useful too.

  5. Objectivity must be maintained at all times
    Players should not be too concerned for the health or well-being of their subjects. This could become a contaminant to objective observation, but more importantly may bring emotion into the Game, one of the very problems that it has developed to avoid

  6. Players must at all times show detached coolness for their research.
    Enthusiasm for a research goal is discouraged; it promotes the expectation of useful results, and again it introduces feeling into the Game.
  7. Research should always be seen to be good science.
    If only it were as straightforward as Newtonian physics! Still, one of the advantages of the Game is that it enables those playing to pretend that it is. In this way formal scientific hypotheses may be tested, and then subjected to a full and statistical analysis, which is highly regarded because it is so clean and neat and reliable, compared to the rather messy business of trying to sort out people.

  8. Players must at all times use correct language.
    The creation of a Game language is an important way of maintaining the feeling of being elite. The language rules, together with complicated statistical analysis of data, ensure that the illusion of real expertise is maintained.

  9. The rules of all psychological games are unspoken. Never make the rules of the game explicit, even to oneself.


From FORBIDDEN SCIENCE, R. Milton, originally from:

Conway, A.V., 1988 The Research Game: A view from the field, in Complementary Medical Research, Vol. 3, No. 8, pp 29-36



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