|Positive Test Strategy:
When someone uses the positive test strategy they are prejudiced towards confirming their speculations.
The positive test strategy is a common cognitive error that, according to psychologists, is used by people
all of the time. This tendency biases us toward confirming our ideas by making us seek out cases that
support our hypotheses and disregard cases that question them.
I never liked the superstring theory despite the fact that it is accepted by the majority of theoretical
physicists as the precursor to the grand unified field theory of all sciences. M Theory, String Theory,
Membrane Theory- I never accepted any of these facets of the superstring theory nor the theory itself.
I never thought that the construed math that underlies these theories, or the evidence for them (or lack
thereof) adequately supports the existence of “superstrings.” I personally thought that the refined
foundation constructed by Einstein, Newton and others was marred by this inelegant construal.
The moment that I came across a new article that offered an interpretation of superstring theory I was
convinced that it would be mindless. I was curious enough to read it though. At the time, as you can tell,
I was very biased against anything related to the theory and I expected nothing intelligent or insightful
from this article. As I read the article I not only disagreed with the content, I was also harshly critical of
the author’s writing style. I thought that the work was not only devoid of scientific accuracy but poorly
written as well.
A few weeks later I attended a lecture that did an excellent job of explaining the superstring theory. I
realized that many of the reasons that I did not like the theory came from the fact that I did not
understand it. I left the auditorium fascinated. I was much more accepting of the theory and wanted to
find out more.
When I came home I encountered the article that I had read a few weeks back. I was then so intrigued
that I had to read it again. After reading it the second time I liked it so much that it seemed to me that it
couldn’t be the same article that I had read a few weeks prior. Not only did I like what it was saying,
this time around, I even liked the author’s writing style. This may have been due to the fact that I
understood the subject much better and was thus able to read into the author’s intent.
The reason that I did not like the article the first time is because I was biased against it and articles like it.
This stereotype that I held against superstring theory kept me from appreciating it.
This is an example of the positive test strategy as defined by cognitive psychology. Because I expected
the article to be bad, I interpreted it to be bad even though I normally would have liked it.
The positive test strategy is a human tendency that scientists must be well aware of. Often experimenters
are accused of being so biased towards their own hypotheses that they do not properly consider
alternative hypotheses. This encourages them to collect faulty data and disregard factors that might
disprove their ideas. Can you see how such a tendency might affect a non-scientist’s ability to be
It is important for everyone to use introspection and an objective approach to problem solving in order
mitigate the self serving effects of the positive test strategy- and other heuristics like it.
A judgment or decision based on observable phenomena and unbiased by emotion or personal
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