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Exploration, discovery, and adventure:

The Semmelweis effect and confirmation bias


Exploration, discovery, and adventure are at the core of our being, but only those tolerant of calculated risk and accepting of change will embark. Another aspect, however, that is not generally considered is: How your finding, discovery, or act of adventure will be received. They say, under no circumstance tell others when you are preparing a new concept, have made a fresh new discovery, or are embarking on a new venture. Why is this? Because invariably, someone will ask, what if, what about, but how, or a similar injection of a rude reality that tends to dampen the excitement, the unfettered energy, the dogged attention.

Yet, such cautions and resistance tend not to constrain those who dare to dream and those who are unfettered in the search for whatever they are inspired to pursue.


How do you know when you have discovered something?

For this we must consider confirmation bias as well as the Semmelweis effect.

"The scientific [person] does not aim at an immediate result. [They do] not expect that [their] advanced ideas will be readily taken up. [Their] work is like that of the planter — for the future. [Their] duty is to lay the foundation for those who are to come and point the way." — Nikola Tesla

The Semmelweis Effect

A variety of biases may enter the picture when attempting to learn new things, to cover new ground, to think outside the box. Confirmation bias is one, but one less discussed is the Semmelweis Effect, that is, the tendency to adhere to existing ideas  in the face of new evidence or new knowledge. This leads some to reject anything that is new. Since new (at least to us) this is the point of adventure, discovery, and exploration it is important to understand this phenomenon, whether one desires to keep these aspects quiet and personal or to proclaim them to the world.

Vision &
confirmation bias

Confirmation bias results when you set out to prove something and then find evidence to that effect, and then believe yourself, without adequate critical consideration.

While realistically, most people start out trying to prove something, it is important that one not unconsciously or even consciously reject all information that is not consistent with your impressions. Rigorous researchers look at the data, consider other evidence that is consistent with the new data or that refute it, and then work to fit the pieces together (assessing the fit). They then accept the finding or move on to a revision of that idea or on to another theory, that can then be tested and ultimately accepted if all the evidence from different sources align. If one has an agenda, it distorts the process, blinds them to the other sources of evidence, and the researcher may stop short of finding a more accurate answer.

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