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The nonsense math effect
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Centre for Cultural Evolution. Mälardalen University, Sweden.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-7164-0924
Number of Authors: 12012 (English)In: Judgment and decision making, ISSN 1930-2975, E-ISSN 1930-2975, Vol. 7, no 6, p. 746-749Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

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

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2012. Vol. 7, no 6, p. 746-749
Keywords [en]
unintelligibility, mathematics, humanities, social science, quality of research
National Category
Psychology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-162389ISI: 000311892400007OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-162389DiVA, id: diva2:1287785
Available from: 2019-02-12 Created: 2019-02-12 Last updated: 2019-02-12Bibliographically approved

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