The Financial Seminary
But How Do You Know?
"During World War II, the U.S. military surveyed 600,000 soldiers for a research project. Two of its many findings were that better-educated soldiers suffered more psychological distress from their wartime experience than their less-educated comrades and that soldiers from rural areas were happier than those from urban backgrounds. These conclusions are hardly surprising: Effete intellectuals should have trouble handling the stress of war, and farmers more accustomed than city folk to harsh, army-like conditions. What could be more obvious? Grand-standing politicians could easily denounce the entire study--or the entire enterprise of social-science research--as a massive waste of money on the basis of 'discoveries' like these. Wait: change that: The military study actually arrived at the opposite conclusion. The sociologist Paul Lazarsfeld--aiming to show how 'common sense' justifications can be found for almost any conclusions--pulled the switcheroo in a 1949 review of the survey's results. In fact, educated soldiers were less troubled than uneducated ones and urban soldiers were happier than their rural counterparts...[In Everything is Obvious] Duncan Watts uses Lazarsfeld's ruse to frame the central concern that common sense is a shockingly unreliable guide to truth and yet we rely on it virtually to the exclusion of other methods of reasoning. "
The Wall Street Journal, April 9th
Source: The Economist, April 9, 2011 Source: The Economist, April 30, 2011