By John J Shaughnessy; Eugene B Zechmeister; Jeanne S Zechmeister
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Most people do not attempt to control or eliminate factors that might influence the events they are observing. As a result, we often make incorrect conclusions based on our casual observations. Consider, for instance, the classic case of Clever Hans. Hans was a horse who was said by his owner, a German mathematics teacher, to have amazing talents. ”), give the date, and tell time (Watson, 1914/1967). Hans answered questions by tapping with his forefoot or by pointing with his nose at different alternatives shown to him.
Rather than approaching the claims about paranormal events cautiously, many people accept these claims uncritically. According to public opinion surveys, a large majority of Americans believe in ESP (extrasensory perception), and some people are convinced that beings from outer space have visited Earth. About two in five Americans believe horoscopes are credible, and as many as 12 million adults report changing their behavior after reading astrology reports (Miller, 1986). Such beliefs are held despite minimal and often negative evidence for the validity of horoscopes.
One way to describe this scene is to say that three people are running along a path. You might also describe this scene as three people racing each other. If you use this second description, you are reporting an inference drawn from what you have seen and not just reporting what you have observed. The description of three people running would be preferred in a scientific report. This distinction between description and inference in reporting can be carried to extremes.