The thread title is lifted directly from this article. I didn't see any way to improve on it.

So apparently, scientists are susceptible to peer pressure and peer-review of studies is an unreliable method of catching errors as they don't take the time to work out all the supporting math.Various factors contribute to the problem. Statistical mistakes are widespread. The peer reviewers who evaluate papers before journals commit to publishing them are much worse at spotting mistakes than they or others appreciate. Professional pressure, competition and ambition push scientists to publish more quickly than would be wise. A career structure which lays great stress on publishing copious papers exacerbates all these problems. “There is no cost to getting things wrong,” says Brian Nosek, a psychologist at the University of Virginia who has taken an interest in his discipline’s persistent errors. “The cost is not getting them published.”

Here's another article I read that serves as a case in point. A man in early retirement decided he wanted to take up psychology. In class when he was taught about the widely accepted idea of positive psychology....

The student was skeptical of that ratio and looked into it more.... and he couldn't get the math to add up. So he contacted a hotshot mathematician to go over the formulas for him. Turns out, it was complete and utter crap....According to the graph, it all came down to a specific ratio of positive emotions to negative emotions. If your ratio was greater than 2.9013 positive emotions to 1 negative emotion you were flourishing in life. If your ratio was less than that number you were languishing.

It was as simple as that. The mysteries of love, happiness, fulfilment, success, disappointment, heartache, failure, experience, random luck, environment, culture, gender, genes, and all the other myriad ingredients that make up a human life could be reduced to the figure of 2.9013.

Losada was the mathematician the original study's author, Fredrickson used to work out her ratio. So what was her reaction to be proven wrong?The Lorenz equation Losada used was from fluid dynamics," says Sokal, "which is not the field that I'm specialised in, but it's elementary enough that any mathematician or physicist knows enough. In 10 seconds I could see it was total bullshit. Nick had written a very long critique and basically it was absolutely right. There were some points where he didn't quite get the math right but essentially Nick had seen everything that was wrong with the Losada and Fredrickson paper."

So, the formula supporting her argument was total garbage.... but she still maintains she's right.Barbara Frederickson, associate editor of American Psychology, accepts the errors in the maths that Nick Brown pointed out, but still stands by her theory of positivity.

Basically, the theory was so well-received and took off so fast that no one in the field had the mathematical expertise of the courage to challenge it. It took a newcomer who wasn't concerned about ruining his career (he was already retired) to challenge it.

Ever wonder why there seems to be so many seemingly contradictory or counter-intuitive studies coming out and grabbing the headlines? Yeah...

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