#BSLbytes #116: Decoding Fake News Part 3

Posted by Chantelle Mackney on

Have you been following our tips for decoding fake news and generally being a smart person? Great! Then here's a POP QUIZ! What do coin tosses have to do with dog bites?

(Scroll down for the answer).

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If you read #BSLbyte #116, we described how chance can influence the outcome of research studies. We used this example: if 50 experimenters flipped a coin 100 times, most of them would get around 50/50 heads and tails. But some would get 70/30 or an even more dramatic ratio.

That's one way a study can come out with dramatic and unexpected results - pure chance. But other times, there are confounding variables. These are unexpected factors that influence the outcome of what you are studying.

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For example, say your hypothesis is that eating Smarties cures a cold. You get a cold on Day One. You eat a lot of Smarties. On Day Five you are 100% better. Did Smarties cure your cold?

Probably not. What are the confounding variables here?
- Time (colds usually go away after five days on their own).
- The cold medicine you took on Day Two.

So we can't say with any degree of confidence that Smarties cured your cold. We'd have to do a lot more research to see if that's true, which includes studying two groups of people who were equally sick. One would eat Smarties, one wouldn't, and we'd see if they recover at the same rate.

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When it comes to breed and dog bite research, there are many possible confounding variables and many concerns with how data is collected and analyzed. For example:

- who is assessing dog breed?
- are they qualified to do so?
- is breed being recorded the same way every time?
- have steps been taken to see if these IDs are accurate?
- how are mixed or unknown breeds accounted for?

A good study will acknowledge any confounding variables and attempt to mitigate them as much as possible.

Can you name other factors that might influence how dog breed data is collected or analyzed?

#endBSL #notoBill128 #Canada150 #BSLbytes

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Source and further reading:

https://www.psychologyinaction.org/psychology-in-action-1/2011/10/30/what-is-a-confounding-variable

https://www.avma.org/KB/Resources/LiteratureReviews/Pages/The-Role-of-Breed-in-Dog-Bite-Risk-and-Prevention.aspx

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#BSLbytes is a joint initiative of Hugabull Advocacy & Rescue Society and Justice for Bullies. 
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For background on the #BSLbytes campaign visit the HugABull blog:http://blog.hugabull.com/take-a-byte-out-of-bsl
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116/150


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