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Don’t Let Math Pull the Wool Over Your Eyes

A recent experiment, highlighted in the WSJ, proves many people, including holders of graduate degrees and professional researchers, are easily impressed by math.

“Math makes a research paper look solid, but the real science lies not in math but in trying one's utmost to understand the real workings of the world,” Prof. Eriksson (a mathematician and researcher of social psychology at Sweden's Mälardalen University) said.

Prof. Eriksson's finding, published in November in the journal Judgment and Decision Making under the title “The Nonsense Math Effect,” is preliminary but unfortunately not surprising, other researchers said. It documents a familiar effect, said Daniel Kahneman, professor emeritus of psychology and public affairs at Princeton University. “People who know math understand what other mortals understand, but other mortals do not understand them. This asymmetry gives them a presumption of superior ability.