Wishful Thinking And The Fallacy Of Single-Subject Experimentation

Few elements in the public view of science and medicine rival the romantic image of a scientist drinking a self-concocted potion and risking his or her life to benefit humanity. Recently, K.S. Brown ( The Scientist, Dec. 11, 1995, page 1) outlined the history of self-experimentation in biomedical science. In but two paragraphs, however, was there any suggestion that, apart from being unconventional or potentially dangerous to researchers, self-experimentation as a methodological option might h

Michal Jasie
Mar 3, 1996
Michael Jasienski Few elements in the public view of science and medicine rival the romantic image of a scientist drinking a self-concocted potion and risking his or her life to benefit humanity. Recently, K.S. Brown ( The Scientist, Dec. 11, 1995, page 1) outlined the history of self-experimentation in biomedical science. In but two paragraphs, however, was there any suggestion that, apart from being unconventional or potentially dangerous to researchers, self-experimentation as a methodological option might have weaknesses. Non-objective data analysis is the least of the problems, however.

Experimenting on oneself is subject to an extreme form of the observer's effect, when the observer becomes the observed. Self-observation is not only, as philosophers of science put it, "theory-laden," but also heavily influenced by the subject's mood and yesterday's diet.

One might assert that self-experimentation represents only a minor current in research and as such poses little threat to the overall quality...

Interested in reading more?

Become a Member of

Receive full access to digital editions of The Scientist, as well as TS Digest, feature stories, more than 35 years of archives, and much more!
Already a member?