Issue 2 of Calling Bulls**t
It's easy to fall in the expert trap and believe everything that comes out of the mouth of a scientist. It's just as easy to believe something just because it's based "on a study at [insert University]". And yes, we cite a lot of research at Daily Bits Of, but we always try to think about the following factors before we cite it.
Law of Large Numbers
A larger sample size is a more accurate reflection of the world than a small sample size. If a study only includes a small numbers of participants or trials, it is more likely that anomalies occur. This is why you can't draw any conclusion on the average height of a person in a certain country based on the height of the first ten people you see when you step foot into that country. In the same manner, we should be careful with studies stating "sitting in out in the open makes us less productive" if the study is based on just 20 participants.
Bell Curve/Normal distribution (see image above)
Many traits such as height, IQ, and SAT scores show a normal distribution. This means that there's a central average with increasingly rare deviations from those standards. This ties into the law of large numbers, as the risk of including outliers is greater in small samples.
Who financed the study
Sadly there's a price for everything, including scientific research. This is why you should have a look at who published a study and where they got their funding from. We once read a study on the positive effects tea has on creativity. Digging a bit deeper, we found out that this research was funded by no other than Lipton Tea Company.
The lack of a control group
Good science always includes a control group to which the scientist compares their results. This was just one of the many flaws in the research on the Mozart effect. Physicist Gordon Shaw didn't include a control group, so he shouldn't have concluded that listening to classical music makes you smart when he didn't compare that group to, say, people who looked at a Toblerone for 20 minutes a day.