She Double-Blinded Me With Science

What the heck IS a double-blind study anyway??

Believe me, I know how easy it is to get bogged down in all the sciencey terminology. Scientific method, Hypothesis, theory, double-blind studies…it’s just enough to make you want to beat your head against a brick wall (otherwise known as <headdesk>). Fledgeling skeptic is here to help.

A double-blind study is : A randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of a medical treatment, some of the participants are given the treatment, others are given fake treatment (placebo), and neither the researchers nor the participants know which is which until the study ends (they are thus both “blind”). The assignment of participants to treatment or placebo is done randomly, perhaps by flipping a coin (hence, “randomized”).

So let’s break this down. Say you have a group of 50 people who have volunteered to test the effectiveness of a new anti-anxiety drug: Fuckitall. The group is broken down into two sections. The first group is given a sugar solution. This is the placebo group. The second group is given a liquid distillation (a shotglass full) of Fuckitall.

In a regular research study, both the researchers and the participants know which group gets what. This can lead to a great deal of bias in the research. This type of study has been shown to be subect to bias by both researchers and participants.

In a single-blind study, only the researchers know which group is getting the real shots of Fuckitall. There is less bias in this type of study. Yet, the researchers, being human, can still tend to be biased in observing and reporting the results.

Thus we have a double-blind study. Neither the participants nor the researchers know who is getting the placebo and who is getting the shots of Fuckitall. The results of the study will have a much lower level of bias than an unblinded or single-blind study.

Double-blind studies can be used for more than just medical research. It is a technique that can be used to research just about anything.

I hope this helps clear up any confusion. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.


1 Comment

  1. Sgerbic said,

    April 10, 2010 at 4:54 pm

    Excellent blog, this topic can be very confusing for people. I love your drug name BTW.

    I must mention that whatever the solution of Fuckitall looks like it must look the same to both groups. I do remember hearing that there have been studies done that look at the shape/size/color of the pill. People get all the same ingredients but with a different look to the pill. I think they discovered that people associate the appearance of the pill to whatever illness it is supposed to be healing. Or maybe they associate the appearance of the pill to the appearance of a pill they took in the past that they got good/bad results on. Confusing, but necessary.

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