A new study published in the journal Judgment and Decision Making has shown what most of us already suspected: social scientists are so ga-ga over math that even inserting completely irrelevant, nonsense math into an academic paper earns it higher marks in research quality from academics evaluating it. According to the study’s author, Kimmo Eriksson:
In those disciplines where most researchers do not master mathematics, the use of mathematics may be held in too much awe. To demonstrate this I conducted an online experiment with 200 participants, all of which had experience of reading research reports and a postgraduate degree (in any subject). Participants were presented with the abstracts from two published papers (one in evolutionary anthropology and one in sociology). Based on these abstracts, participants were asked to judge the quality of the research. Either one or the other of the two abstracts was manipulated through the inclusion of an extra sentence taken from a completely unrelated paper and presenting an equation that made no sense in the context. The abstract that included the meaningless mathematics tended to be judged of higher quality. However, this “nonsense math effect” was not found among participants with degrees in mathematics, science, technology….
(Thanks to EconomicPolicyJournal.com.)