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Day 308: Streetlight Effect

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As a researcher one needs to be careful about what we 'search' for and what we 'find'. As a social scientist, it is a hard job to make sure I am not going just too narrow in my vision than what is required for my focus. These observational biases is not uncommon in the scientific world and is usually called as the 'Streetlight effect'. What it means is that you look only for something at a place where you believe it is found or where it is the easiest to find. Abraham Kaplan, an American philosopher also used an interesting story to illustrate this effect.

I will illustrate this story here in my words. Once a man was searching for something by the roadside. A policeman stopped by and asked him as to what he was looking for. The man told him that he lost his wallet and was looking for it. So, the policeman again checked if he was sure that was the place where he lost it. To this the man replied that it could be anywhere on that street. Now the policeman was surprised and asked as to why was he then just standing in one place and looking for it there. The man replied that that was the only spot where there was light (the streetlight) and hence, he kept looking there. 

This is what is called the streetlight effect where we look for something only at one place just because that is the only convenient place to look for. This story is not only of value to researchers and the scientific community, but makes sense from a philosophical stance too. Let us stop looking at only what is 'convenient' for us. Let us look for the 'truth'. Let us not stick to only where we can see the light. A light should lead us and not just hold us to a place. Let the light lead on..... 
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