Study: Adding Nonsensical Math to a Paper Improves Its Perceived Quality

clockIs math not your strongest subject? Don't let that hold you back when it comes to scholarly publishing. Just shove some complex-looking mathematical expressions into your manuscript. This will improve your chances of getting into print. Kimmo Ericksson reached this conclusion after asking reviewers to examine manuscripts with and without nonsensical math. From his abstract:

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 or medicine.

You can read Ericksson's journal article at the link. It has a lot of math that I don't understand, so it must be excellent.

Link -via VA Viper | Photo: Pop Quiz Clock on sale at the NeatoShop

P.S. Math people, don't get too smug.


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