Interpretative biases


Facts do not accumulate on the blank slates of researchers’ minds and data simply do not speak for themselves

Ted J Kaptchuk. 2003
  • Evidence must be interpreted for quality and likelihood of error
  • Interpretation is never completely independent of a scientist’s beliefs, preconceptions, or theoretical commitments
  • Scientific interpretation can lead to sound judgment or interpretative biases; the distinction can often be made only in retrospect
  • The interpretative process is a necessary aspect of science and represents an ignored subjective and human component of rigorous medical inquiry


  • Confirmation bias — evaluating evidence that supports one’s preconceptions differently from evidence that challenges these convictions
  • Rescue bias — discounting data by finding selective faults in the experiment
  • Auxiliary hypothesis bias — introducing ad hoc modifications to imply that an unanticipated finding would have been otherwise had the experimental conditions been different
  • Mechanism bias — being less skeptical when underlying science furnishes credibility for the data
  • “Time will tell” bias — the phenomenon that different scientists need different amounts of confirmatory evidence
  • Orientation bias — the possibility that the hypothesis itself introduces prejudices and errors and becomes a determinate of experimental outcomes

References and Links

Journal articles

CCC 700 6

Critical Care


Chris is an Intensivist and ECMO specialist at the Alfred ICU in Melbourne. He is also a Clinical Adjunct Associate Professor at Monash University. He is a co-founder of the Australia and New Zealand Clinician Educator Network (ANZCEN) and is the Lead for the ANZCEN Clinician Educator Incubator programme. He is on the Board of Directors for the Intensive Care Foundation and is a First Part Examiner for the College of Intensive Care Medicine. He is an internationally recognised Clinician Educator with a passion for helping clinicians learn and for improving the clinical performance of individuals and collectives.

After finishing his medical degree at the University of Auckland, he continued post-graduate training in New Zealand as well as Australia’s Northern Territory, Perth and Melbourne. He has completed fellowship training in both intensive care medicine and emergency medicine, as well as post-graduate training in biochemistry, clinical toxicology, clinical epidemiology, and health professional education.

He is actively involved in in using translational simulation to improve patient care and the design of processes and systems at Alfred Health. He coordinates the Alfred ICU’s education and simulation programmes and runs the unit’s education website, INTENSIVE.  He created the ‘Critically Ill Airway’ course and teaches on numerous courses around the world. He is one of the founders of the FOAM movement (Free Open-Access Medical education) and is co-creator of litfl.com, the RAGE podcast, the Resuscitology course, and the SMACC conference.

His one great achievement is being the father of three amazing children.

On Twitter, he is @precordialthump.

| INTENSIVE | RAGE | Resuscitology | SMACC

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