The winner takes it all


People often conduct visual searches in which multiple targets are possible (e.g., medical x-rays can contain multiple abnormalities). In this type of search, observers are more likely to miss a second target after having found a first one.

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The streetlight effect, or the drunkard’s search principle, is a type of observational bias that occurs when people only search for something where it is easiest to look.

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Modern scientific instruments can extensively process “observations” before they are presented to the human senses, and particularly with computerized instruments, there is sometimes a question as to where in the data processing chain “observing” ends and “drawing conclusions” begins. This has recently become an issue with digitally enhanced images published as experimental data in papers in scientific journals. The images are enhanced to bring out features that the researcher wants to emphasize, but this also has the effect of supporting the researcher’s conclusions.

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related { Errors/Biases in Clinical Decision Making }

photo { Richard Avedon, Christy Turlington for Revlon, 1990 }