Friday, March 02, 2018

Anecdotal Evidence

From time to time someone will bring up their life experience in an argument and get shot down for it being anecdotal evidence.  I don't like this.


First, the actual definition of anecdotal is "(of an account) not necessarily true or reliable, because based on personal accounts rather than facts or research: "  if you look at the definitions it uses accounts. That is plural, therefore a necessity of more than one account is needed for something to be anecdotal. 


Second and more importantly, when you call a person's experience anecdotal you are diminishing and belittling that person.  By calling their experience anecdotal you are saying that their personal experiences are not worthy of discussion.  It is actually very condescending. 


Third, a lot of research is made up of personal accounts or asking questions of people.  There is no way to know if they are being honest or have an agenda other than just asking a large number of people and getting the average.  For this to be a correct assessment the group needs to be as diverse as possible.  Some research (a majority actually uses statistics, so lets say social research) is basically just anecdotal research. 


I am not saying that personal memory should replace scientific record.   What I am saying is when someone says something that we disagree with based on their personal experiences we tend to say that it is anecdotal and disregard it, but if someone where to say something that we do agree with that is based on their experiences we will use that to support our beliefs and  our hypotheses.  We allow a double standard to occur.


The take away to this is to not discount the experiences of others.  Listen to what they say.  There are three truths, there is my truth, your truth, and the actual truth, but if we actually listen to others and their "anecdotal evidence," we can start to understand them and their belief systems we can see the factors that shade their truth and maybe reveal some that shade our own.  This inspection is the only way to come to real truth. 


But, hey this whole post is anecdotal.



2 comments:

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