You Are The Experiment; Your Behavior is the Data

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ResearcherLast week I gave 5 talks in 4 days; two to faculty at UC Berkeley and two to graduate students at the same institution.  The fifth was a talk at Stanford to the engineering graduate students.  Although it sounds like a marathon, it turned out to be a perfectly delightful experience, because of the people in the audiences and their enthusiasm for what I had to say.  This is one of the phrases that I ended up saying to them repeatedly in response to certain questions:

“You are the experiment; your behavior is the data.”

Let me explain what I meant by that.  But first, for you non-science types, let me review with two sentences.  Every experiment involves a hypothesis.  You test the hypothesis by getting data.

For example, you wonder which food ants prefer; honey or sugar.  You may hypothesize that they prefer sugar, because ants don’t want to get stuck in the honey.  You put out the honey and sugar, and count the number of hungry ants that run to each food.  Their behavior is the data.  It’s not bad or good, it’s just a fact.  (I actually have no idea which one ants prefer.  If they’re on a diet, they eat Stevia.)

Most people see their own behavior as good or bad.  “I didn’t write, therefore I’m bad/lazy/unfocused/good-for-nothing.”  This is not good for you.  Instead of judging yourself, I’d like to help you see your behavior as data, just like the ants’ behavior was data.

Why does it matter how you see your behavior?

Read the reason why on our blog:

**Warning:  Shameless Plug Alert:

Join the Academic Writing Club.  It will give you the ongoing encouragement, gentle nudges, and a group of supportive colleagues to help you get clear that You are the experiment, and your behavior is the data.  Joining the writing club will help you get real about your work and get on with it.

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