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Sample the Skeptic's Dictionary

Gerson therapy

Max GersonGerson therapy is the name given to a regimen that claims to be able to cure even severe cases of cancer. The regimen consists of a special diet, coffee enemas, and various supplements. The regimen is named after Max Gerson (1881-1959), a German physician who emigrated to the United States in 1936 and practiced medicine in New York.>>more

sample Mysteries and Science (for kids 9 and up)

Clever Hans

In a nutshell: Clever Hans was a horse that some people thought could do math in his head and understand German. One group of people tested him and found these claims were true. Another scientist tested Hans and found the claims weren't true.

Clever Hans (German: Kluger Hans) was a German horse who seemed to be able to do math problems in his head, tell time, name people, and answer questions by tapping his hoof. When asked to add 3 + 2, Hans would tap his hoof five times. If asked my name, Hans would have tapped twice for 'B', paused, tapped 15 times for 'O', paused, and then tapped twice again.>>more

a blast from the past

Evaluating Personal Experience


Robert Todd Carroll

"...the self is hardly a neutral observer of the world." --Daniel SchacterThe Seven Sins of Memory

Experts in the psychology of human error have long been aware that even highly trained experts are easily misled when they rely on personal experience and informal decision rules to infer the causes of complex events. --Barry Beyerstein

This article is dedicated to the memory of Barry L. Beyerstein

There are sound reasons for preferring the data from randomized, double-blind, controlled experiments to the data provided by anecdotes when we are searching for causes. Even well-educated, highly trained experts are subject to many perceptual, affective, and cognitive biases that lead us into error when evaluating personal experiences. The informal procedures most of us use to decide whether events are causally related are vastly inferior to formal rules such as Mill's methods. The formal rules aren't infallible and can be misapplied but they are orders of magnitude more reliable than naive sense perception, unaided memory, or so-called intuition. Formal methods of causal analysis are necessary even if we do not have an emotional, doctrinal, or monetary stake in the acceptance of a particular causal claim. Many of our beliefs are driven by our biases and are generated for their comfort-value rather than for their truth-value. Formal methods of causal analysis are especially  necessary when the causal claim is not particularly comforting or attractive. All things being equal, the more impersonal and detached we are in evaluating potential causal events, the less likely error becomes.>>more



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