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“The Truth Wears Off” Article Analysis

Scientific Method

The article “The Truth Wears Off” is written by John Lehrer and published in The New Yorker. The article suggests that the scientific method of discovery has limitations as often the established truth or the facts found through research lose credibility over time. Quoting numerous research studies related to the field of psychology and medicine, Lehrer explains that researchers often fail to generate similar results when replicating the study and the results are often in a decline. Joseph Banks Rhine termed this a decline effect which diminished the results over time. This decline effect is attributed to publication bias as scientists and journals often prefer positive results over null outcomes. This publication bias was identified by Theodore Sterling who observed that an unrealistically high number of psychological studies had proven their hypothesis. While publication bias is one explanation, many attribute selective reporting to unreliable results. This selective reporting is based on unconscious misinterpretations and subtle omissions as the researchers strive to give meaning to their work.

The problem of selective reporting is embedded in humans as a cognitive flaw of proving themselves right. However, the implications of such exaggerated results, especially in the field of biomedicine are far-reaching. It is, therefore, imperative that researchers ensure rigor in the process of data collection before publishing the study. The current design of the research is flawed as it makes the scientist obsessed with replicability rather than being focused on the problem at hand. Researchers must ensure transparency of their study, defining the number of subjects and what they intend to test. The scientific method has always been deemed as a reliable method however if the current practices of replicating original results continue just to conform with the established truths then research would lose its true purpose (Lehrer, 2010).


Lehrer, J. (2010, December 5). The Truth Wears Off. The New Yorker.



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