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Don't Contaminate The Samples

Mistake Much

Have you ever had a moment when you realize you just messed up? I can relate to that. I had plans for a project where I would analyze some hand writing samples and before I began I made a critical mistake. For the original project and post, click here. Let me tell you about what happened and how my mistake could help you in your daily life.

What I Wrote

I wrote the words "I love to eat cheesecake" on a piece of paper as well as my signature. That top line is mine. I asked participants to write down the same sentence and sign the paper with their signature. This was a mistake. I had misspelled the word, cheesecake and unfortunately many others imitated my mistake. The first person to correct the mistake was seventh from the top. By misspelling a word, I may have inadvertently influenced others spelling. Vice versa could be true also. Had I spelled the word correctly, I'm sure the spelling of the word "cheesecake" would have been correct. The best way to gather these samples, would have been to ask the participants to write on their own piece of paper the sentence displayed in the picture. This would have ensured that their own spelling of the words, font sizes, etc... was uniquely their own.

Extra Data I Missed (Smell & Taste)

Additionally, there were two pieces of data that I could have taken from the samples, had I thought about it before hand. When you are trying to find information about people, there are many things you can learn about them by paying attention to all of your senses. Scent and taste are the two senses that I am referencing here. Had I asked the participants to sign their own papers I could have taken their samples and, as strange as this may sound, I could have tasted and smelled the paper for any pieces of data about who the person is. For example, how can you tell if someone smokes? Of course you can observe a person smoking. That's one way. You could see if they have cigarette remains somewhere near their property. That's another way. But one of the easiest ways to detect if someone is a smoker is to smell the smoke deposits. Smoke has lingering residue and deposits which, if you are observant enough you can smell. The residue attaches to items, including paper. Yes, by having the writers separate their samples, I could have smelled their papers to detect if they smoked. But, smoke isn't the only smell that lingers, so does perfume and other fragrances. Additionally the taste of the paper could have told you additional pieces of data.

Take Aways

A valuable lesson I learned is, I need to think about how I gather information. Being deliberate and intentional about how I gather data is going to be critical when I want to make accurate deductions. But how can you use this information? I think this is universal, but we all need to be very careful when we make plans to understanding something. We need to be aware that our own presence can influence any outcome we expect. Keeping this in mind, we can get data that isn't driven by our influence and we can hope for more meaningful data extraction.

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