Janelia Research Campus

Data supporting "Believing is seeing – the deceptive influence of bias in quantitative microscopy"

Posted on 2023-12-20 - 20:23 authored by Rachel Lee

The visual allure of microscopy makes it an intuitively powerful research tool. Intuition, however, can easily obscure or distort the reality of the information contained in an image. Common cognitive biases, combined with institutional pressures that reward positive research results, can quickly skew a microscopy project towards upholding, rather than rigorously challenging, a hypothesis. The impact of these biases on a variety of research topics is well known. What may be less appreciated are the many forms in which bias can permeate a microscopy experiment. Even well-intentioned researchers are susceptible to bias, which must therefore be actively recognized to be mitigated. Importantly, while image quantification has increasingly become an expectation, ostensibly to confront subtle biases, it is not a guarantee against bias and cannot alone shield an experiment from cognitive distortions. Here, we provide illustrative examples of the insidiously pervasive nature of bias in microscopy experiments—from initial experimental design to image acquisition, analysis, and data interpretation. We then provide suggestions that can serve as guard rails against bias.


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Howard Hughes Medical Institute

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