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Archive of posts filed under the Miscellaneous Science category.

Wow, just wow. If you think Psychological Science as bad in the 2010-2015 era, you can’t imagine how bad it was back in 1999

Shane Frederick points us to this article from 1999, “Stereotype susceptibility: Identity salience and shifts in quantitative performance,” about which he writes: This is one of the worst papers ever published in Psych Science (which is a big claim, I recognize). It is old, but really worth a look if you have never read it. […]

When does a misunderstanding reach the point where it is recognized to be flat-out ridiculous?

James Lasdun reviews a book by Ariel Sabar telling the story of a conman who sold a fake Bible-related document to a Harvard professor, leading to academic publications and media publicity before the whole thing fell apart. The most amusing of many amusing bits: An Egyptologist at Brown University, Leo Depuydt, found a ‘colossal double […]

Open data and quality: two orthogonal factors of a study

It’s good for a study to have open data, and it’s good for the study to be high quality. If for simplicity we dichotomize these variables, we can find lots of examples in all four quadrants: – Unavailable data, low quality: The notorious ESP paper from 2011 and tons of papers published during that era […]

“Analysis challenges slew of studies claiming ocean acidification alters fish behavior”

Lizzie Wolkovich writes: Here’s an interesting new paper in climate change ecology that states, “Using data simulations, we additionally show that the large effect sizes and small within-group variances that have been reported in several previous studies are highly improbable.” I [Lizzie] wish I were more surprised, but mostly I was impressed they did the […]

“Like a harbor clotted with sunken vessels”: update

A few years ago I reported on this story: In 2005, Michael Kosfeld, Markus Heinrichs, Paul Zak, Urs Fischbacher, and Ernst Fehr published a paper, “Oxytocin increases trust in humans.” According to Google, that paper has been cited 3389 times. In 2015, Gideon Nave, Colin Camerer, and Michael McCullough published a paper, “Does Oxytocin Increase […]

Probabilistic feature analysis of facial perception of emotions

With Michel Meulders, Paul De Boeck, and Iven Van Mechelen, from 2005 (but the research was done several years earlier): According to the hypothesis of configural encoding, the spatial relationships between the parts of the face function as an additional source of information in the facial perception of emotions. The paper analyses experimental data on […]

The 5-sigma rule in physics

Eliot Johnson writes: You’ve devoted quite a few blog posts to challenging orthodox views regarding statistical significance. If there’s been discussion of this as it relates to the 5-sigma rule in physics, then I’ve missed that thread. If not, why not open up a critical discussion about it? Here’s a link to one blog post […]

“The presumption of wisdom and/or virtue causes intellectuals to personalize situations where contending ideas are involved.”

Mark Tuttle writes: A friend recommended the book Intellectuals and Society, by Thomas Sowell. The book is from 2010, but before this recommendation I hadn’t heard of it. Note the last paragraph, below, in the Wikipedia entry: Ego-involvement and personalization The presumption of wisdom and/or virtue causes intellectuals to personalize situations where contending ideas are […]

Lakatos was a Stalinist

Apparently this is well known, it’s just new to me. [Actually, not so new, as this blog post has been sent to the end of the queue twice now, so it will appear about a year after I wrote it. — ed.] Alan Musgrave and Charles Pigden write: After a brilliant school career, during which […]

Earliest Known Uses of Some of the Words of Mathematics

Aki points us to this fun 1990s-style webpage from Jeff Miller. Last year we featured his page on word oddities and other trivia. You might also enjoy his page, Earliest Uses of Various Mathematical Symbols. Here’s an example: The equal symbol (=) was first used by Robert Recorde (c. 1510-1558) in 1557 in The Whetstone […]

Bill James on secondary average

I came across this fun recent post by Bill James, who writes: [Before Moneyball] batting average completely dominated the market, and most baseball executives into the mid-1990s didn’t have the foggiest notion of the difference between an empty batting average and a productive hitter. And you couldn’t explain it to them, because they didn’t understand […]

Is the right brain hemisphere more analog and Bayesian?

Oliver Schultheiss writes: I recently commented one of your posts (I forgot which one) with a reference to evidence suggesting that the right brain hemisphere may be in a better position to handle numbers and probabilistic predictions. Yesterday I came across the attached paper by Filipowicz, Anderson, & Danckert (2016) that may be of some […]

A new idea for a science core course based entirely on computer simulation

Lizzie writes: Thinking on what to do for my now-online stats course next term, I stumbled on your re-post from 2016. And wanted to ask if you or anyone did this (that you know of)? Or if any of your in-development books do lots and lots and lots of simulation? The more I teach fake […]

My thoughts on “What’s Wrong with Social Science and How to Fix It: Reflections After Reading 2578 Papers”

Chetan Chawla and Asher Meir point us to this post by Alvaro de Menard, who writes: Over the past year, I [Menard] have skimmed through 2578 social science papers, spending about 2.5 minutes on each one. What a great beginning! I can relate to this . . . indeed, it roughly describes my experience as […]

How to incorporate new data into our understanding? Sturgis rally example.

A colleague writes: This is a very provocative claim about the Sturgis rally—can you do a stats “fact check”? I’m curious if this has been subjected to statistical scrutiny. I replied that I’m curious why he said this study is provocative: It makes sense that when people get together and connect nodes in the social […]

Meta-meta-science studies

August Wartin asks: Are you are familiar with any (economic) literature that attempts to model academia or the labor market for researchers (or similar), incorporating stuff like e.g. publication bias, researcher degrees of freedom, the garden of forking paths etcetera (and that perhaps also discusses possible proposals/mechanisms to mitigate these problems)? And perhaps you might […]

“How We’re Duped by Data” and how we can do better

Richard Juster points us to this press release by Laura Counts from the business school of the University of California, promoting the work of Leif Nelson, one of the authors of the modern classic paper on “false-positive psychology” and “researcher degrees of freedom.” It’s great to see this sort of work get positive publicity. I […]

We should all routinely criticize our own work.

Kerim Kavakli points me to this blog by psychology researcher Todd Kashdan who goes over his recent career and points to concerns he has with his own published work. I agree with Kavakli that this is a great thing that all of us should be doing. I did not read Kashdan’s examples in detail so […]

Hey! Here’s a cool new book of stories about the collection of social data

  I took a look at a new book, “Research exposed: How empirical social science gets done in the digital age,” edited by Eszter Hargittai and with chapters written by 17 authors, most of whom teach communication at various universities around the world. I don’t know anything about communication as an academic field, so I […]

Sharon Begley

Science journalism has changed a lot in the past thirty years. In the old days, the top science writers (with the exception of Martin Gardner, I guess), were explainers whose job was to report the breakthroughs or purported breakthroughs by purportedly brilliant scientists. There’s still room for this sort of science writing—for example, we want […]