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Archive of posts filed under the Decision Theory category.

Is it fair to use Bayesian reasoning to convict someone of a crime?

Ethan Bolker sends along this news article from the Boston Globe: If it doesn’t acquit, it must fit Judges and juries are only human, and as such, their brains tend to see patterns, even if the evidence isn’t all there. In a new study, researchers first presented people with pieces of evidence (a confession, an […]

It’s ok to criticize

I got a little bit of pushback on my recent post, “The difference between ‘significant’ and ‘not significant’ is not itself statistically significant: Education edition”—some commenters felt I was being too hard on the research paper I was discussing, because the research wasn’t all that bad, and the conclusions weren’t clearly wrong, and the authors […]

Don’t move Penn Station

I agree 100% with Henry Grabar on this one. Ever since I heard many years ago about the plan to blog a few billion dollars moving NYC’s Penn Station to a prettier but less convenient location, I’ve grimaced. Big shots really love to spend our money on fancy architecture, don’t they? As I wrote a […]

“Find the best algorithm (program) for your dataset.”

Piero Foscari writes: Maybe you know about this already, but I found it amazingly brutal; while looking for some reproducible research resources I stumbled onto the following at (which would be nice if done properly, at least as a standardization attempt): Find the best algorithm (program) for your dataset. Upload your dataset and run existing programs on it to […]


I’ve spent a lot of time mocking Mark Hauser on this blog, and I still find it annoying that, according to the accounts I’ve seen, he behaved unethically toward his graduate students and lab assistants, he never apologized for manipulating data, and, perhaps most unconscionably, he wasted the lives of who knows how many monkeys […]

An auto-mechanic-style sign for data sharing

Yesterday’s story reminds me of that sign you used to see at the car repair shop: Maybe we need something similar for data access rules: DATA RATES PER HOUR If you want to write a press release for us $ 50.00 If you want to write a new paper using our data $ 90.00 If […]

Hypothesis Testing is a Bad Idea (my talk at Warwick, England, 2pm Thurs 15 Sept)

This is the conference, and here’s my talk (will do Google hangout, just as with my recent talks in Bern, Strasbourg, etc): Hypothesis Testing is a Bad Idea Through a series of examples, we consider problems with classical hypothesis testing, whether performed using classical p-values or confidence intervals, Bayes factors, or Bayesian inference using noninformative […]

Exploration vs. exploitation tradeoff

Alon Levy (link from Palko) looks into “Hyperloop, a loopy intercity rail transit idea proposed by Tesla Motors’ Elon Musk, an entrepreneur who hopes to make a living some day building cars,” and writes: There is a belief within American media that a successful person can succeed at anything. He (and it’s invariably he) is […]

Hokey mas, indeed

Paul Alper writes: The pictures which often accompany your blog are really “inside baseball” and I frequently fail to see the connection to the accompanying text. For example, when I click on today’s picture, I get: This happens to interest me because our granddaughter, who is now two years old and attends a Spanish-speaking daycare, […]

Take that, Bruno Frey! Pharma company busts through Arrow’s theorem, sets new record!

I will tell a story and then ask a question. The story: “Thousands of Americans are alive today because they were luckily selected to be in the placebo arm of the study” Paul Alper writes: As far as I can tell, you have never written about Tambocor (Flecainide) and the so-called CAST study. A locally […]

A day in the life

I like to post approx one item per day on this blog, so when multiple things come up in the same day, I worry about the sustainability of all this. I suppose I could up the posting rate to 2 a day but I think that could be too much of a burden on the […]

Hey pollsters! Poststratify on party ID, or we’re all gonna have to do it for you.

Alan Abramowitz writes: In five days, Clinton’s lead increased from 5 points to 12 points. And Democratic party ID margin increased from 3 points to 10 points. No, I don’t think millions of voters switched to the Democratic party. I think Democrats are were just more likely to respond in that second poll. And, remember, […]

Balancing bias and variance in the design of behavioral studies: The importance of careful measurement in randomized experiments

At Bank Underground: When studying the effects of interventions on individual behavior, the experimental research template is typically: Gather a bunch of people who are willing to participate in an experiment, randomly divide them into two groups, assign one treatment to group A and the other to group B, then measure the outcomes. If you […]

Bayesian inference completely solves the multiple comparisons problem

I promised I wouldn’t do any new blogging until January but I’m here at this conference and someone asked me a question about the above slide from my talk. The point of the story in that slide is that flat priors consistently give bad inferences. Or, to put it another way, the routine use of […]

On deck this week

Mon: One more thing you don’t have to worry about Tues: Evil collaboration between Medtronic and FDA Wed: His varying slopes don’t seem to follow a normal distribution Thurs: A day in the life Fri: Letters we never finished reading Sat: Better to just not see the sausage get made Sun: Oooh, it burns me […]

How schools that obsess about standardized tests ruin them as measures of success

Mark Palko and I wrote this article comparing the Success Academy chain of charter schools to Soviet-era factories: According to the tests that New York uses to evaluate schools, Success Academies ranks at the top of the state — the top 0.3 percent in math and the top 1.5 percent in English, according to the […]

On deck this week

Mon: The history of characterizing groups of people by their averages Tues: Calorie labeling reduces obesity Obesity increased more slowly in California, Seattle, Portland (Oregon), and NYC, compared to some other places in the west coast and northeast that didn’t have calorie labeling Wed: What’s gonna happen in November? Thurs: An ethnographic study of the […]

Will youths who swill Red Bull become adult cocaine addicts?

The above is the question asked to me by Michael Stutzer, who writes: I have attached an increasingly influential paper [“Effects of Adolescent Caffeine Consumption on Cocaine Sensitivity,” by Casey O’Neill, Sophia Levis, Drew Schreiner, Jose Amat, Steven Maier, and Ryan Bachtell] purporting to show the effects of caffeine use in adolescents (well, lab rats […]

On deck this week

Mon: Shameless little bullies claim that published triathlon times don’t replicate Tues: Boostrapping your posterior Wed: You won’t be able to forget this one: Alleged data manipulation in NIH-funded Alzheimer’s study Thurs: Are stereotypes statistically accurate? Fri: Will youths who swill Red Bull become adult cocaine addicts? Sat: Science reporters are getting the picture Sun: […]

The p-value is a random variable

Sam Behseta sends along this paper by Laura Lazzeroni, Ying Lu, and Ilana Belitskaya-Lévy, who write: P values from identical experiments can differ greatly in a way that is surprising to many. The failure to appreciate this wide variability can lead researchers to expect, without adequate justification, that statistically significant findings will be replicated, only […]