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Archive of posts filed under the Miscellaneous Science category.

A small, underpowered treasure trove?

Benjamin Kirkup writes: As you sometimes comment on such things; I’m forwarding you a journal editorial (in a society journal) that presents “lessons learned” from an associated research study. What caught my attention was the comment on the “notorious” design, the lack of “significant” results, and the “interesting data on nonsignificant associations.” Apparently, the work […]

Two unrelated topics in one post: (1) Teaching useful algebra classes, and (2) doing more careful psychological measurements

Kevin Lewis and Paul Alper send me so much material, I think they need their own blogs. In the meantime, I keep posting the stuff they send me, as part of my desperate effort to empty my inbox. 1. From Lewis: “Should Students Assessed as Needing Remedial Mathematics Take College-Level Quantitative Courses Instead? A Randomized […]

“The Pitfall of Experimenting on the Web: How Unattended Selective Attrition Leads to Surprising (Yet False) Research Conclusions”

Kevin Lewis points us to this paper by Haotian Zhou and Ayelet Fishbach, which begins: The authors find that experimental studies using online samples (e.g., MTurk) often violate the assumption of random assignment, because participant attrition—quitting a study before completing it and getting paid—is not only prevalent, but also varies systemically across experimental conditions. Using […]

“I thought it would be most unfortunate if a lab . . . wasted time and effort trying to replicate our results.”

Mark Palko points us to this news article by George Dvorsky: A Harvard research team led by biologist Douglas Melton has retracted a promising research paper following multiple failed attempts to reproduce the original findings. . . . In June 2016, the authors published an article in the open access journal PLOS One stating that […]

Applying statistical thinking to the search for extraterrestrial intelligence

Thomas Basbøll writes: A statistical question has been bugging me lately. I recently heard that Yuti Milner has donated 100 millions dollars to 10-year search for extraterrestrial intelligence. I’m not very practiced in working out probability functions but I thought maybe you or your readers would find it easy and fun to do this. Here’s […]

Designing an animal-like brain: black-box “deep learning algorithms” to solve problems, with an (approximately) Bayesian “consciousness” or “executive functioning organ” that attempts to make sense of all these inferences

The journal Behavioral and Brain Sciences will be publishing this paper, “Building Machines That Learn and Think Like People,” by Brenden Lake, Tomer Ullman, Joshua Tenenbaum, and Samuel Gershman. Here’s the abstract: Recent progress in artificial intelligence (AI) has renewed interest in building systems that learn and think like people. Many advances have come from […]

Science journalist recommends going easy on Bigfoot, says you should bash of mammograms instead

Paul Alper points us to this transcribed lecture by John Horgan. It’s a talk Horgan gave to a conference on Science and Skepticism, which began: I [Horgan] am a science journalist. I don’t celebrate science, I criticize it, because science needs critics more than cheerleaders. I point out gaps between scientific hype and reality. That […]

The social world is (in many ways) continuous but people’s mental models of the world are Boolean

Raghu Parthasarathy points me to this post and writes: I wrote after seeing one too many talks in which someone bases boolean statements about effects “existing” or “not existing” (infuriating in itself) based on “p < 0.05” or “p > 0.5”. Of course, you’ve written tons of great things on the pitfalls, errors, and general […]

How can you evaluate a research paper?

Shea Levy writes: You ended a post from last month [i.e., Feb.] with the injunction to not take the fact of a paper’s publication or citation status as meaning anything, and instead that we should “read each paper on its own.” Unfortunately, while I can usually follow e.g. the criticisms of a paper you might […]

“A bug in fMRI software could invalidate 15 years of brain research”

About 50 people pointed me to this press release or the underlying PPNAS research article, “Cluster failure: Why fMRI inferences for spatial extent have inflated false-positive rates,” by Anders Eklund, Thomas Nichols, and Hans Knutsson, who write: Functional MRI (fMRI) is 25 years old, yet surprisingly its most common statistical methods have not been validated […]

Happiness formulas

Jazi Zilber writes: Have you heard of “the happiness formula”? Lyubomirsky at al. 2005. Happiness = 0.5 genetic, 0.1 circumstances, 0.4 “intentional activity” They took the 0.4 unexplained variance and argued it is “intentional activity” Cited hundreds of times by everybody. The absurd is, to you even explaining it is unneeded. For others, I do […]

Recently in the sister blog and elsewhere

Why it can be rational to vote (see also this by Robert Wiblin, “Why the hour you spend voting is the most socially impactful of all”) Be skeptical when polls show the presidential race swinging wildly The polls of the future will be reproducible and open source Testing the role of convergence in language acquisition, […]

How not to analyze noisy data: A case study

I was reading Jenny Davidson’s blog and came upon this note on an autobiography of the eccentric (but aren’t we all?) biologist Robert Trivers. This motivated me, not to read Trivers’s book, but to do some googling which led me to this paper from Plos-One, “Revisiting a sample of U.S. billionaires: How sample selection and […]

The Psychological Science stereotype paradox

Lee Jussim, Jarret Crawford, and Rachel Rubinstein just published a paper in Psychological Science that begins, Are stereotypes accurate or inaccurate? We summarize evidence that stereotype accuracy is one of the largest and most replicable findings in social psychology. We address controversies in this literature, including the long-standing and continuing but unjustified emphasis on stereotype […]

The never-back-down syndrome and the fundamental attribution error

David Allison told me about a frustrating episode in which he published a discussion where he pointed out problems with a published paper, and the authors replied with . . . not even a grudging response, they didn’t give an inch, really ungracious behavior. No “Thank you for finding our errors”; instead they wrote: We […]

I refuse to blog about this one

Shravan points me to this article, Twitter Language Use Reflects Psychological Differences between Democrats and Republicans, which begins with the following self-parody of an abstract: Previous research has shown that political leanings correlate with various psychological factors. While surveys and experiments provide a rich source of information for political psychology, data from social networks can […]

The new quantitative journalism

The first of the breed was Bill James. But now we have a bunch: Felix Salmon, Nate Silver, Amanda Cox, Carl Bialik, . . . . I put them in a different category than traditional science journalists such as Malcolm Gladwell, Gina Kolata, Stephen Dubner who are invested in the “scientist as hero” story, or […]

“Brief, decontextualized instances of colaughter”

Bill Jefferys points me to this news article and writes: Looks at first glance like another NPR example of poor statistics, but who knows? I took a look and here were my thoughts, in order of occurrence: NPR . . . PPNAS . . . Also this: “the results were consistent across all the societies […]

Better to just not see the sausage get made

Mike Carniello writes: This article in the NYT leads to the full text, in which these statement are buried (no pun intended): What is the probability that two given texts were written by the same author? This was achieved by posing an alternative null hypothesis H0 (“both texts were written by the same author”) and […]

Things that sound good but aren’t quite right: Art and research edition

There are a lot of things you can say that sound very sensible but, upon reflection, are missing something. For example consider this blog comment from Chris G: Years ago I heard someone suggest these three questions for assessing a work of art: 1. What was the artist attempting to do? 2. Were they successful? […]