Skip to content
Archive of posts filed under the Miscellaneous Science category.

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? […]

An ethnographic study of the “open evidential culture” of research psychology

Claude Fischer points me to this paper by David Peterson, “The Baby Factory: Difficult Research Objects, Disciplinary Standards, and the Production of Statistical Significance,” which begins: Science studies scholars have shown that the management of natural complexity in lab settings is accomplished through a mixture of technological standardization and tacit knowledge by lab workers. Yet […]

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 […]

Are stereotypes statistically accurate?

Apparently there’s a debate in psychology about the accuracy of stereotypes. Lin Bian and Andrei Cimpian write: In his book Social Perception and Social Reality, Lee Jussim suggests that people’s beliefs about various groups (i.e., their stereotypes) are largely accurate. We unpack this claim using the distinction between generic and statistical beliefs—a distinction supported by […]

“What can recent replication failures tell us about the theoretical commitments of psychology?”

Psychology/philosophy professor Stan Klein was motivated by our power pose discussion to send along this article which seems to me to be a worthy entry in what I’ve lately been calling “the literature of exasperation,” following in the tradition of Meehl etc. I offer one minor correction. Klein writes, “I have no doubt that the […]

Call for research on California water resources

Patrick Atwater writes: I serve as a project manager of the California Data Collaborative, a coalition of water utilities working together to share data and ensure water reliability. We’ve put together a quick call for ideas on studies into the demand effects of water rates leveraging this unique database. California’s water world is highly fragmented […]

“Children seek historical traces of owned objects”

Recently in the sister blog: An object’s mental representation includes not just visible attributes but also its nonvisible history. The present studies tested whether preschoolers seek subtle indicators of an object’s history, such as a mark acquired during its handling. Five studies with 169 children 3–5 years of age and 97 college students found that […]

You can post social science papers on the new SocArxiv

I learned about it from this post by Elizabeth Popp Berman. The temporary SocArxiv site is here. It is connected to the Open Science Framework, which we’ve heard a lot about in discussions of preregistration. You can post your papers at SocArxiv right away following these easy steps: Send an email to the following address(es) […]

“Most notably, the vast majority of Americans support criminalizing data fraud, and many also believe the offense deserves a sentence of incarceration.”

Justin Pickett sends along this paper he wrote with Sean Roche: Data fraud and selective reporting both present serious threats to the credibility of science. However, there remains considerable disagreement among scientists about how best to sanction data fraud, and about the ethicality of selective reporting. OK, let’s move away from asking scientists. Let’s ask […]