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Archive of posts filed under the Miscellaneous Science category.

The illusion of the illusion of control

Yesterday we discussed the sad and disturbing career of psychology researcher Ellen Langer, who was was famous (to me) for her 1975 article on the illusion of control, “defined as an expectancy of a personal success probability inappropriately higher than the objective probability would warrant.” And then, in her own research, she herself became subject […]

Ellen Langer: expert on, and victim of, the illusion of control

It all started when Lee Sechrest pointed me to this post by James Coyne. Sechrest wrote: I know you have enough to do, and if you do not get to this…well, no problems. It is a blog by Jim Coyne taking apart a “classic” study in social psychology, originally published in the early ’70s. Implausible […]

James Watson sez: Cancer cure is coming in minus 14 years!

From a recent news article by Laura Helmuth, I learned this amusing fact about DNA-discoverer James Watson: “he told a New York Times reporter 16 years ago that a researcher was ‘going to cure cancer in two years.’” Here’s the link to the NYT story, dated 3 May 1998: Within a year, if all goes […]

Discussion with Steven Pinker connecting cognitive psychology research to the difficulties of writing

Following up on my discussion of Steven Pinker’s writing advice, Pinker and I had an email exchange that cleared up some issues and raised some new ones. In particular, Pinker made a connection between the difficulty of writing and some research findings in cognitive psychology. I think this connection is really cool—I’ve been thinking and […]

How a clever analysis of health survey data became transformed into bogus feel-good medical advice

Jonathan Falk sends a message with the heading, “Garden of forking paths, p value abuse, questionable causality, you name it,” this link to an article in JAMA Internal Medicine, and the following remarks: Unfortunately, I can only see the first page of this article, but it seems to contain all the usual suspects. (a) Forking […]

“The Statistical Crisis in Science”: My talk this Thurs at the Harvard psychology department

Noon Thursday, January 29, 2015, in William James Hall 765 room 1: The Statistical Crisis in Science Andrew Gelman, Dept of Statistics and Dept of Political Science, Columbia University Top journals in psychology routinely publish ridiculous, scientifically implausible claims, justified based on “p < 0.05.” And this in turn calls into question all sorts of […]

When a study fails to replicate: let’s be fair and open-minded

In a recent discussion of replication in science (particularly psychology experiments), the question came up of how to interpret things when a preregistered replication reaches a conclusion different from the original study. Typically the original, published result is large and statistically significant, and the estimate from the replication is small and not statistically significant. One […]

A completely reasonable-sounding statement with which I strongly disagree

In the context of a listserv discussion about replication in psychology experiments, someone wrote: The current best estimate of the effect size is somewhere in between the original study and the replication’s reported value. This conciliatory, split-the-difference statement sounds reasonable, and it might well represent good politics in the context of a war over replications—but […]

Sokal: “science is not merely a bag of clever tricks . . . Rather, the natural sciences are nothing more or less than one particular application — albeit an unusually successful one — of a more general rationalist worldview”

Alan Sokal writes: We know perfectly well that our politicians (or at least some of them) lie to us; we take it for granted; we are inured to it. And that may be precisely the problem. Perhaps we have become so inured to political lies — so hard-headedly cynical — that we have lost our […]

I’d like to see a preregistered replication on this one

Under the heading, “Results too good to be true,” Lee Sechrest points me to this discussion by “Neuroskeptic” of a discussion by psychology researcher Greg Francis of a published (and publicized) claim by biologists Brian Dias and Kerry Ressler that “Parental olfactory experience [in mice] influences behavior and neural structure in subsequent generations.” That’s a […]