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Archive of posts filed under the Sociology category.

Maybe this paper is a parody, maybe it’s a semibluff

Peter DeScioli writes: I was wondering if you saw this paper about people reading Harry Potter and then disliking Trump, attached. It seems to fit the shark attack genre. In this case, the issue seems to be judging causation from multiple regression with observational data, assuming that control variables are enough to narrow down to […]

American Democracy and its Critics

I just happened to come across this article of mine from 2014: it’s a review published in the American Journal of Sociology of the book “American Democracy,” by Andrew Perrin. My review begins: Actually-existing democracy tends to have support in the middle of the political spectrum but is criticized on the two wings. I like […]

It seemed to me that most destruction was being done by those who could not choose between the two

Amateurs, dilettantes, hacks, cowboys, clones — Nick Cave [Note from Dan 11Sept: I wanted to leave some clear air after the StanCon reminder, so I scheduled this post for tomorrow. Which means you get two posts (one from me, one from Andrew) on this in two days. That’s probably more than the gay face study deserves.] […]

God, goons, and gays: 3 quick takes

Next open blog spots are in April but all these are topical so I thought I’d throw them down right now for ya. 1. Alex Durante writes: I noticed that this study on how Trump supporters respond to racial cues is getting some media play, notably over at Vox. I was wondering if you have […]

Selection bias in the reporting of shaky research: An example

On 30 Dec 2016, a reporter wrote: I was wondering if you’d have some time to look at an interesting embargoed study coming out next week in JAMA Internal Medicine, which seeks to show that gun violence is a social contagion. I know that a few years ago, social contagion studies were controversial and I’m […]

Causal identification + observational study + multilevel model

Sam Portnow writes: I am attempting to model the impact of tax benefits on children’s school readiness skills. Obviously, benefits themselves are biased, so I am trying to use the doubling of the maximum allowable additional child tax credit in 2003 to get an unbiased estimate of benefits. I was initially planning to attack this […]

Robert Gelman, 1923-2017

Bob Gelman, beloved husband of Jane for 67 years, proud father of Alan, Nancy, Susan, and Andy, and adoring grandparent of Stephanie, Noah, Adam, Jamie, Ben, Zacky, Jakey, and Sophie, passed away peacefully on the morning of 27 Aug 2017 at the age of 94. A child of immigrants, Bob grew up playing stickball in […]

Using statistical prediction (also called “machine learning”) to potentially save lots of resources in criminal justice

John Snow writes: Just came across this paper [Human Decisions and Machine Predictions, by Jon Kleinberg, Himabindu Lakkaraju, Jure Leskovec, Jens Ludwig, and Sendhil Mullainathan] and I’m wondering if you’ve been following the debate/discussion around these criminal justice risk assessment tools. I haven’t read it carefully or fully digested the details. On the surface, their […]

Publish your raw data and your speculations, then let other people do the analysis: track and field edition

There seems to be an expectation in science that the people who gather a dataset should also be the ones who analyze it. But often that doesn’t make sense: what it takes to gather relevant data has little to do with what it takes to perform a reasonable analysis. Indeed, the imperatives of analysis can […]

“Babbage was out to show that not only was the system closed, with a small group controlling access to the purse strings and the same individuals being selected over and again for the few scientific honours or paid positions that existed, but also that one of the chief beneficiaries . . . was undeserving.”

Fernando Martel Garcia writes: Here’s an early reference from the Victorian Age. Enjoy! It’s a news article by Rebekah Higgitt called “Fraud and the decline of science,” subtitled, “Charles Babbage’s accusations of fraudulent science underlined his attack on scientific governance, but were also bitterly personal.” My reply: Wow! I think I’m on Babbage’s side on […]

Consider seniority of authors when criticizing published work?

Carol Nickerson writes: I’ve written my fair share of letters to the editor and commentaries over the years, most of them languishing in the file drawer. It used to be impossible to get them published. The situation has improved a bit, but not enough. In any case, I never think about the sex of the […]

Giving feedback indirectly by invoking a hypothetical reviewer

Ethan Bolker points us to this discussion on “How can I avoid being “the negative one” when giving feedback on statistics?”, which begins: Results get sent around a group of biological collaborators for feedback. Comments come back from the senior members of the group about the implications of the results, possible extensions, etc. I look […]

“Explaining recent mortality trends among younger and middle-aged White Americans”

Kevin Lewis sends along this paper by Ryan Masters, Andrea Tilstra, and Daniel Simon, who write: Recent research has suggested that increases in mortality among middle-aged US Whites are being driven by suicides and poisonings from alcohol and drug use. Increases in these ‘despair’ deaths have been argued to reflect a cohort-based epidemic of pain […]

Letter to the Editor of Perspectives on Psychological Science

[relevant cat picture] tl;dr: Himmicane in a teacup. Back in the day, the New Yorker magazine did not have a Letters to the Editors column, and so the great Spy magazine (the Gawker of its time) ran its own feature, Letters to the Editor of the New Yorker, where they posted the letters you otherwise […]

It’s not “lying” exactly . . . What do you call it when someone deliberately refuses to correct an untruth?

New York Times columnist Bret Stephens tells the story. First the background: On Thursday I interviewed Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo on a public stage . . . There was one sour moment. Midway through the interview, Pompeo abruptly slammed The New York Times for publishing the name last month of a senior covert […]

Iceland education gene trend kangaroo

Someone who works in genetics writes: You may have seen the recent study in PNAS about genetic prediction of educational attainment in Iceland. the authors report in a very concerned fashion that every generation the attainment of education as predicted from genetics decreases by 0.1 standard deviations. This sounds bad. But consider that the University […]

“The ‘Will & Grace’ Conjecture That Won’t Die” and other stories from the blogroll

From sociologist Jay Livingston: The “Will & Grace” Conjecture That Won’t Die From sociologist David Weakliem: Why does Trump try to implement the unpopular ideas he’s proposed, and not the popular ideas? History professor who wrote award-winning book about 1970-era crime, is misinformed about the history of 1970s-era crime “West Virginia, which was a lock […]

Daryl Bem and Arthur Conan Doyle

Daniel Engber wrote an excellent news article on the replication crisis, offering a historically-informed perspective similar to my take in last year’s post, “What has happened down here is the winds have changed.” The only thing I don’t like about Engber’s article is its title, “Daryl Bem Proved ESP Is Real. Which means science is […]

Why they aren’t behavioral economists: Three sociologists give their take on “mental accounting”

Nina Bandelj, Fred Wherry, and Viviana Zelizer write: Rather than retreat to disciplinary corners, let us begin by affirming our respect for the generative work undertaken across a variety of disciplines. We’re all talking money, so it is helpful to specify what’s similar and what’s different when we do. . . . In this post, […]

“Furthermore, there are forms of research that have reached such a degree of complexity in their experimental methodology that replicative repetition can be difficult.”

[cat picture] Shravan Vasishth writes: The German NSF (DFG) has recently published a position paper on replicability, which contains the following explosive statement (emphasis mine in the quote below). The first part of their defence against replicability is reasonable: some experiments can never be repeated under the same conditions (e.g., volcanic eruptions etc). But if […]