Skip to content
Archive of posts filed under the Sociology category.

Fitting multilevel models when predictors and group effects correlate

Ryan Bain writes: I came across your ‘Fitting Multilevel Models When Predictors and Group Effects Correlate‘ paper that you co-authored with Dr. Bafumi and read it with great interest. I am a current postgraduate student at the University of Glasgow writing a dissertation examining explanations of Euroscepticism at the individual and country level since the […]

What should this student do? His bosses want him to p-hack and they don’t even know it!

Someone writes: I’m currently a PhD student in the social sciences department of a university. I recently got involved with a group of professors working on a project which involved some costly data-collection. None of them have any real statistical prowess, so they came to me to perform their analyses, which I was happy to […]

“A mixed economy is not an economic abomination or even a regrettably unavoidable political necessity but a natural absorbing state,” and other notes on “Whither Science?” by Danko Antolovic

So. I got this email one day, promoting a book that came with the following blurb: Whither Science?, by Danko Antolovic, is a series of essays that explore some of the questions facing modern science. A short read at only 41 pages, Whither Science? looks into the fundamental questions about the purposes, practices and future […]

Planet of the hominids? We wanna see this exposition.

It would be interesting if someone were to make an exhibit for a museum showing the timeline of humans and hominids, and under that showing children’s toys and literature, showing how these guys were represented in popular media. It probably already exists, right? P.S. I feel kinda bad that this bumped Dan’s more important, statistically-related […]

The Night Riders

Retraction Watch linked to this paper, “Publication bias and the canonization of false facts,” by Silas Nissen, Tali Magidson, Kevin Gross, and Carl Bergstrom, and which is in the Physics and Society section of Arxiv which is kind of odd since it has nothing whatsoever to do with physics. Nissen et al. write: In the […]

Post-publication review succeeds again! (Two-lines edition.)

A couple months ago, Uri Simonsohn posted online a suggested statistical method for detecting nonmonotonicity in data. He called it: “Two-lines: The First Valid Test of U-Shaped Relationships.” With a title like that, I guess you’re asking for it. And, indeed, awhile later I received an email from Yair Heller identifying some problems with Uri’s […]

More thoughts on that “What percent of Americans would you say are gay or lesbian?” survey

We had some discussion yesterday about this Gallup poll that asked respondents to guess the percentage of Americans who are gay. The average response was 23%—and this stunningly high number was not just driven by outliers: more than half the respondents estimated the proportion gay as 20% or more. All this is in stark contrast […]

“Americans Greatly Overestimate Percent Gay, Lesbian in U.S.”

This sort of thing is not new but it’s still amusing. From a Gallup report by Frank Newport: The American public estimates on average that 23% of Americans are gay or lesbian, little changed from Americans’ 25% estimate in 2011, and only slightly higher than separate 2002 estimates of the gay and lesbian population. These […]

Using Mister P to get population estimates from respondent driven sampling

From one of our exams: A researcher at Columbia University’s School of Social Work wanted to estimate the prevalence of drug abuse problems among American Indians (Native Americans) living in New York City. From the Census, it was estimated that about 30,000 Indians live in the city, and the researcher had a budget to interview […]

In the open-source software world, bug reports are welcome. In the science publication world, bug reports are resisted, opposed, buried.

Mark Tuttle writes: If/when the spirit moves you, you should contrast the success of the open software movement with the challenge of published research. In the former case, discovery of bugs, or of better ways of doing things, is almost always WELCOMED. In some cases, submitters of bug reports, patches, suggestions, etc. get “merit badges” […]

I think it’s great to have your work criticized by strangers online.

Brian Resnick writes: I’m hoping you could help me out with a Vox.com story I’m looking into. I’ve been reading about the debate over how past work should be criticized and in what forums. (I’m thinking of the Susan Fiske op-ed against using social media to “bully” authors of papers that are not replicating. But […]

Does traffic congestion make men beat up their wives?

Max Burton-Chellew writes: I thought this paper and news story (links fixed) might be worthy of your blog? I’m no stats expert, far from it, but this paper raised some alarms for me. If the paper is fine then sorry for wasting your time, if it’s terrible then sorry for ruining your day! Why alarms […]

“La critique est la vie de la science”: I kinda get annoyed when people set themselves up as the voice of reason but don’t ever get around to explaining what’s the unreasonable thing they dislike.

Someone pointed me to a blog post, Negative Psychology, from 2014 by Jim Coan about the replication crisis in psychology. My reaction: I find it hard to make sense of what he is saying because he doesn’t offer any examples of the “negative psychology” phenomenon that he discussing. I kinda get annoyed when people set […]

Beyond “power pose”: Using replication failures and a better understanding of data collection and analysis to do better science

So. A bunch of people pointed me to a New York Times article by Susan Dominus about Amy Cuddy, the psychology researcher and Ted-talk star famous for the following claim (made in a paper written with Dana Carney and Andy Yap and published in 2010): That a person can, by assuming two simple 1-min poses, […]

From perpetual motion machines to embodied cognition: The boundaries of pseudoscience are being pushed back into the trivial.

This exchange came from a comment thread last year. Diana Senechal points to this bizarre thing: Brian Little says in Me, Myself, and Us (regarding the “lemon introvert test”): One of the more interesting ways of informally assessing extraversion at the biogenic level is to do the lemon-drop test. [Description of experiment omitted from present […]

When do we want evidence-based change? Not “after peer review”

Jonathan Falk sent me the above image in an email with subject line, “If this isn’t the picture for some future blog entry I’ll never forgive you.” This was a credible threat so here’s the post. But I don’t agree with that placard at all! Waiting for peer review is a bad idea for two […]

“Why bioRxiv can’t be the Central Service”

I followed this link to Jordan Anaya’s page and there to this post on biology preprint servers. Anyway, as a fan of preprint servers I appreciate Anaya’s point-by-point discussion of why one particular server, bioRxiv (which I’d never heard of before but I guess is popular in biology), can’t do what some people want it […]

I disagree with Tyler Cowen regarding a so-called lack of Bayesianism in religious belief

Tyler Cowen writes: I am frustrated by the lack of Bayesianism in most of the religious belief I observe. I’ve never met a believer who asserted: “I’m really not sure here. But I think Lutheranism is true with p = .018, and the next strongest contender comes in only at .014, so call me Lutheran.” […]

“5 minutes? Really?”

Bob writes: Daniel says this issue https://github.com/stan-dev/stan/issues/795#issuecomment-26390557117 is an easy 5-minute fix. In my ongoing role as wet blanket, let’s be realistic. It’s sort of like saying it’s an hour from here to Detroit because that’s how long the plane’s in the air. Nothing is a 5 minute fix (door to door) for Stan and […]

Apply for the Earth Institute Postdoc at Columbia and work with us!

The Earth Institute at Columbia brings in several postdocs each year—it’s a two-year gig—and some of them have been statisticians (recently, Kenny Shirley, Leontine Alkema, Shira Mitchell, and Milad Kharratzadeh). We’re particularly interested in statisticians who have research interests in development and public health. It’s fine—not just fine, but ideal—if you are interested in statistical […]