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Archive of posts filed under the Sociology category.

Ticket to Baaaaarf

A link from the comments here took me to the wonderfully named Barfblog and a report by Don Schaffner on some reporting. First, the background: A university in England issued a press release saying that “Food picked up just a few seconds after being dropped is less likely to contain bacteria than if it is […]

Ticket to Baaaath

Ooooooh, I never ever thought I’d have a legitimate excuse to tell this story, and now I do! The story took place many years ago, but first I have to tell you what made me think of it: Rasmus Bååth posted the following comment last month: On airplane tickets a Swedish “å” is written as […]

One-tailed or two-tailed?

Someone writes: Suppose I have two groups of people, A and B, which differ on some characteristic of interest to me; and for each person I measure a single real-valued quantity X. I have a theory that group A has a higher mean value of X than group B. I test this theory by using […]

“Schools of statistical thoughts are sometimes jokingly likened to religions. This analogy is not perfect—unlike religions, statistical methods have no supernatural content and make essentially no demands on our personal lives. Looking at the comparison from the other direction, it is possible to be agnostic, atheistic, or simply live one’s life without religion, but it is not really possible to do statistics without some philosophy.”

This bit is perhaps worth saying again, especially given the occasional trolling on the internet by people who disparage their ideological opponents by calling them “religious” . . . So here it is: Sometimes the choice of statistical philosophy is decided by convention or convenience. . . . In many settings, however, we have freedom […]

“More research from the lunatic fringe”

A linguist send me an email with the above title and a link to a paper, “The Effect of Language on Economic Behavior: Evidence from Savings Rates, Health Behaviors, and Retirement Assets,” by M. Keith Chen, which begins: Languages differ widely in the ways they encode time. I test the hypothesis that languages that grammatically […]

Advice: positive-sum, zero-sum, or negative-sum

There’s a lot of free advice out there. I offer some of it myself! As I’ve written before (see this post from 2008 reacting to this advice from Dan Goldstein for business school students, and this post from 2010 reacting to some general advice from Nassim Taleb), what we see is typically presented as advice […]

I was going to criticize this on blog but I’m just too tired of things like this. What’s really horrible is the news article which takes all this so seriously. My problem is not with people who run regressions and post them on the web—the more the merrier, I say—but with reputable news outlets whose editors should know better

A friend pointed me to this monstrosity. As an MIT grad, I’d like to think that Technology Review could do better. To elaborate a bit: A one-paragraph blurb would be fine to me, you can report that someone ran some regressions on the GSS and came up with an amusing hypothesis. That’s enough, then move […]

The Notorious N.H.S.T. presents: Mo P-values Mo Problems

A recent discussion between commenters Question and Fernando captured one of the recurrent themes here from the past year. Question: The problem is simple, the researchers are disproving always false null hypotheses and taking this disproof as near proof that their theory is correct. Fernando: Whereas it is probably true that researchers misuse NHT, the […]

As the boldest experiment in journalism history, you admit you made a mistake

The pre-NYT David Brooks liked to make fun of the NYT. Here’s one from 1997: I’m not sure I’d like to be one of the people featured on the New York Times wedding page, but I know I’d like to be the father of one of them. Imagine how happy Stanley J. Kogan must have […]

The most-cited statistics papers ever

Robert Grant has a list. I’ll just give the ones with more than 10,000 Google Scholar cites: Cox (1972) Regression and life tables: 35,512 citations. Dempster, Laird, Rubin (1977) Maximum likelihood from incomplete data via the EM algorithm: 34,988 Bland & Altman (1986) Statistical methods for assessing agreement between two methods of clinical measurement: 27,181 […]