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Archive of posts filed under the Sociology category.

Should the Problems with Polls Make Us Worry about the Quality of Health Surveys? (my talk at CDC tomorrow)

My talk this Thursday at CDC, Tuesday, February 21, 2017, 12:00 noon, 2400 Century Center, Room 1015C: Should the Problems with Polls Make Us Worry about the Quality of Health Surveys? Response rates in public opinion polls have been steadily declining for more than half a century and are currently heading toward the 0% mark. […]

Workshop on German national educational panel study

Jutta von Maurice of the Leibniz Institute for Educational Trajectories in Germany writes: In August this year, we plan to hold a user workshop in New York. We have data on educational processes and competence development from early childhood till late adulthood (n=60.000) and these data might be of special interest for international comparisons. Within […]

Cry of Alarm

Stan Liebowitz writes: Is it possible to respond to a paper that you are not allowed to discuss? The question above relates to some unusual behavior from a journal editor. As background, I [Liebowitz] have been engaged in a long running dispute regarding the analysis contained in an influential paper published in one of the […]

Identifying Neighborhood Effects

Dionissi Aliprantis writes: I have just published a paper (online here) on what we can learn about neighborhood effects from the results of the Moving to Opportunity housing mobility experiment. I wanted to suggest the paper (and/or the experiment more broadly) as a topic for your blog, as I am hoping the paper can start […]

Measurement error and the replication crisis

Alison McCook from Retraction Watch interviewed Eric Loken and me regarding our recent article, “Measurement error and the replication crisis.” We talked about why traditional statistics are often counterproductive to research in the human sciences. Here’s the interview: Retraction Watch: Your article focuses on the “noise” that’s present in research studies. What is “noise” and […]

I was gonna write a post entitled, “Unlocking past collaboration: student use affects mood and happiness,” but it didn’t seem worth the bother

Ivan Oransky points us to this hilarious story of a retracted paper in Psychological Science. The hilarious part is not the article itself (a dry-as-dust collection of small-N experiments with open-ended data-exclusion and data-analysis rules, accompanied by the usual scattering of statistically significant p-values in the garden) or even the reason for the retraction:

Theoretical statistics is the theory of applied statistics: how to think about what we do (My talk at the University of Michigan this Friday 3pm)

Theoretical statistics is the theory of applied statistics: how to think about what we do Andrew Gelman, Department of Statistics and Department of Political Science, Columbia University Working scientists and engineers commonly feel that philosophy is a waste of time. But theoretical and philosophical principles can guide practice, so it makes sense for us to […]

The “What does not kill my statistical significance makes it stronger” fallacy

As anyone who’s designed a study and gathered data can tell you, getting statistical significance is difficult. Lots of our best ideas don’t pan out, and even if a hypothesis seems to be supported by the data, the magic “p less than .05” can be elusive. And we also know that noisy data and small […]

Criticism of bad research: More harm than good?

We’ve had some recent posts (here and here) about the research of Brian Wansink, a Cornell University business professor who’s found fame and fortune from doing empirical research on eating behaviors. It’s come out that four of his recent papers—all of them derived from a single experiment which Wansink himself described as a “failed study […]

No guru, no method, no teacher, Just you and I and nature . . . in the garden. Of forking paths.

Here’s a quote: Instead of focusing on theory, the focus is on asking and answering practical research questions. It sounds eminently reasonable, yet in context I think it’s completely wrong. I will explain. But first some background. Junk science and statistics They say that hard cases make bad law. But bad research can make good […]

Age period cohort brouhaha

Hi everybody! In August, I announced a break from blogging. And this is my first new post since then. (not counting various interpolated topical items on polling, elections, laughable surveys comparing North Carolina to North Korea, junk science on pizza prices, etc) I’m still trying to figure out how to do this; I have a […]

“Statistical heartburn: An attempt to digest four pizza publications from the Cornell Food and Brand Lab”

Tim van der Zee​, Jordan Anaya​, and Nicholas Brown posted this very detailed criticism of four papers published by food researcher and business school professor Brian Wansink. The papers are all in obscure journals and became notorious only after Wansink blogged about them in the context of some advice he was giving to graduate students. […]

Quick statistical comment

A reporter pointed me to an article to be published in a scientific journal and asked if I thought the statistics were OK. I took a quick look and replied: I did not look at the paper in detail but it seemed reasonable to me. The only part of it that I would not take […]

Historical critiques of psychology research methods

David Lockhart writes: I found these two papers – in of all places the presentation which Emil Kirkegaard and John Fuerst are presenting in London this weekend, which they claim is preventing them from responding to the can of worms they have opened by publishing a large, non-anonymized database of OKCupid dating profiles. This seems […]

If I had a long enough blog delay, I could just schedule this one for 1 Jan 2026

Gaurav Sood points us to this post, “Why did so many Japanese families avoid having children in 1966?”, by Randy Olson, which includes the excellent graph above and the following explanation: The Japanese use [an] . . . astrological system . . . based on the Chinese zodiac. Along with assigning an astrological beast based […]

“Estimating trends in mortality for the bottom quartile, we found little evidence that survival probabilities declined dramatically.”

Last year there was much discussion here and elsewhere about a paper by Anne Case and Angus Deaton, who noticed that death rates for non-Hispanic white Americans aged 45-54 had been roughly flat since 1999, even while the death rates for this age category had been declining steadily in other countries and among nonwhite Americans. […]

Powerpose update

I contacted Anna Dreber, one of the authors of the paper that failed to replicate power pose, and asked her about a particular question that came up regarding their replication study. One of the authors of the original power pose study wrote that the replication “varied methodologically in about a dozen ways — some of […]

When do stories work, Process tracing, and Connections between qualitative and quantitative research

Jonathan Stray writes: I read your “when do stories work” paper (with Thomas Basbøll) with interest—as a journalist stories are of course central to my field. I wondered if you had encountered the “process tracing” literature in political science? It attempts to make sense of stories as “case studies” and there’s a nice logic of […]

Confirmation bias

Shravan Vasishth is unimpressed by this evidence that was given to support the claim that being bilingual postpones symptoms of dementia: My reaction: Seems like there could be some selection issues, no? Shravan: Also, low sample size, and confirming what she already believes. I would be more impressed if she found evidence against the bilingual […]

The Lure of Luxury

From the sister blog, a response to an article by psychologist Paul Bloom on why people own things they don’t really need: Paul Bloom argues that humans dig deep, look beyond the surface, and attend to the nonobvious in ways that add to our pleasure and appreciation of the world of objects. I [Susan] wholly […]