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Archive of posts filed under the Zombies category.

A whole fleet of Wansinks: is “evidence-based design” a pseudoscience that’s supporting a trillion-dollar industry?

Following a recent post that mentioned

I hate R, volume 38942

R doesn’t allow block comments. You have to comment out each line, or you can encapsulate the block in if(0){} which is the world’s biggest hack. Grrrrr. P.S. Just to clarify: I want block commenting not because I want to add long explanatory blocks of text to annotate my scripts. I want block commenting because […]

The meta-hype algorithm

Kevin Lewis pointed me to this article: There are several methods for building hype. The wealth of currently available public relations techniques usually forces the promoter to judge, a priori, what will likely be the best method. Meta-hype is a methodology that facilitates this decision by combining all identified hype algorithms pertinent for a particular […]

Reputational incentives and post-publication review: two (partial) solutions to the misinformation problem

So. There are erroneous analyses published in scientific journals and in the news. Here I’m not talking not about outright propaganda, but about mistakes that happen to coincide with the preconceptions of their authors. We’ve seen lots of examples. Here are just a few: – Political scientist Larry Bartels is committed to a model of […]

“Do you think the research is sound or is it gimmicky pop science?”

David Nguyen writes: I wanted to get your opinion on Do you think the research is sound or is it gimmicky pop science? My reply: I have no idea. But since I see no evidence on the website, I’ll assume it’s pseudoscience until I hear otherwise. I won’t believe it until it has the […]

Organizations that defend junk science are pitiful suckers get conned and conned again

So. Cornell stands behind Wansink, and Ohio State stands behind Croce. George Mason University bestows honors on Weggy. Penn State trustee disses “so-called victims.” Local religious leaders aggressively defend child abusers in their communities. And we all remember how long it took for Duke University to close the door on Dr. Anil Potti. OK, I […]

Air rage rage

Commenter David alerts us that Consumer Reports fell for the notorious air rage story. Background on air rage here and here. Or, if you want to read something by someone other than me, here. This last piece is particularly devastating as it addresses flaws in the underlying research article, hype in the news reporting, and […]

Pizzagate update! Response from the Cornell University Media Relations Office

Hey! A few days ago I received an email from the Cornell University Media Relations Office. As I reported in this space, I responded as follows: Dear Cornell University Media Relations Office: Thank you for pointing me to these two statements. Unfortunately I fear that you are minimizing the problem. You write, “while numerous instances […]

Mmore from Ppnas

Kevin Lewis asks for my take on two new papers: Study 1: Honesty plays a key role in social and economic interactions and is crucial for societal functioning. However, breaches of honesty are pervasive and cause significant societal and economic problems that can affect entire nations. Despite its importance, remarkably little is known about the […]

Molyneux expresses skepticism on hot hand

Guy Molyneux writes: I saw your latest post on the hot hand too late to contribute to the discussion there. While I don’t disagree with your critique of Gilovich and his reluctance to acknowledge past errors, I do think you underestimate the power of the evidence against a meaningful hot hand effect in sports. I […]

Cross Purposes

A correspondent writes: I thought you might enjoy this… I’m refereeing a paper which basically looks at whether survey responses on a particular topic vary when the question is asked in two different ways. In the main results table they split the sample along several relevant dimensions (education; marital status; religion; etc). I give them […]


Jochen Weber writes: As I follow your blog (albeit loosely), I figured I’d point out an “early release” paper from PNAS I consider to be “garbage” (at least by title, and probably by content). The short version is, the authors claim to have found the neural correlate of a person being “cognizant of” the outcome […]

Dear Cornell University Public Relations Office

I received the following email, which was not addressed to me personally: From: ** Date: Wednesday, April 5, 2017 at 9:42 AM To: “” Cc: ** Subject: Information regarding research by Professor Brian Wansink I know you have been following this issue, and I thought you might be interested in new information posted today on […]

Annals of Spam

I’ve recently been getting a ton of spam—something like 200 messages a day in my inbox! The Columbia people tell me that soon we’ll be switching to a new mail server that will catch most of these, but for now I have to spend a couple minutes every day just going thru and flagging them […]

“Study showing that humans have some psychic powers caps Daryl Bem’s career”

On the webpage of Russ Roberts’s interview with me, I happened to come across this article from the Cornell Chronicle, Dec. 6, 2010: Study showing that humans have some psychic powers caps Daryl Bem’s career By George Lowery It took eight years and nine experiments with more 1,000 participants, but the results offer evidence that […]

Life imitates art

I hate to interrupt our discussion of traffic deaths, but this is important. . . . Someone pointed me to this news article, “A Retiree Discovers an Elusive Math Proof,” and I noticed this sentence: Not knowing LaTeX, the word processer of choice in mathematics, he typed up his calculations in Microsoft Word . . […]

Gilovich doubles down on hot hand denial

A correspondent pointed me to this Freaknomics radio interview with Thomas Gilovich, one of the authors of that famous “hot hand” paper from 1985, “Misperception of Chance Processes in Basketball.” Here’s the key bit from the Freakonomics interview: DUBNER: Right. The “hot-hand notion” or maybe the “hot-hand fallacy.” GILOVICH: Well, everyone who’s ever played the […]

Move along, nothing to see here

I don’t really want to go into details on this one as our paper is under review at a journal, but the short story is that my colleagues and I have conducted replications of a high-profile psychology study. Not all our replications had results that made sense, and so from a perfectly reasonable Bayesian perspective […]

Aggregate age-adjusted trends in death rates for non-Hispanic whites and minorities in the U.S.

Following up on our recent Slate article, Jonathan Auerbach made some graphs of mortality rate trends by sex, ethnicity, and age group, aggregating over the entire country. Earlier we’d graphed the trends within each state but there was so much going on there, it was hard to see the big picture. All our graphs are […]


I got this email from a journalist: This seems . . . irresponsible to me. Particularly: For the first 100 years that meteorologists kept weather records at Central Park, from 1869 through 1996, they recorded just two snowstorms that dumped 20 inches or more. But since 1996, counting this week’s storm, there have been six. […]