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Archive of posts filed under the Zombies category.

“Null hypothesis” = “A specific random number generator”

In an otherwise pointless comment thread the other day, Dan Lakeland contributed the following gem: A p-value is the probability of seeing data as extreme or more extreme than the result, under the assumption that the result was produced by a specific random number generator (called the null hypothesis). I could care less about p-values […]

A template for future news stories about scientific breakthroughs

Yesterday, in the context of a post about news media puffery of the latest three-headed monstrosity to come out of PPNAS, I promised you a solution. I wrote: OK, fine, you might say. But what’s a reporter to do? They can’t always call Andrew Gelman at Columbia University for a quote, and they typically won’t […]

PPNAS: How does it happen? And happen? And happen? And happen?

In the comment thread to today’s post on journalists who take PPNAS papers at face value, Mark asked, in response to various flaws pointed out in one of these papers: How can the authors (and the reviewers and the editor) not be aware of something so elementary? My reply: Regarding the authors, see here. Statistics […]

Journalists are suckers for anything that looks like science. And selection bias makes it even worse. But I was unfair to NPR.

Journalists are suckers. Marks. Vics. Boobs. Rubes. You get the picture. Where are the classically street-trained reporters, the descendants of Ring Lardner and Joe Liebling, the hard-bitten journos who would laugh in the face of a press release? Today, nowhere in evidence. I’m speaking, of course, about the reaction in the press to the latest […]

Ahhhh, PPNAS!

To busy readers: Skip to the tl;dr summary at the end of this post. A psychology researcher sent me an email with subject line, “There’s a hell of a paper coming out in PPNAS today.” He sent me a copy of the paper, “Physical and situational inequality on airplanes predicts air rage,” by Katherine DeCelles […]

64 Shades of Gray: The subtle effect of chessboard images on foreign policy polarization

Brian Nosek pointed me to this 2013 paper by Theodora Zarkadi and Simone Schnall, “‘Black and White’ thinking: Visual contrast polarizes moral judgment,” which begins: Recent research has emphasized the role of intuitive processes in morality by documenting the link between affect and moral judgment. The present research tested whether incidental visual cues without any […]

Risk aversion is a two-way street

“Risk aversion” comes up a lot in microeconomics, but I think that it’s too broad a concept to do much for us. In many many cases, it seems to me that, when there is a decision option, either behavior X or behavior not-X can be thought as risk averse, depending on the framing. Thus, when […]

Should I be upset that the NYT credulously reviewed a book promoting iffy science?

I want to say “junk science,” but that’s not quite right. The claims in questions are iffy, far from proven, and could not be replicated, but they still might be true. As usual, my criticism is the claim that the evidence is strong, when it isn’t. From the review, by Heather Havrilesky:

“A strong anvil need not fear the hammer”

Wagenmakers et al. write: A single experiment cannot overturn a large body of work. . . . An empirical debate is best organized around a series of preregistered replications, and perhaps the authors whose work we did not replicate will feel inspired to conduct their own preregistered studies. In our opinion, science is best served […]

Himmicanes and hurricanes update

Stuart Buck points us to this new paper by Gary Smith that eviscerates the notorious himmicanes and hurricanes paper. Here’s how Smith’s paper begins: Abstract It has been argued that female-named hurricanes are deadlier because people do not take them seriously. However, this conclusion is based on a questionable statistical analysis of a narrowly defined […]

Gresham’s Law of experimental methods

A cognitive scientist writes: You’ll be interested to see a comment from one of my students, who’s trying to follow all your advice: It’s hard to see all this bullshit in top journals, while I see that if I do things right, it takes a long time, and I don’t have the beautiful results these […]

Will. Not. Rise. To. Bait.

Someone sends me an email, “I don’t know what to do with this so I thought I would send it to you,” with a link to a university press release about a recently published research paper, full of silly statistical errors and signifying nothing. I replied: Can’t you just ignore this? Why give it any […]

Bruised and battered, I couldn’t tell what I felt. I was ungeneralizable to myself.

One more rep. The new thing you just have to read, if you’re following the recent back-and-forth on replication in psychology, is this post at Retraction Watch in which Nosek et al. respond to criticisms from Gilbert et al. regarding the famous replication project. Gilbert et al. claimed that many of the replications in the […]

Replication crisis crisis: Why I continue in my “pessimistic conclusions about reproducibility”

A couple days we again discussed the replication crisis in psychology—the problem that all sorts of ridiculous studies on topics such as political moderation and shades of gray, or power pose, or fat arms and political attitudes, or ovulation and vote preference, or ovulation and clothing, or beauty and sex ratios, or elderly-related words and […]

Creationist article Article with creationist language published in Plos-One

Dan Gianola pointed me to this one. It’s an article by Ming-Jin Liu, Cai-Hua Xiong, Le Xiong, and Xiao-Lin Huang with the innocuous title, “Biomechanical Characteristics of Hand Coordination in Grasping Activities of Daily Living,” and a boring abstract: Hand coordination can allow humans to have dexterous control with many degrees of freedom to perform […]

More on replication crisis

The replication crisis in social psychology (and science more generally) will not be solved by better statistics or by preregistered replications. It can only be solved by better measurement. Let me say this more carefully. I think that improved statistics and preregistered replications will have very little direct effect on improving psychological science, but they […]

At this point, even Tom Cruise is skeptical about claims of social priming. (Click to find out why)

The blogger known as Neuroskeptic writes: Can the thought of money make people more conservative? The idea that mere reminders of money can influence people’s attitudes and behaviors is a major claim within the field of social priming – the study of how our behavior is unconsciously influenced by seemingly innocuous stimuli. However, social priming […]

No, this post is not 30 days early: Psychological Science backs away from null hypothesis significance testing

A few people pointed me to this editorial by D. Stephen Lindsay, the new editor of Psychological Science, a journal that in recent years has been notorious for publishing (and, even more notoriously, promoting) click-bait unreplicable dead-on-arrival noise-mining tea-leaf-reading research papers. It was getting so bad for awhile that they’d be publishing multiple such studies […]

An apology and a note on Stockholm Syndrome

A few months ago I wrote a couple posts on Christian Hesse, a statistician who I referred to as “the plagiarist next door.” But as Christian correctly pointed out, the material in question was not plagiarized, or at least I have not been shown any evidence of such, and I have no reason to believe […]

Too big to fail: Why it’s unrealistic to expect scientific journals to retract their huge backlog of erroneous papers

I couple years ago I wrote an article, “It’s too hard to publish criticisms and obtain data for replication.” I gave two examples demonstrating the struggles of myself and others to get journals to admit errors. The problem is that the standards for post-publication review are higher than for pre-publication review. You can find an […]