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Archive of posts filed under the Zombies category.

No evidence shark attacks swing elections

Anthony Fowler and Andy Hall write: We reassess Achen and Bartels’ (2002, 2016) prominent claim that shark attacks influence presidential elections, and we find that the evidence is, at best, inconclusive. First, we assemble data on every fatal shark attack in U.S. history and county-level returns from every presidential election between 1872 and 2012, and […]

The problems are everywhere, once you know to look

Josh Miller writes: My friend and colleague Joachim Vosgerau (at Bocconi) sent me some papers from PNAS and they are right in your wheelhouse. Higher social class people behave more unethically. I can certainly vouch for the jerky behavior of people that drive BMWs and Mercedes in Italy (similar to Study 1&2 in Piff et […]

How not to analyze noisy data: A case study

I was reading Jenny Davidson’s blog and came upon this note on an autobiography of the eccentric (but aren’t we all?) biologist Robert Trivers. This motivated me, not to read Trivers’s book, but to do some googling which led me to this paper from Plos-One, “Revisiting a sample of U.S. billionaires: How sample selection and […]

Ptolemaic inference

OK, we’ve been seeing this a lot recently. A psychology study gets published, with a key idea that at first seems wacky but, upon closer reflection, could very well be true! Examples: – That “dentist named Dennis” paper suggesting that people pick where they live and what job to take based on their names. – […]


Yesterday all the past. The language of effect size Spreading to Psychology along the sub-fields; the diffusion Of the counting-frame and the quincunx; Yesterday the shadow-reckoning in the ivy climates. Yesterday the assessment of hypotheses by tests, The divination of water; yesterday the invention Of cartwheels and clocks, the power-pose of Horses. Yesterday the bustling […]

“How One Study Produced a Bunch of Untrue Headlines About Tattoos Strengthening Your Immune System”

Jeff points to this excellently skeptical news article by Caroline Weinberg, who writes: A recent study published in the American Journal of Human Biology suggests that people with previous tattoo experience may have a better immune response to new tattoos than those being inked for the first time. That’s the finding if you read the […]

Another failed replication of power pose

Someone sent me this recent article, “Embodying Power: A Preregistered Replication and Extension of the Power Pose Effect,” by Katie Garrison, David Tang, and Brandon Schmeichel. Unsurprisingly (given that the experiment was preregistered), the authors found no evidence for any effect of power pose. The Garrison et al. paper is reasonable enough, but for my […]

We have a ways to go in communicating the replication crisis

I happened to come across this old post today with this amazing, amazing quote from a Harvard University public relations writer: The replication rate in psychology is quite high—indeed, it is statistically indistinguishable from 100%. This came up in the context of a paper by Daniel Gilbert et al. defending the reputation of social psychology, […]

Should Jonah Lehrer be a junior Gladwell? Does he have any other options?

Remember Jonah Lehrer—that science writer from a few years back whose reputation was tarnished after some plagiarism and fabrication scandals? He’s been blogging—on science! And he’s on to some of the usual suspects: Ellen Langer’s mindfulness (see here for the skeptical take) and—hey—“an important new paper [by] Kyla Haimovitz and Carol Dweck” (see here for […]

“Marginally Significant Effects as Evidence for Hypotheses: Changing Attitudes Over Four Decades”

Kevin Lewis sends along this article by Laura Pritschet, Derek Powell, and Zachary Horne, who write: Some effects are statistically significant. Other effects do not reach the threshold of statistical significance and are sometimes described as “marginally significant” or as “approaching significance.” Although the concept of marginal significance is widely deployed in academic psychology, there […]

Applying the “If there’s no report you can read, there’s no study” principle in real time

So, I was on the website of the New York Times and came across this story by Donna de la Cruz: Opioids May Interfere With Parenting Instincts, Study Finds . . . Researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania scanned the brains of 47 men and women before and after […]

Michael Lacour vs John Bargh and Amy Cuddy

In our discussion of the Bargh, Chen, and Burrows priming-with-elderly-related-words-makes-people-walk-slowly-paper (the study which famously failed in a preregistered replication), commenter Lois wrote: Curious as to what people think of this comment on the Bargh et al. (1996) paper from Pubpeer: (see below). In Experiment 3, the experimenter rated participants on irritability, hostility, anger, and uncooperativeness […]

The never-back-down syndrome and the fundamental attribution error

David Allison told me about a frustrating episode in which he published a discussion where he pointed out problems with a published paper, and the authors replied with . . . not even a grudging response, they didn’t give an inch, really ungracious behavior. No “Thank you for finding our errors”; instead they wrote: We […]

It’s not about the snobbery, it’s all about reality: At last, I finally understand hatred of “middlebrow”

I remember reading Dwight Macdonald and others slamming “middlebrows” and thinking, what’s the point? The classic argument from the 1940s onward was to say that true art (James Joyce etc) was ok, and true mass culture (Mickey Mouse and detective stories) were cool, but anything in the middle (John Marquand, say) was middlebrow and deserved […]

Don’t trust Rasmussen polls!

Political scientist Alan Abramowitz brings us some news about the notorious pollster: In the past 12 months, according to Real Clear Politics, there have been 72 national polls matching Clinton with Trump—16 polls conducted by Fox News or Rasmussen and 56 polls conducted by other polling organizations. Here are the results: Trump has led or […]

NPR’s gonna NPR

I was gonna give this post the title, Stat Rage More Severe in the Presence of First-Class Journals, but then I thought I’d keep it simple. Chapter 1. Background OK, here’s what happened. A couple weeks ago someone pointed me to a low-quality paper that appeared in PPNAS (the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy […]

Don’t move Penn Station

I agree 100% with Henry Grabar on this one. Ever since I heard many years ago about the plan to blog a few billion dollars moving NYC’s Penn Station to a prettier but less convenient location, I’ve grimaced. Big shots really love to spend our money on fancy architecture, don’t they? As I wrote a […]

I refuse to blog about this one

Shravan points me to this article, Twitter Language Use Reflects Psychological Differences between Democrats and Republicans, which begins with the following self-parody of an abstract: Previous research has shown that political leanings correlate with various psychological factors. While surveys and experiments provide a rich source of information for political psychology, data from social networks can […]

Cracks in the thin blue line

When people screw up or cheat in their research, what do their collaborators say? The simplest case is when coauthors admit their error, as Cexun Jeffrey Cai and I did when it turned out that we’d miscoded a key variable in an analysis, invalidating the empirical claims of our award-winning paper. On the other extreme, […]

Why is the scientific replication crisis centered on psychology?

The replication crisis is a big deal. But it’s a problem in lots of scientific fields. Why is so much of the discussion about psychology research? Why not economics, which is more controversial and gets more space in the news media? Or medicine, which has higher stakes and a regular flow of well-publicized scandals? Here […]