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Archive of posts filed under the Zombies category.

The “power pose” of the 6th century B.C.

From Selected Topics in the History of Mathematics by Aaron Strauss (1973): Today Pythagoras is known predominantly as a mathematician. However, in his own day and age (which was also the day and age of Buddha, Lao-Tsa, and Confucious), he was looked upon as the personification of the highest divine wisdom by his followers to […]

The difference between “significant” and “not significant” is not itself statistically significant: Education edition

In a news article entitled “Why smart kids shouldn’t use laptops in class,” Jeff Guo writes: For the past 15 years, educators have debated, exhaustively, the perils of laptops in the lecture hall. . . . Now there is an answer, thanks to a big, new experiment from economists at West Point, who randomly banned […]

Annals of really pitiful spammers

Here it is: On May 18, 2016, at 8:38 AM, ** wrote: Dr. Gelman, I hope all is well. I looked at your paper on [COMPANY] and would be very interested in talking about having a short followup or a review article about this published in the next issue of the Medical Research Archives. It […]

Albedo-boy is back!

New story here. Background here and here.

Now that’s what I call a power pose!

John writes: See below for your humour file or blogging on a quiet day. . . . Perhaps you could start a competition for the wackiest real-life mangling of statistical concepts (restricted to a genuine academic setting?). On 15 Feb 2016, at 5:25 PM, [****] wrote: Pick of the bunch from tomorrow’s pile of applications […]

Is fraac Scott Adams?

tl;dr: If you value your time, don’t read this post.

Peer review abuse flashback

Our recent discussion of the problems with peer review reminded me of this amusing/horrifying story from a few years ago, when some researchers noticed a data coding error in a published paper Once it was noticed, the error was obvious: But the authors of the original paper had that never-back-down attitude. So instead of thanking […]

Happy talk, meet the Edlin factor

Mark Palko points us to this op-ed in which psychiatrist Richard Friedman writes: There are also easy and powerful ways to enhance learning in young people. For example, there is intriguing evidence that the attitude that young people have about their own intelligence — and what their teachers believe — can have a big impact […]

The Puzzle of Paul Meehl: An intellectual history of research criticism in psychology

There’s nothing wrong with Meehl. He’s great. The puzzle of Paul Meehl is that everything we’re saying now, all this stuff about the problems with Psychological Science and PPNAS and Ted talks and all that, Paul Meehl was saying 50 years ago. And it was no secret. So how is it that all this was […]

I’m really getting tired of this sort of thing, and I don’t feel like scheduling it for September, so I’ll post it at 1 in the morning

Bummer! NPR bites on air rage study.

OK, here’s the story. A couple days ago, regarding the now-notorious PPNAS article, “Physical and situational inequality on airplanes predicts air rage,” I wrote: NPR will love this paper. It directly targets their demographic of people who are rich enough to fly a lot but not rich enough to fly first class, and who think […]

“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 […]