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Archive of posts filed under the Zombies category.

Hysteresis corner: “These mistakes and omissions do not change the general conclusion of the paper . . .”

All right, then. The paper’s called Attractive Data Sustain Increased B.S. Intake in Journals Attractive Names Sustain Increased Vegetable Intake in Schools. Seriously, though, this is just an extreme example of a general phenomenon, which we might call scientific hysteresis or the research incumbency advantage: When you’re submitting a paper to a journal, it can […]

I’m skeptical of the claims made in this paper

Two different people pointed me to a recent research article, suggesting that the claims therein were implausible and the result of some combination of forking paths and spurious correlations—that is, there was doubt that the results would show up in a preregistered replication, and that, if they did show up, that they would mean what […]


Gary Smith sends along this news article from Jason Samenow, weather editor of the Washington Post, who writes: Three years ago, a scientific study claimed that storms named Debby are predisposed to kill more people than storms named Don. The study alleged that people don’t take female-named storms as seriously. Numerous analyses have since found […]

The Paper of My Enemy Has Been Retracted

The paper of my enemy has been retracted And I am pleased. From every media outlet it has been retracted Like a van-load of p-values that has been seized And sits in star-laden tables in a replication archive, My enemy’s much-prized effort sits in tables In the kind of journal where retraction occurs. Great, square […]

A lesson from the Charles Armstrong plagiarism scandal: Separation of the judicial and the executive functions

[updated link] Charles Armstrong is a history professor at Columbia University who, so I’ve heard, has plagiarized and faked references for an award-winning book about Korean history. The violations of the rules of scholarship were so bad that the American Historical Association “reviewed the citation issue after being notified by a member of the concerns […]

The puzzle: Why do scientists typically respond to legitimate scientific criticism in an angry, defensive, closed, non-scientific way? The answer: We’re trained to do this during the process of responding to peer review.

[image of Cantor’s corner] Here’s the “puzzle,” as we say in social science. Scientific research is all about discovery of the unexpected: to do research, you need to be open to new possibilities, to design experiments to force anomalies, and to learn from them. The sweet spot for any researcher is at Cantor’s corner. (See […]

The retraction paradox: Once you retract, you implicitly have to defend all the many things you haven’t yet retracted

Mark Palko points to this news article by Beth Skwarecki on Goop, “the Gwyneth Paltrow pseudoscience empire.” Here’s Skwarecki: When Goop publishes something weird or, worse, harmful, I often find myself wondering what are they thinking? Recently, on Jimmy Kimmel, Gwyneth laughed at some of the newsletter’s weirder recommendations and said “I don’t know what […]

Alzheimer’s Mouse research on the Orient Express

Paul Alper sends along an article from Joy Victory at Health News Review, shooting down a bunch of newspaper headlines (“Extra virgin olive oil staves off Alzheimer’s, preserves memory, new study shows” from USA Today, the only marginally better “Can extra-virgin olive oil preserve memory and prevent Alzheimer’s?” from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and the better […]

It’s . . . spam-tastic!

We’ll celebrate Christmas today with a scam that almost fooled me. OK, not quite: I was about two steps from getting caught. Here’s the email: Dear Dr. Gelman, I hope you do not mind me emailing you directly, I thought it would be the easiest way to make first contact. If you have time for […]

The piranha problem in social psychology / behavioral economics: The “take a pill” model of science eats itself

[cat picture] A fundamental tenet of social psychology, behavioral economics, at least how it is presented in the news media, and taught and practiced in many business schools, is that small “nudges,” often the sorts of things that we might not think would affect us at all, can have big effects on behavior. Thus the […]

Yes, you can do statistical inference from nonrandom samples. Which is a good thing, considering that nonrandom samples are pretty much all we’ve got.

Luiz Caseiro writes: 1. P-values and Confidence Intervals are used to draw inferences about a population from a sample. Is that right? 2. As far as I researched, standard statistical softwares usually compute confidence intervals (CI) and p-values assuming that we have a simple random sample. Is that right? 3. If we have another kind […]

The “80% power” lie

OK, so this is nothing new. Greg Francis said it, and Uri Simonsohn said it, Ulrich Schimmack said it, lots of people have said it. But it’s worth saying again. To get NIH funding, you need to demonstrate (that is, convincingly claim) that your study has 80% power. I hate the term “power” as it’s […]

Popular expert explains why communists can’t win chess championships!

[cat picture] We haven’t run any Ray Keene material for awhile but this is just too good to pass up: Yup, those communists have real trouble pushing to the top when it comes to chess, huh? P.S. to Chrissy: If you happen to be reading this, my advice to you is to not take stuff […]

Oooh, I hate all talk of false positive, false negative, false discovery, etc.

A correspondent writes: I think this short post on p value, bayes, and false discovery rate contains some misinterpretations. My reply: Oooh, I hate all talk of false positive, false negative, false discovery, etc. I posted this not because I care about someone, somewhere, being “wrong on the internet.” Rather, I just think there’s so […]

Driving a stake through that ages-ending-in-9 paper

David Richter writes: Here’s a letter to the editor [in PPNAS] in response to the ‘people with ages ending in 9’ paper? We point out some problems with their analyses and their data and tried to replicate their theory in a large German panel study using a within-subjects design and variables close to those used […]

No to inferential thresholds

Harry Crane points us to this new paper, “Why ‘Redefining Statistical Significance’ Will Not Improve Reproducibility and Could Make the Replication Crisis Worse,” and writes: Quick summary: Benjamin et al. claim that FPR would improve by factors greater than 2 and replication rates would double under their plan. That analysis ignores the existence and impact […]

I hate that “Iron Law” thing

Dahyeon Jeong wrote: While I was reading your today’s post “Some people are so easy to contact and some people aren’t”, I’ve come across your older posts including “Edlin’s rule for routinely scaling down published estimates.” In this post you write: Also, yeah, that Iron Law thing sounds horribly misleading. I’d not heard that particular […]

The Night Riders

Retraction Watch linked to this paper, “Publication bias and the canonization of false facts,” by Silas Nissen, Tali Magidson, Kevin Gross, and Carl Bergstrom, and which is in the Physics and Society section of Arxiv which is kind of odd since it has nothing whatsoever to do with physics. Nissen et al. write: In the […]

The time reversal heuristic (priming and voting edition)

Ed Yong writes: Over the past decade, social psychologists have dazzled us with studies showing that huge social problems can seemingly be rectified through simple tricks. A small grammatical tweak in a survey delivered to people the day before an election greatly increases voter turnout. A 15-minute writing exercise narrows the achievement gap between black […]

The king must die

“And then there was Yodeling Elaine, the Queen of the Air. She had a dollar sign medallion about as big as a dinner plate around her neck and a tiny bubble of spittle around her nostril and a little rusty tear, for she had lassoed and lost another tipsy sailor“– Tom Waits It turns out I turned […]