Low-power pose update: Ted goes all-in


There’s a motto in poker: Fold or raise, never call.

I thought of this after seeing this long interview with Amy “power pose” Cuddy at the Ted talk site.

Ted’s really going all in on this one. The interview was 100% Cuddy with not a single link to any critical remarks. Here’s a partial list of people not interviewed to offer their reactions:
– Dana Carney,
– Eva Ranehill,
– Uri Simonsohn.

In the interview, Cuddy offered up some Daryl Bem-style meta-analysis (which, as someone pointed out, must be one of the few meta-analyses ever presented in which every one of the papers counted as either a success or as mixed evidence; not a single failure in the bunch! It’s good to know that they have a hypothesis that can never fail.), along with this wonderful, wonderful anecdote:

I [Cuddy] have heard from three different labs that have conducted research on “power posing” but who said they feel they cannot submit the work to journals, because they fear backlash after seeing what has happened to me.

They could publish these blockbuster results on Arxiv, no? Or maybe PPNAS? I’m sure PPNAS’s social psychology editor would give these submissions a fair hearing. In all seriousness, I give zero credence to results which have not even been posted anywhere. This is just ridiculous, it’s really a pitiful response in this modern era in which anything can be posted on the web and in which there are thousands of scientific journals.

Also it’s not clear what Cuddy means by “what has happened to me.” What exactly has happened to Cuddy? She was one of three authors on a paper that was published in a psychology journal. She followed this up by promoting this paper in a popular talk and in a book that was reviewed in the New York Times among other places. She did lots and lots of media. At some point people pointed out statistical flaws in this paper. Other people tried to replicate her findings and failed. The first author on the original paper wrote an expose describing lots of problems in the research and disavowing the claims. At what point in this process did something “happen to” Cuddy? Where did she become the victim here?

Is there a rule that if you publish a paper in a peer-reviewed journal and promote it around the world, that other people aren’t allowed to point out flaws in that work? Or is it a rule that the first author of the paper isn’t allowed to take criticism seriously and retract errors? Cos nobody told me about this rule!

Anyway, I can understand why Cuddy keeps on with this; she must feel like there’s no going back now, only forward movement is possible. Sure, her behavior does not follow what I consider good scientific practice.

But there’s a selection bias here. I’ve heard of Cuddy only because of the power pose fiasco; by looking at her case I’m selecting on a scientist with a record of exaggeration. Recall the final sentence of the abstract of that famous paper:

That a person can, by assuming two simple 1-min poses, embody power and instantly become more powerful has real-world, actionable implications.

I bring up that sentence a lot because it’s just stunning, as the paper in question had no measures whatsoever of anyone “becoming more powerful.” This is not a statistical dispute, it’s a simple statement of fact. The abstract concluded with a statement on something not measured in the paper. Even had the experiment been done just as described with none of the forking paths and the leakage of information described in that later report, even if all the statistics had been fine and we could take all those silly p-values seriously, even then, the paper that got all the attention was full of hype from the start. I’m not talking about the Ted talk, or the media interviews, or the book, I’m talking about the article in the purportedly serious journal Psychological Science.

So, sure, given that track record we should not expect Cuddy to suddenly become scrupulous about evidence. She could make that change—it’s still possible—but not reason to expect it.

No, the thing that surprises—or at least interests—me here is the position of Ted. They made a mistake on that Cuddy talk, then have been years of controversy, the Ted team must have had some discussion of what to do about it, and then they doubled down in a “We stand by Matt” sort of way.

What gives? “Ted talk” has become a punchline, and then they go out of their way to endorse Cuddy’s discredited claims??? Perhaps it was a calculation on the part of the Tedsters that they’d already lost the likes of me, but if they were to disown one of their stars, they’d lose their core supporters.

Or maybe it’s a commercial calculation. I remember back in the 1970s that huge numbers of copies were sold of books like “Chariots of the Gods” and “The Bermuda Triangle,” and various scientists in the media, Carl Sagan and people like him, kept loudly denouncing them. I had the impression that the scientists wanted the publishers to stop selling the books, or to label them as fiction (remember, according to the book publishing industry, Charlie Brown, Pogo, and the Bible are all considered nonfiction), but of course the publisher kept dodging the issue because these books were massive money-makers.

I don’t actually know how Ted makes its money—it’s not by selling copies of Amy Cuddy’s books! Maybe they sell tickets to the Ted conferences? Or maybe they get contributions from credulous richies? I can’t imagine. Ummm, here it is, from Wikipedia:

The membership model was shifted in January 2007 to an annual membership fee of $6,000, which includes attendance of the conference, club mailings, networking tools, and conference DVDs. The 2017 conference will be $17,000 per attendee. . . . TED is currently funded by a combination of various revenue streams, including conference attendance fees, corporate sponsorships, foundation support, licensing fees, and book sales. Corporate sponsorships are diverse, provided by companies such as Google, GE, AOL, Goldman Sachs, The Coca-Cola Company; among others. . . . The TED staff consists of about 140 people headquartered in New York City and Vancouver.

So, I guess I can see it. These 140 people are supported by a revenue stream which is based on the quality of the Ted talks. When the Ted team is told of a Ted talk that has spread false information, they have two choices: admit the error or double down on the original claim. Both choices are risky but you gotta decide, you gotta protect the brand. Fold or raise, never call. They decided to raise.

P.S. It also says on that wikipedia site there’s an annual Ted prize of a million bucks. I wonder if they’ll give it to me this year? I’d love to have another million bucks: I’d spend it directly on Stan programmers. Ted should definitely give me the money, as it would demonstrate their open-mindedness; it would be such good publicity for them. I give this in the same spirit as Albert Brooks had in his spiel to the casino boss in Lost in America.

56 thoughts on “Low-power pose update: Ted goes all-in

  1. “They [TED] made a mistake on that Cuddy talk”

    That claims depends on what you think TED’s objective function is. You seem to assume that their goal is to bring high quality academic research to the broader public. I think that their (true, if unstated) goal is to make TED successful, defined by various measures of revenue, profit, media-reach, popularity and so on. If I am right, then Cuddy’s original talk was not a “mistake.” In fact, it was wildly successful. In other words, the TED “revenue stream” is not, in fact, “based on the [statistical] quality of the Ted talks.”

    • We’re looking at adding GPU support and OpenMP support in Stan.

      The benchmark problem they write about in that paper (logistic regression) is dominated by a dense matrix multiply, which is pretty much the optimal case for parallelization and using GPUs. I imagine with less structured problems, the speedup will be much smaller, but they only reported the one result.

      I asked Dustin about where to find the list of built-in functions they support—I can’t find it and he never repsonded. I’m also not clear on whether they are using single-precision (32 bit) or double precision (64-bit) floats. It can make a big difference for sensitive calculations like Hamiltonian simulations, so I’d like to see some error analysis. They only evaluated the time to run an iteration, not the precision of the answer.

      P.S. Matt hasn’t been involved in Stan since his postdoc ended, which was soon after the first official release of Stan. The papers just keep trickling out with his name on them since he was involved in the core initial work. Matt’s awesome, so I wouldn’t discount anything he’s involved in! Sort of the opposite of Butch’s reaction to Lefors not being with the Bolivian army surrounding them at the end of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (thanks for making quotes easy to find, IMDB and Google):

      Butch Cassidy: Ready? OK, when we get outside and we get to the horses, whatever happens, just remember one thing… hey, wait a minute.
      Sundance Kid: What?
      Butch Cassidy: You didn’t see Lefors out there, did you?
      Sundance Kid: Lefors? No.
      Butch Cassidy: Oh, good. For a moment there I thought we were in trouble.
      [They both run out of the building, only to be met with gunfire from all sides from the Bolivian army]

      Bottom line is that we’re as susceptible to the innovator’s dilemma as any other project.

      • I care less about the performance thing than the way Edward (appears to?) make developing new inference algorithms as easy as Stan makes developing new models…

        • The hard part about developing new inference algorithms is the testing, not the coding. As far as I can tell, checking that their algorithms characterize the posterior properly hasn’t been a priority in Edward. I assume that’s because people in machine learning don’t care about getting the right posterior, being much more focused on predictive evaluations. At least that’s how I’ve interpreted the feedback we’ve gotten from Dustin, Alp, and Dave Blei (their Ph.D. and postdoc supervisor).

          We care about both performance (effective sample size per second) and accuracy in new MCMC algorithms for Stan. So far, HMC is the only algorithm we’ve found that gets the right answer and scales with dimensionality.

          We’re always interested to hear about other algorithms. We’ve even coded and evaluated a lot of them.

        • Nope. Hadn’t seen that. They say their algorithm “reduces to gradient descent for MAP when using only a single particle, while automatically turns into a full Bayesian sampling approach with more particles.”

          I skipped the math. I didn’t quite understand their evaluations—they point to an appendix that isn’t in the paper for details.

          No idea why they say the logistic regression eval’s too big for NUTS—it’s the same small-ish one the Edward paper authors used, with N=500K data points and D=50 predictors. They cite Matt’s original NUTS code rather than Stan as a benchmark. Stan’s adaptation has come a long way since then and even the basic selection slice sampling has been replaced. But that doesn’t make a huge difference after convergence if the scales can be adapted properly.

          Has anyone tried this on harder models than simple regression or in cases where there is correlation among the parameters in the posterior?

        • I think just these authors are working on Stein-operator-based variational inference with specifically RKHS function spaces to make the maximization of the Stein discrepancy tractable. They have another paper where they train a neural-net-based sampler instead of propagation a point cloud, the idea being to encode and preserve useful information. Blei’s team appears to have independently hit on Stein-operator-based variational inference but they’re not doing the RKHS thing.

          The thing I found intriguing about this particular variational inference method is that the gradient has a mode-finding posterior density gradient component and repulsive component; it reminded me of Mike Betancourt’s explanation of HMC in which the posterior density gradient is regularized by the momentum component so that the flow is measure-preserving and MCMC state gravitates to the typical set instead of the mode.

  2. Wow, I’m glad I’ve never been a big fan of TED talks.

    The labs that won’t submit their work to journals reminds me of the current NgAgo gene editing controversy. The only people who have told the journal that it works have asked to remain anonymous and haven’t posted their data, here’s a quote from a blog post:

    “However, Nature reported that at least three scientists, all of whom wished to remain anonymous, have had some success with the technology.”

    I think I can explain the exaggerations in the abstract. My old PI used to tell me to exaggerate the findings of the paper in the initial submission so that it would get past the editor, then tone it down in a later version. Maybe they just forgot to tone them down after it got accepted.

  3. I bet TED is especially worried about Cuddy’s talk because it could send the whole domino stack tumbling in both directions (a bit of wobbling, then a fall). People would scrutinize some of other talks in the top 10 and find that there’s very little if any “there” there. Cuddy’s talk differs from most of the others in that she makes specific scientific claims based on her own research. (Brene Brown does too, but her research is “softer”). Others refer to science and research, but more vaguely. So if Cuddy’s talk gets debunked, there goes the “science,” at least among the top hits.

    Andrew, you make an important point about how the claim in the abstract is not even supported by the study.

  4. I think the general attitude of most people who work on communicating science to the public is that their responsibility is only to make sure that any information they present has a source with the proper credentials (published in a peer-reviewed journal, endorsed by PhD experts in the relevant disciplines at universities). Since they are not themselves PhD experts, the feeling is that “Who am I to challenge this expert? I am just telling you what my expert says, it’s not my job to get involved in these obscure internal arguments”. Making any judgement beyond that would be overstepping their bounds.

    I don’t feel like I’m getting high quality content when I read articles or watch videos that promote what I see as clearly mistaken views of people who nevertheless have the right credentials to be speaking on the topic, but I have some sympathy for this position. If Slate can let Andrew Gelman write an article, or Retraction Watch can publish an interview with him expressing his position without publishing comments from experts with objectively equal qualifications who disagree, why can’t TED let Amy Cuddy put out her ideas? How should someone outside of the relevant disciplines be expected to know when what an expert is saying needs to be challenged? I can’t think of a good solution.

    • Michael:

      One difference between Cuddy’s Ted talk and my Slate articles is that I take the other side of the argument seriously, even if I express disagreement.

      For example, today in Slate I looked into Jon Krosnick’s claim that the outcome of the 2016 election was determined by Trump being listed first on the ballot in many swing states. I concluded that it was possible but that I was skeptical that the effects would’ve been large. True, Slate did not invite Krosnick to respond. But in my article I linked to Krosnick’s statement, I clearly stated my sources of evidence, I linked and took seriously a research article by Krosnick and others on the topic . . . I did my due diligence.

      In contrast, the Ted team avoids linking to criticisms of Cuddy’s work, and I do not consider her statements to be in the full spirit of scientific inquiry. It seems like a damage control operation more than anything else. As to the original Carney, Cuddy, and Yap article: as I noted above, it makes a claim in the abstract that is not supported by anything in the paper. And more recently Carney gave a long list of problems with the paper, which again Cuddy is not seriously addressing.

      • Michael:

        I think credentialing in academia is broken. That’s one root cause. If someone like Amy Cuddy is spewing obvious crap, academia should have had an internal correcting mechanism.

        But that hardly exists. Most correcting mechanisms have been sacrificed at the altar of academic freedom of speech & possibly tenure.

        And hence we are reduced to finding fault with TED & Slate for covering Cuddy, who’s holding a fairly prestigious, credentialed position; so if her work is crap why cannot the credentialing body be more aggressive in stanching it in the first place? We lack internal Quality Control and then we fault outsiders for covering research with crappy quality.

        • @Rahul: I’m afraid you’re right — between Cuddy and Wansink, it sure looks like the system is broken in at least their fields. It will presumably take a lot of effort to fix the situation, especially with organizations such as TED muddying the waters.

        • @Martha

          I also feel academics are somehow loathe to exert organizational pressure to reform Profs. like Cuddy and Wansink. Perhaps because of connotations of bullying or a fear of ruling by diktat or a general mistrust of organizational oversight etc.

          What I mean is academics will freely criticize the individual academic Cuddy and also external organizations like TED etc. for covering Cuddy’s work uncritically.

          But I don’t see anyone asking why is Harvard not asking her to reform or even asking her for an explanation. Or why isn’t Harvard disciplining her or at least independently assessing the quality of her work in the fact of such vehement external criticism from all you respected experts.

          So when a researcher refuses to engage in legitimate criticism we as academics refuse to escalate the matter to the next logical level of oversight which ought to be her Dept. Chair or even the Dean of the School of Soc. Sciences or the Univ. Chancellor etc. But I doubt anyone of the criticizing academics has gone that route. Or even if one of her senior colleagues, deans etc. at Harvard sees such scathing criticism of their faculty shouldn’t they be doing something about it?

        • Rahul:

          You have a point.

          When an academic is at another institution, it’s hard to do much and in any case it would be seen as weird and aggressive to do so. For example, if I were to write a letter to the administration at Cornell asking them to look into the research misconduct of Brian Wansink, it would seem odd: “What’s Gelman’s vendetta?” etc. Similarly, I criticized Weggy from here to Sunday and even contacted the American Statistical Association to suggest they rescind his Founders Award (they said no), but I never thought to contact his university.

          But when an academic is local, it’s also hard to do anything because of the risk of destroying work relationships. Look at how hard it was for Harvard to get rid of Marc Hauser or for the University of Arizona to demote Matthew Whitaker. It does seem that Cuddy left Harvard but she may not have every been tenured; I don’t know.

          But, sure, I do criticize organizations such as Cornell and Harvard for basking in the publicity when Wansink, Cuddy, etc. are on top of the world, and then ducking the responsibility when the failures come out.

        • I disagree that getting the administration of the universities involved is a good idea. It would be great if that sort of norm was established and then only used to further pure scientific truth, but the reality is that someone or some people need to make a judgement about what the truth is, and that sort of process will only advantage those who hold that power. How can the administration tell the difference between really bad science that shouldn’t be supported, and unpopular ideas that people with influence in the field want to silence? It could have been used against the people who called for reform early on when they were a small minority and influential people thought they were being irresponsible by shaking the public’s trust in science. I’ll take some bad science getting through over allowing the administration to silence people.

          I think the better response is the response we are now seeing, where people express concerns over the quality of research in the field and produce more and more evidence to convince people the problem is real (like the reproducibility project). We can get better science by just convincing people that more rigorous methods are needed, and over time that cultural change influences hiring and publication and so on. We should not appeal to people’s bosses to get them fired or censured if they express views that seem to us to be very misguided.

        • > But I doubt anyone of the criticizing academics has gone that route.

          This would be a case study http://thevarsity.ca/2015/08/26/utsc-dean-and-vice-principle-academic-resigns/

          Its messy, the reviewer Vivek Goel is someone I have worked with extensively in the past and I have a high opinion of his judgement in science. I never discussed this incident with him (nor looked it up until now), but my guess is he had to reform or get rid of this professor without seeming to potentially threaten any other faculty member over what could be considered differences of academic opinion. It this very tricky thing of avoiding collateral damage to academic freedom – perhaps way to tricky if seemingly based on statistical methods used.

    • Yes, agreed. The fallacious reasoning of appealing to authority is strongly related to problems across disciplines as well as within. Critical thinking is essential, but not easy. It requires we challenge our own biases which many have no interest in doing and many incentives not too.

  5. I have noticed that she is now saying that the primary power posing hypothesis all along had been that it increases subjective feelings of power, presumably because this is the result that has been replicated. Not a peep on testosterone or cortisol or risk taking behavior (what Carney claimed was the primary DV) unless asked directly, in which case she briefly concedes there’s no evidence but then writes a few more paragraphs on tangential work that other people are doing that kind of sounds like it might maybe suggest that there is evidence to be found out there after all!

    But if it hadn’t been for the testosterone and cortisol and risk taking behavior, would power posing have gotten all of this attention? That’s the part that makes it sound like science. Is it really all that interesting that if you make one group of people assume “I’m the boss” positions at a desk, and make the other group slump down in their chair, that the two groups will give “statistically significantly” different answers to the question “how powerful do you feel right now?”

    • Well put: “Is it really all that interesting that if you make one group of people assume ‘I’m the boss’ positions at a desk, and make the other group slump down in their chair, that the two groups will give ‘statistically significantly’ different answers to the question ‘how powerful do you feel right now?'”

      Yes, I agree, it was the hormone hypothesis that made her talk famous, and now she’s speaking as though that had been merely a tangential issue all along.

      Speaking of tangents, I still have not found the Nalini Ambady study to which she refers, two minutes into her talk (I mentioned this previously in a comment on this blog and on my own blog post “A Lesson from the Power Pose Debacle”):

      “Nalini Ambady, a researcher at Tufts University, shows that when people watch 30-second soundless clips of real physician-patient interactions, their judgments of the physician’s niceness predict whether or not that physician will be sued.”

      I have perused Ambady’s bibliographies, done searches, etc., and found no such study. She died in 2013, so I can’t ask her directly Cuddy may have conflated two actual studies by Ambady: one of physicians’ tone of voice and their previous lawsuit history (which used voice recordings but no videos) and one of teachers, their body language, and their end-of-course ratings (which used soundless videos).

      Why does this matter at all? It could have been a simple mistake–but it led right into Cuddy’s claims about the “science” of power posing. If this is indeed an error–if no such study exists–then she should acknowledge this, and so should TED.

      More generally, TED should post both bibliographies and errata. That would be a big step forward.

        • Yes, I think it’s time to do that. Thank you for the email address; she doesn’t list it on her website, nor does it appear on her page on the HBS site.

          It would be better, of course, if TED listed bibliographies on its site. There should be an easy way to check the research mentioned in a talk.

        • Yes, thank you–I consulted the CV previously. I see no study of the relation between people’s judgments of physicians’ body language (as captured on soundless video) and the physicians’ likelihood of being sued.

          It’s possible that I missed something, since some of the titles give little information about the contents.

          I emailed Cuddy a few minutes ago–will see what she says.

    • When she published that initial paper Cuddy was already well aware that the effects that she describes did not apply to women in her two samples. She even wrote about it in an initial draft of the Carney, Cuddy, and Yap paper that I have. That never made it into the published paper and Cuddy then turned around and pushed this nonsense as a way for women to get ahead or “lean in” as she put it in one HBR article.

      • Marcus:

        I’d say it’s all about the benjamins but I suspect that Cuddy and her friends in academia and the media really believe it all. Part of it is, I think, that they associate power pose with a more general attitude of mind over matter, self-help, and the ability of science to change people’s minds. If the original experimental data had looked a bit different, I have a feeling we’d be having the exact same discussion except that instead of Wonder Woman and the power pose, we’d be hearing about Catwoman and the “crouching panther” pose. We’d be hearing testimonials from people who’d adopted the space-minimizing crouching panther and succeeded in life, and we’d be hearing the pop-evo-psych explanation about how powerful people hang back. Dontcha know, it’s the naive striver types who think they need to stand arms akimbo. People who are real C-suite material know they can sit back, minimize their space, speak softly, and put the onus on others to listen. Instead of Lean In, the advice would be to Get in the Ready Position.

        The above story all “works” in the same way that power pose “works.” It doesn’t really matter what the specific advice is; all that’s important is that it’s offered with full confidence.

        • Brilliant! Of course the title of the book would then have been something along “Crouching Tiger! Hidden Dragon!” and we’d get advice on how to unleash our inner dragon.

        • Marcus:

          We need a mockup of a book cover. But I don’t think “Crouching Tiger! Hidden Dragon!” is quite the right title. We need to work on this. Once we have the title we can think about the artwork.

          As a starting point, here’s the title for the actual power pose book: “Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges.” This is not actually such a great title. Our hivemind should be able to do better.

        • Yes, I could imagine a title like that.

          Ironically, Cuddy sits on the advisory board of the Quiet Revolution: http://www.quietrev.com/advisory-board-2/

          From the FAQ:

          “Really though, we’ve spent thousands of hours designing and testing a transformative model for bringing a new definition of leadership to your workplace. Where the mono-narratives of leadership, creativity, and performance success move beyond the favored ‘bold and alpha’ temperaments. Where ‘She needs to speak up more’ becomes ‘Her thoughtful ideas helped take this program to the next level.’ Where ‘He’s too quiet to take charge’ becomes ‘His patience and deep focus gave us the edge we needed to make the best choices.'”

    • >>But if it hadn’t been for the testosterone and cortisol and risk taking behavior,
      >>would power posing have gotten all of this attention?
      The process works like this:
      /1/ Make amazing sciencey-sounding claim. A few people will buy into it (cf. crystal healings, etc), but most will shake their heads.
      /2/ Make amazing sciencey-sounding claim _with a peer-reviewed article in a “prestigious” journal_. News media pick it up. TED talks, book contracts, public speaking engagement, corporate consulting gigs, etc etc follow.

      The difference between /1/ and /2/ is, of course, “science”. Moving on:

      /3/ The science collapses. Nobody with any serious scientific credentials believes in it any more.

      Now the clever bit:

      /4/ Provided that phase /2/ lasted long enough, *it doesn’t matter*. It’s like that magic trick where you turn a full covered glass of water upside-down, remove the cover, and the water doesn’t fall out. The reputation (outside of a few shameless little bullies with no imagination) of the author’s fame and the work’s reputation will be self-sustaining, as will the TED/NPR circuit and the $$$. So you don’t get invited to give keynotes at academic conferences any more? Who cares? You’re on Dr. Oz and Oprah every other month, and you now have four best-selling popular books and your own line of branded accessories. If anyone asks, you can make grand-sounding pronouncements about how science is an ongoing process and you’re looking forward to reading about new developments (from your apartment in Malibu).

      I have started to call this phenomenon “research hysteresis” – the effect remains after the cause is gone.

      • “/4/ Provided that phase /2/ lasted long enough, *it doesn’t matter*. It’s like that magic trick where you turn a full covered glass of water upside-down, remove the cover, and the water doesn’t fall out. The reputation (outside of a few shameless little bullies with no imagination) of the author’s fame and the work’s reputation will be self-sustaining, as will the TED/NPR circuit and the $$$. So you don’t get invited to give keynotes at academic conferences any more? Who cares? You’re on Dr. Oz and Oprah every other month, and you now have four best-selling popular books and your own line of branded accessories. If anyone asks, you can make grand-sounding pronouncements about how science is an ongoing process and you’re looking forward to reading about new developments (from your apartment in Malibu).”

        I wonder if this view is also applicable not just to a specific finding/effect and corresponding author, but to the entire enterprise of social psychology and social psychologists…

  6. I am reminded of a business meeting years ago where the (in house) client ‘appeared” to be very angry at our presentation After we left at least two of our people were quite upset.

    He had appeared really angry–well he was a lousy actor. I personally had a problem not breaking into loud laughter. Power pose == crap.

    On the other hand, running up against someone who really does know what they are doing is quite another thing.

  7. Brilliant post, Andrew! Just one minor quibble on your title and poker analogy, from an old-time no-limit player. I would argue that Ted has not gone all-in here.

    IMHO, an all-in move by Ted would be something like: the CEO held a public press conference, outlining the crucial essence of Cuddy’s research (such as it is), and somehow directly linking it to Ted’s corporate identity. We hear quotes like “You cannot separate Amy Cuddy’s research / findings from Ted’s mission.. If Cuddy’s work does not stand, Ted Inc. cannot continue in its present form.” That’s all-in.

    In Hold’Em terms, I would say that Ted has simply raised everyone following the flop, and now Professor Gelman is re-raising. The “Pocket Cam” (as in WSOP) suggests that Prof. Gelman holds the winning cards. Ted may not have his head in the game, and seems distracted perhaps..

    • Brad:

      Yes, “all-in” was a bit of poetic license. Amy Cuddy, Ted, and Susan Fiske raised. Andy Yap called. Dana Carney folded, saving her credibility chips for future hands of research. I raised too, but even forgetting about my mortal lock both high and low, I also have a big pile of chips in front of me. I guess Ted has a big pile of chips. Cuddy’s kinda out of chips so maybe she is all-in. Fiske maybe ready to keep calling but I guess it would take a lot to get her to fold. I think she’s in the position of the player with aces-up, who’s gradually realizing there’s someone else still in, holding trip 6’s. Throwing good money after bad. Fiske’s recent maneuvers could be analogized to a losing player calling the cops, hoping the game will get busted before anyone has to pay out.

      The analogy isn’t quite perfect because Andy Yap’s strategy doesn’t quite map to the poker game. Yap is laying low—I’m saying he’s “calling” but really he’s trying to hide under the table and hope that nobody notices that he’s not throwing in any more chips. I guess you might say he’s already folded and accepted the loss of his ante. But in that case I’m not sure how we’d describe Dana Carney’s behavior. She didn’t just fold, she up and put a side bet on Ranehill et al.

      OK, I guess that works:

      Cuddy: Raised all her chips already. Is now all-in.

      Ted: Just made a small raise.

      Ranehill et al: Pushed in all their chips awhile ago. All-in.

      Gelman: I continue to make the maximum raise each round.

      Fiske: A calling station.

      Yap: Folded.

      Carney: Folded and then put a side bet on Ranehill et al.

      The poker analogy still isn’t perfect because we’re not all competing with each other. I’m on the same “team” as Ranehill et al. (Cuddy, Ted, Fiske, and Yap, however, have competing interests.)

      And all of us are tighter-than-tight compared to the riverboat gambler Daniel “100% replication rate” Gilbert. That guy started with a couple of high cards in the hole, bet out on the first round, and keeps making the maximum raise any time anyone tweets him and tells him it’s his turn to bet. Gilbert’s the ultimate whale.

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