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Archive of posts filed under the Decision Theory category.

“The Generalizability Crisis” in the human sciences

In an article called The Generalizability Crisis, Tal Yarkoni writes: Most theories and hypotheses in psychology are verbal in nature, yet their evaluation overwhelmingly relies on inferential statistical procedures. The validity of the move from qualitative to quantitative analysis depends on the verbal and statistical expressions of a hypothesis being closely aligned—that is, that the […]

What can we learn from super-wide uncertainty intervals?

This question comes up a lot, in one form or another. Here’s a topical version, from Luigi Leone: I am writing after three weeks of lockdown. I would like to put to your attention this Imperial College report (issued on monday, I believe). The report estimates 9.8% of the Italian population (thus, 6 mil) and […]

Moving blog to twitter

My co-bloggers and I have decided that the best discussions are on twitter so we’re shutting down this blog, as of today. Old posts will remain, and you can continue to comment, but we won’t be adding any new material. We’re doing this for two reasons: 1. Our various attempts to raise funds by advertising […]

The second derivative of the time trend on the log scale (also see P.S.)

Peter Dorman writes: Have you seen this set of projections? It appears to have gotten around a bit, with citations to match, and IHME Director Christopher Murray is a superstar. (WHO Global Burden of Disease) Anyway, I live in Oregon, and when you compare our forecast to New York State it gets weird: a resource […]

“For the cost of running 96 wells you can test 960 people and accurate assess the prevalence in the population to within about 1%. Do this at 100 locations around the country and you’d have a spatial map of the extent of this epidemic today. . . and have this data by Monday.”

Daniel Lakeland writes: COVID-19 is tested for using real-time reverse-transcriptase PCR (rt-rt-PCR). This is basically just a fancy way of saying they are detecting the presence of the RNA by converting it to DNA and amplifying it. It has already been shown by people in Israel that you can combine material from at least 64 […]

Let’s do preregistered replication studies of the cognitive effects of air pollution—not because we think existing studies are bad, but because we think the topic is important and we want to understand it better.

In the replication crisis in science, replications have often been performed of controversial studies on silly topics such as embodied cognition, extra-sensory perception, and power pose. We’ve been talking recently about replication being something we do for high-quality studies on important topics. That is, the point of replication is not the hopeless endeavor of convincing […]

Are we ready to move to the “post p < 0.05 world”?

Robert Matthews writes: Your post on the design and analysis of trials really highlights how now more than ever it’s vital the research community takes seriously all that “nit-picking stuff” from statisticians about the dangers of faulty inferences based on null hypothesis significance testing. These dangers aren’t restricted to the search for new therapies. I’m […]

Some recommendations for design and analysis of clinical trials, with application to coronavirus

Various people have been contacting me lately about recommendations for design and analysis of clinical trials, with application to coronavirus. Below are some quick thoughts, or you can scroll down to the Summary Recommendations at the end. I’m sure there’s lots more to say on this topic but I’ll get my quick thoughts down here. […]

Do these data suggest that UPS, Amazon, etc., should be quarantining packages?

Doug Davidson writes: I just wanted to draw your attention to this paper [Aerosol and surface stability of HCoV-19 (SARS-CoV-2) compared to SARS-CoV-1, by Neeltje van Doremalen et al.] that used Stan. They are concerned with how long the virus remains viable on different surfaces, including packaging material. I think this will become more important […]

Coronavirus model update: Background, assumptions, and room for improvement

Julien Riou, coauthor of one of the models we discussed here, writes: Here is an overview of the current state of the project, so that it is easier for everyone to quickly grasp what is the potential room for improvement. Background on the epidemic: COVID-19 just passed 100,000 confirmed cases all over the world, and […]

What’s the American Statistical Association gonna say in their Task Force on Statistical Significance and Replicability?

Blake McShane and Valentin Amrhein point us to an announcement (see page 7 of this newsletter) from Karen Kafadar, president of the American Statistical Association, which states: Task Force on Statistical Significance and Replicability Created At the November 2019 ASA Board meeting, members of the board approved the following motion: An ASA Task Force on […]

Coronavirus “hits all the hot buttons” for promoting the scientist-as-hero narrative (cognitive psychology edition)

The New York Times continues to push the cognitive-illusion angle on coronavirus fear. Earlier this week we discussed an op-ed by social psychologist David DeSteno; today there’s a news article by that dude from Rushmore: There remains deep uncertainty about the new coronavirus’ mortality rate, with the high-end estimate that it is up to 20 […]

Expert writes op-ed in NYT recommending that we trust the experts

Asher Meir points us to this op-ed by social psychologist David DeSteno entitled, “How Fear Distorts Our Thinking About the Coronavirus: The solution isn’t to try to think more carefully. It’s to trust the experts.” DeSteno writes: When it comes to making decisions that involve risks, we humans can be irrational in quite systematic ways […]

Is there any scientific evidence that humans don’t like uncertainty?

Avram Altaras asks: Is there any scientific evidence that humans don’t like uncertainty? I think I saw that in one of Gigerenzer’s articles, and the guest lecturer talked about it last week. It’s def conventional wisdom but I’m having difficulty accepting it. I replied that I’m not sure. I guess a statement such as “humans […]

The fallacy of the excluded rationality

Malcolm Bull writes: Thanks to the work of behavioural economists there is a lot of experimental evidence to show what many of us would have suspected anyway: that people are not the rational, utility-maximisers of neoclassical economics, but loss-averse sentimentalists who, faced with even the simplest cognitive problem, prefer dodgy short cuts to careful analysis. […]

Forget about multiple testing corrections. Actually, forget about hypothesis testing entirely.

Tai Huang writes: I am reading this paper [Why we (usually) don’t have to worry about multiple comparisons, by Jennifer, Masanao, and myself]. I am searching how to do multiple comparisons correctly under Bayesian inference for A/B/C testing. For the traditional t-test approach, Bonferroni correction is needed to correct alpha value. I am confused with […]

Steven Pinker on torture

I’ve recently been thinking about that expression, “A liberal is a conservative who’s been arrested.” Linguist and public intellectual Steven Pinker got into some trouble recently when it turned out that he’d been offering expert advice to the legal team of now-disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein. I would not condemn Pinker for this. After all, everybody […]

How to get out of the credulity rut (regression discontinuity edition): Getting beyond whack-a-mole

This one’s buggin me. We’re in a situation now with forking paths in applied-statistics-being-done-by-economists where we were, about ten years ago, in applied-statistics-being-done-by-psychologists. (I was going to use the terms “econometrics” and “psychometrics” here, but that’s not quite right, because I think these mistakes are mostly being made, by applied researchers in economics and psychology, […]

Four projects in the intellectual history of quantitative social science

1. The rise and fall of game theory. My impression is that game theory peaked in the late 1950s. Two classics from that area are Philip K. Dick’s “Solar Lottery” and R. Duncan Luce and Howard Raiffa’s “Games and Decisions.” The latter is charming in its retro attitude that all that remained were some minor […]

Linear or logistic regression with binary outcomes

Gio Circo writes: There is a paper currently floating around which suggests that when estimating causal effects in OLS is better than any kind of generalized linear model (i.e. binomial). The author draws a sharp distinction between causal inference and prediction. Having gotten most of my statistical learning using Bayesian methods, I find this distinction […]