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Archive of posts filed under the Sociology category.

More on that credulity thing

I see five problems here that together form a feedback loop with bad consequences. Here are the problems: 1. Irrelevant or misunderstood statistical or econometric theory; 2. Poorly-executed research; 3. Other people in the field being loath to criticize, taking published or even preprinted claims as correct until proved otherwise; 4. Journalists taking published or […]

Why did it take so many decades for the behavioral sciences to develop a sense of crisis around methodology and replication?

“On or about December 1910 human character changed.” — Virginia Woolf (1924). Woolf’s quote about modernism in the arts rings true, in part because we continue to see relatively sudden changes in intellectual life, not merely from technology (email and texting replacing letters and phone calls, streaming replacing record sales, etc.) and power relations (for […]

The both both of science reform

This is Jessica. I pay some attention to what gets discussed in methodological/statistical reform research and discussions, and I’m probably not the only one who’s watched as the movement (at least in psychology) seems to be getting more self-aware recently. The other day I jotted down what strike me as some yet-unresolved tensions worth reflecting […]

“Like a harbor clotted with sunken vessels”: update

A few years ago I reported on this story: In 2005, Michael Kosfeld, Markus Heinrichs, Paul Zak, Urs Fischbacher, and Ernst Fehr published a paper, “Oxytocin increases trust in humans.” According to Google, that paper has been cited 3389 times. In 2015, Gideon Nave, Colin Camerer, and Michael McCullough published a paper, “Does Oxytocin Increase […]


I read this interesting article by Anna Wiener about Substack, which is a sort of branded blogging and RSS platform that allows writers to charge subscriptions. The topic was interesting to me in part because I’ve been blogging for a long time and in part because as a citizen and consumer of news I am […]

Postdoctoral opportunity with Sarah Cowan and Jennifer Hill: causal inference for Universal Basic Income (UBI)

See below from Sarah Cowan: I write to announce the launch of the Cash Transfer Lab. Our mission is to build an evidence base regarding cash transfer policies like a Universal Basic Income. We answer the fundamental questions of how a Universal Basic Income policy would transform American families, communities and economies. The first major […]

The social sciences are useless. So why do we study them? Here’s a good reason:

Back when I taught at Berkeley, you could always get a reaction from the students by invoking Stanford. The funny thing is, though, if you’re at Stanford and mention Berkeley, nobody cares. You have to bring up Harvard to get a reaction. Similarly, MIT students have a chip on their shoulder about Harvard, but Harvard […]

“The presumption of wisdom and/or virtue causes intellectuals to personalize situations where contending ideas are involved.”

Mark Tuttle writes: A friend recommended the book Intellectuals and Society, by Thomas Sowell. The book is from 2010, but before this recommendation I hadn’t heard of it. Note the last paragraph, below, in the Wikipedia entry: Ego-involvement and personalization The presumption of wisdom and/or virtue causes intellectuals to personalize situations where contending ideas are […]

“From Socrates to Darwin and beyond: What children can teach us about the human mind”

This talk is really interesting. I like how she starts off with the connections between psychological essentialism and political polarization, as an example of the importance of these ideas in so many areas of life.

Yes, there is such a thing as Eurocentric science (Gremlins edition)

Sometimes we hear stories about silly cultural studies types who can’t handle the objective timeless nature of science. Ha ha ha, we laugh—and, indeed, we should laugh if we don’t cry because some of that stuff really is ridiculous. But let us not forget that science really can be culture-bound. Not just silly psychology journals […]

Earliest Known Uses of Some of the Words of Mathematics

Aki points us to this fun 1990s-style webpage from Jeff Miller. Last year we featured his page on word oddities and other trivia. You might also enjoy his page, Earliest Uses of Various Mathematical Symbols. Here’s an example: The equal symbol (=) was first used by Robert Recorde (c. 1510-1558) in 1557 in The Whetstone […]

Science reform can get so personal

This is Jessica. Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about philosophy of science, motivated by both a longtime interest in methodological reform in the social sciences and a more recent interest in proposed ethics problems and reforms in computer science. The observation I want to share is not intended to support any particular stance, but […]

Rapid prepublication peer review

The following came in the email last week from Gordon Shotwell: You posted about an earlier pilot trial of calcifidiol, so I wanted to send you this larger study. The randomization is a bit funky and if you were interested it would be great to hear what sorts of inferences we can make about this […]

“Smell the Data”

Mike Maltz writes the following on ethnography and statistics: I got interested in ethnographic studies because of a concern for people analyzing data without an understanding of its origins and the way it was collected. An ethnographer collects stories, and too many statisticians disparage them, calling them “anecdotes” instead of real data. But stories are […]

Who are the culture heroes of today?

When I was a kid, the culture heroes were Hollywood and TV actors, pop musicians, athletes and coaches, historical political and military figures, then I guess you could go down the list of fame and consider authors, artists, scientists and inventors . . . . that’s about it, I think. Nowadays, we still have actors, […]

How to incorporate new data into our understanding? Sturgis rally example.

A colleague writes: This is a very provocative claim about the Sturgis rally—can you do a stats “fact check”? I’m curious if this has been subjected to statistical scrutiny. I replied that I’m curious why he said this study is provocative: It makes sense that when people get together and connect nodes in the social […]

“Where in your education were you taught about intellectual honesty?”

Haynes Goddard asks: Here is the question I want to put to this blog’s readers. Where in your education were you taught about intellectual honesty? I don’t mean academic dishonesty such as cheating and plagiarism which are actively controlled. I am told it is covered in classes on critical thinking, mainly in Philosophy Depts. Where […]

One more cartoon like this, and this blog will be obsolete.

This post is by Phil. This SMBC cartoon seems to wrap up about half of the content of this blog.  Of course I’m exaggerating. There will still be room for book reviews and cat photos.

Will the pandemic cause a decline in births? We’ll be able to resolve this particular debate in about 9 months . . .

The fallacy of the one-sided bet I’m gonna be talking about a news article and research paper asking the question, “Will coronavirus cause a baby boom, or is that just a myth?” And my problem is the fallacy of the one-sided bet: By asking the question, is there a positive effect or is it zero, […]

Social penumbras predict political attitudes

More crap from PPNAS: The political influence of a group is typically explained in terms of its size, geographic concentration, or the wealth and power of the group’s members. This article introduces another dimension, the penumbra, defined as the set of individuals in the population who are personally familiar with someone in that group. Distinct […]

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