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Archive of posts filed under the Sociology category.

Storytelling: What’s it good for?

A story can be an effective way to send a message. Anna Clemens explains: Why are stories so powerful? To answer this, we have to go back at least 100,000 years. This is when humans started to speak. For the following roughly 94,000 years, we could only use spoken words to communicate. Stories helped us […]

“The Book of Why” by Pearl and Mackenzie

Judea Pearl and Dana Mackenzie sent me a copy of their new book, “The book of why: The new science of cause and effect.” There are some things I don’t like about their book, and I’ll get to that, but I want to start with a central point of theirs with which I agree strongly. […]

Did she really live 122 years?

Even more famous than “the Japanese dude who won the hot dog eating contest” is “the French lady who lived to be 122 years old.” But did she really? Paul Campos points us to this post, where he writes: Here’s a statistical series, laying out various points along the 100 longest known durations of a […]

What to do when you read a paper and it’s full of errors and the author won’t share the data or be open about the analysis?

Someone writes: I would like to ask you for an advice regarding obtaining data for reanalysis purposes from an author who has multiple papers with statistical errors and doesn’t want to share the data. Recently, I reviewed a paper that included numbers that had some of the reported statistics that were mathematically impossible. As the […]

Combining apparently contradictory evidence

I want to write a more formal article about this, but in the meantime here’s a placeholder. The topic is the combination of apparently contradictory evidence. Let’s start with a simple example: you have some ratings on a 1-10 scale. These could be, for example, research proposals being rated by a funding committee, or, umm, […]

Back to the Wall

Jim Windle writes: Funny you should blog about Jaynes. Just a couple of days ago I was looking for something in his book’s References/Bibliography (it along with “Godel, Escher, Bach” and “Darwin’s Dangerous Idea” have bibliographies which I find not just useful but entertaining), and ran across something I wanted to send you but I […]

“Thus, a loss aversion principle is rendered superfluous to an account of the phenomena it was introduced to explain.”

What better day than Christmas, that day of gift-giving, to discuss “loss aversion,” the purported asymmetry in utility, whereby losses are systematically more painful than gains are pleasant? Loss aversion is a core principle of the heuristics and biases paradigm of psychology and behavioral economics. But it’s been controversial for a long time. For example, […]

Carol Nickerson explains what those mysterious diagrams were saying

A few years ago, James Coyne asked, “Can you make sense of this diagram?” and I responded, No, I can’t. At the time, Carol Nickerson wrote up explanations for two of the figures in the article in question. So if anyone’s interested, here they are: Carol Nickerson’s explanation of Figure 2 in Kok et al. […]

The causal hype ratchet

Noah Haber informs us of a research article, “Causal language and strength of inference in academic and media articles shared in social media (CLAIMS): A systematic review,” that he wrote with Emily Smith, Ellen Moscoe, Kathryn Andrews, Robin Audy, Winnie Bell, Alana Brennan, Alexander Breskin, Jeremy Kane, Mahesh Karra, Elizabeth McClure, and Elizabeth Suarez, and […]

Why do sociologists (and bloggers) focus on the negative? 5 possible explanations. (A post in the style of Fabio Rojas)

Fabio Rojas asks why the academic field of sociology seems so focused on the negative. As he puts it, why doesn’t the semester begin with the statement, “Hi, everyone, this is soc 101, the scientific study of society. In this class, I’ll tell you about how American society is moving in some great directions as […]

Surprise-hacking: “the narrative of blindness and illusion sells, and therefore continues to be the central thesis of popular books written by psychologists and cognitive scientists”

Teppo Felin sends along this article with Mia Felin, Joachim Krueger, and Jan Koenderink on “surprise-hacking,” and writes: We essentially see surprise-hacking as the upstream, theoretical cousin of p-hacking. Though, surprise-hacking can’t be resolved with replication, more data or preregistration. We use perception and priming research to make these points (linking to Kahneman and priming, […]

Oh, I hate it when work is criticized (or, in this case, fails in attempted replications) and then the original researchers don’t even consider the possibility that maybe in their original work they were inadvertently just finding patterns in noise.

I have a sad story for you today. Jason Collins tells it: In The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty, Dan Ariely describes an experiment to determine how much people cheat . . . The question then becomes how to reduce cheating. Ariely describes one idea: We took a group of 450 participants and split them into […]

My footnote about global warming

At the beginning of my article, How to think scientifically about scientists’ proposals for fixing science, which we discussed yesterday, I wrote: Science is in crisis. Any doubt about this status has surely been been dispelled by the loud assurances to the contrary by various authority figures who are deeply invested in the current system […]

Latour Sokal NYT

Alan Sokal writes: I don’t know whether you saw the NYT Magazine’s fawning profile of sociologist of science Bruno Latour about a month ago. I wrote to the author, and later to the editor, to critique the gross lack of balance (and even of the most minimal fact-checking). No reply. So I posted my critique […]

A parable regarding changing standards on the presentation of statistical evidence

Now, the P-value Sneetches Had tables with stars. The Bayesian Sneetches Had none upon thars. Those stars weren’t so big. They were really so small. You might think such a thing wouldn’t matter at all. But, because they had stars, all the P-value Sneetches Would brag, “We’re the best kind of Sneetch on the Beaches. […]

Bayes, statistics, and reproducibility: “Many serious problems with statistics in practice arise from Bayesian inference that is not Bayesian enough, or frequentist evaluation that is not frequentist enough, in both cases using replication distributions that do not make scientific sense or do not reflect the actual procedures being performed on the data.”

This is an abstract I wrote for a talk I didn’t end up giving. (The conference conflicted with something else I had to do that week.) But I thought it might interest some of you, so here it is: Bayes, statistics, and reproducibility The two central ideas in the foundations of statistics—Bayesian inference and frequentist […]

My talk tomorrow (Tues) noon at the Princeton University Psychology Department

Integrating collection, analysis, and interpretation of data in social and behavioral research Andrew Gelman, Department of Statistics and Department of Political Science, Columbia University The replication crisis has made us increasingly aware of the flaws of conventional statistical reasoning based on hypothesis testing. The problem is not just a technical issue with p-values, not can […]

“Law professor Alan Dershowitz’s new book claims that political differences have lately been criminalized in the United States. He has it wrong. Instead, the orderly enforcement of the law has, ludicrously, been framed as political.”

This op-ed by Virginia Heffernan is about g=politics, but it reminded me of the politics of science. Heffernan starts with the background: This last year has been a crash course in startlingly brutal abuses of power. For decades, it seems, a caste of self-styled overmen has felt liberated to commit misdeeds with impunity: ethical, sexual, […]

The purported CSI effect and the retroactive precision fallacy

Regarding our recent post on the syllogism that ate science, someone points us to this article, “The CSI Effect: Popular Fiction About Forensic Science Affects Public Expectations About Real Forensic Science,” by N. J. Schweitzer and Michael J. Saks. We’ll get to the CSI Effect in a bit, but first I want to share the […]

Raghuveer Parthasarathy’s big idea for fixing science

Raghuveer Parthasarathy writes: The U.S. National Science Foundation ran an interesting call for proposals recently called the “Idea Machine,” aiming to gather “Big Ideas” to shape the future of research. It was open not just to scientists, but to anyone interested in potentially identifying grand challenges and new directions. He continues: (i) There are non-obvious, […]