Skip to content
Archive of posts filed under the Sociology category.

Debate about genetics and school performance

Jag Bhalla points us to this article, “Differences in exam performance between pupils attending selective and non-selective schools mirror the genetic differences between them,” by Emily Smith-Woolley, Jean-Baptiste Pingault, Saskia Selzam, Kaili Rimfeld, Eva Krapohl, Sophie von Stumm, Kathryn Asbury, Philip Dale, Toby Young, Rebecca Allen, Yulia Kovas, and Robert Plomin, along with this response […]

A study fails to replicate, but it continues to get referenced as if it had no problems. Communication channels are blocked.

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 Trust in Humans? A Critical Review of Research,” where […]

Young Investigator Special Competition for Time-Sharing Experiment for the Social Sciences

Sociologists Jamie Druckman and Jeremy Freese write: Time-Sharing Experiments for the Social Sciences is Having A Special Competition for Young Investigators Time-sharing Experiments for the Social Sciences (TESS) is an NSF-funded initiative. Investigators propose survey experiments to be fielded using a nationally representative Internet platform via NORC’s AmeriSpeak Panel (see http:/tessexperiments.org for more information). While […]

Fitting the Besag, York, and Mollie spatial autoregression model with discrete data

Rudy Banerjee writes: I am trying to use the Besag, York & Mollie 1991 (BYM) model to study the sociology of crime and space/time plays a vital role. Since many of the variables and parameters are discrete in nature is it possible to develop a BYM that uses an Integer Auto-regressive (INAR) process instead of […]

Understanding Chicago’s homicide spike; comparisons to other cities

Michael Masinter writes: As a longtime blog reader sufficiently wise not to post beyond my academic discipline, I hope you might take a look at what seems to me to be a highly controversial attempt to use regression analysis to blame the ACLU for the recent rise in homicides in Chicago. A summary appears here […]

Rising test scores . . . reported as stagnant test scores

Joseph Delaney points to a post by Kevin Drum pointing to a post by Bob Somerby pointing to a magazine article by Natalie Wexler that reported on the latest NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) test results. In an article entitled, “Why American Students Haven’t Gotten Better at Reading in 20 Years,” Wexler asks, “what’s […]

Bayesian inference and religious belief

We’re speaking here not of Bayesianism as a religion but of the use of Bayesian inference to assess or validate the evidence regarding religious belief, in short, the probability that God !=0 or the probability that the Pope is Catholic or, as Tyler Cowen put it, the probability that Lutheranism is true. As a statistician […]

“Fudged statistics on the Iraq War death toll are still circulating today”

Mike Spagat shares this story entitled, “Fudged statistics on the Iraq War death toll are still circulating today,” which discusses problems with a paper published in a scientific journal in 2006, and errors that a reporter inadvertently included in a recent news article. Spagat writes: The Lancet could argue that if [Washington Post reporter Philip] […]

“Six Signs of Scientism”: where I disagree with Haack

I came across this article, “Six Signs of Scientism,” by philosopher Susan Haack from 2009. I think I’m in general agreement with Haack’s views—science has made amazing progress over the centuries but “like all human enterprises, science is ineradicably is fallible and imperfect. At best its progress is ragged, uneven, and unpredictable; moreover, much scientific […]

“Moral cowardice requires choice and action.”

Commenter Chris G pointed out this quote from Ta-Nehisi Coates: Moral cowardice requires choice and action. It demands that its adherents repeatedly look away, that they favor the fanciful over the plain, myth over history, the dream over the real. Coates was writing about the defenders of the Confederate flag. Coates points to this quotation […]

What do you do when someone says, “The quote is, this is the exact quote”—and then misquotes you?

Ezra Klein, editor of the news/opinion website Vox, reports on a recent debate that sits in the center of the Venn diagram of science, journalism, and politics: Sam Harris, host of the Waking Up podcast, and I [Klein] have been going back and forth over an interview Harris did with The Bell Curve author Charles […]

(People are missing the point on Wansink, so) what’s the lesson we should be drawing from this story?

People pointed me to various recent news articles on the retirement from the Cornell University business school of eating-behavior researcher and retraction king Brian Wansink. I particularly liked this article by David Randall—not because he quoted me, but because he crisply laid out the key issues: The irreproducibility crisis cost Brian Wansink his job. Over […]

Post-publication peer review: who’s qualified?

Gabriel Power writes: I don’t recall that you addressed this point in your posts on post-publication peer review [for example, here and here — ed.]. Who would be allowed to post reviews of a paper? Anyone? Only researchers? Only experts? Science is not a democracy. A study is not valid because a majority of people […]

High-profile statistical errors occur in the physical sciences too, it’s not just a problem in social science.

In an email with subject line, “Article full of forking paths,” John Williams writes: I thought you might be interested in this article by John Sabo et al., which was the cover article for the Dec. 8 issue of Science. The article is dumb in various ways, some of which are described in the technical […]

Echo Chamber Incites Online Mob to Attack Math Profs

The story starts as follows: There’s evidence for greater variability in the distribution of men, compared to women, in various domains. Two math professors, Theodore Hill and Sergei Tabachnikov, wrote an article exploring a mathematical model for the evolution of this difference in variation, and send the article to the Mathematical Intelligencer, a magazine that […]

Mouse Among the Cats

Colleen Flaherty asks: Do you get asked to peer review a lot? I’m guessing you do… This new very short paper says it’s not a crisis, though, since only the people who publish the most are getting asked to review a lot… The authors pose two solutions: either we need to “democratize” the system of […]

Researchers.one: A souped-up Arxiv with pre- and post-publication review

Harry Crane writes: I’m writing to call your attention to a new peer review and publication platform, called RESEARCHERS.ONE, that I have recently launched with Ryan Martin. The platform can be found at https://www.researchers.one. Given past discussions I’ve seen on your website, I think this new platform might interest you and your readers. We’d also […]

What if a big study is done and nobody reports it?

Paul Alper writes: Your blog often contains criticisms of articles which get too much publicity. Here is an instance of the obverse (inverse? reverse?) where a worthy publication dealing with a serious medical condition is virtually ignored. From Michael Joyce at the ever-reliable and informative Healthnewsreview.org: Prostate cancer screening: massive study gets minimal coverage. Why? […]

Against Winner-Take-All Attribution

This is the anti-Wolfram. I did not design or write the Stan language. I’m a user of Stan. Lots of people designed and wrote Stan, most notably Bob Carpenter (designed the language and implemented lots of the algorithms), Matt Hoffman (came up with the Nuts algorithm), and Daniel Lee (put together lots of the internals […]

“Identification of and correction for publication bias,” and another discussion of how forking paths is not the same thing as file drawer

Max Kasy and Isaiah Andrews sent along this paper, which begins: Some empirical results are more likely to be published than others. Such selective publication leads to biased estimates and distorted inference. This paper proposes two approaches for identifying the conditional probability of publication as a function of a study’s results, the first based on […]