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Archive of posts filed under the Sociology category.

“America is used to blaming individuals for systemic problems. Let’s try to avoid that this time.”

I like this news article by Aviva Shen: In normal times, policing has been America’s primary response to a host of societal ills that cannot be solved by punishment. Homelessness, mental illness, violence, racism, poverty, and toxic masculinity are all fed through the criminal justice system, rather than getting addressed in any meaningful way, never […]

Given that 30% of Americans believe in astrology, it’s no surprise that some nontrivial percentage of influential American psychology professors are going to have the sort of attitude toward scientific theory and evidence that would lead them to have strong belief in weak theories supported by no good evidence.

Fascinating article by Christine Smallwood, “Astrology in the age of uncertainty”: Astrology is currently enjoying a broad cultural acceptance that hasn’t been seen since the nineteen-seventies. The shift began with the advent of the personal computer, accelerated with the Internet, and has reached new speeds through social media. According to a 2017 Pew Research Center […]

Noise-mining as standard practice in social science

The following example is interesting, not because it is particularly noteworthy but rather because it represents business as usual in much of social science: researchers trying their best, but hopelessly foiled by their use of crude psychological theories and cruder statistics, along with patterns of publication and publicity that motivate the selection and interpretation of […]

Stasi’s back in town. (My last post on Cass Sunstein and Richard Epstein.)

OK, I promise, this will be the last Stasi post ever. tl;dr: This post is too long. Don’t read it.

And the band played on: Low quality studies being published on Covid19 prediction.

According to Laure Wynants et al Systematic review and critical appraisal of prediction models for diagnosis and prognosis of COVID-19 infection  most of the recent published studies on prediction of Covid19 are of rather low quality. Information is desperately needed but not misleading information :-( Conclusion: COVID-19 related prediction models for diagnosis and prognosis are […]

The value (or lack of value) of preregistration in the absence of scientific theory

Javier Benitez points us to this 2013 post by psychology researcher Denny Borsboom. I have some thoughts on this article—in particular I want to compare psychology to other social science fields such as political science and economics—but first let me summarize it. Preregistration and open science Borsboom writes: In the past few months, the Center […]

Breaking the feedback loop: When people don’t correct their errors

OK, so here’s the pattern: 1. Someone makes a public statement with an error, an error that advances some political or personal agenda. 2. Some other people point out the error. 3. The original author refuses to apologize, or correct the error, or thank people for pointing out the error, and sometimes they don’t even […]

“Are Relational Inferences from Crowdsourced and Opt-in Samples Generalizable? Comparing Criminal Justice Attitudes in the GSS and Five Online Samples”

Justin Pickett writes: You’ve blogged a good bit on MTurk, weighting, and model-based inference. Drawing heavily on your work (Gelman, 2007; Gelman and Carlin, 2002; Wang et al., 2015), Andrew Thompson and I [Pickett] just published a study that largely confirms your concerns about MTurk (and opt-in samples), but that also emphasizes the promise of […]

100 Things to Know, from Lane Kenworthy

The sociologist has this great post: Here are a hundred things worth knowing about our world and about the United States. Because a picture is worth quite a few words and providing information in graphical form reduces misperceptions, I [Kenworthy] present each of them via a chart, with some accompanying text. This is great stuff. […]

Junk Science Then and Now

Many years ago, Martin Gardner wrote a book, Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science, featuring chapters on flat earth and eccentric astronomy theories, UFO’s, alternative physics, dowsing, creationism, Lysenkoism, pyramid truthers, medical quacks, food faddists, ESP, etc. The Wikipedia page summarizes Gardner’s book as follows: Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science […]

You don’t want a criminal journal… you want a criminal journal

“You don’t want a criminal lawyer… you want a criminal lawyer.” — Jesse Pinkman. In what sense is it a “blood sport” to ask someone for their data? That’s our question for the day. But it’ll take us a few paragraphs to get there. 1. A case of missing data Jordan Anaya points us to […]

Conditioning on a statistical method as a “meta” version of conditioning on a statistical model

When I do applied statistics, I follow Bayesian workflow: Construct a model, ride it hard, assess its implications, add more information, and so on. I have lots of doubt in my models, but when I’m fitting any particular model, I condition on it. The idea is we take our models seriously as that’s the best […]

The Paterno Defence: Gladwell’s Tipping Point?

“We need to prepare ourselves for the possibility that sometimes big changes follow small events, and that sometimes these changes can happen very quickly. . . . The Tipping Point is the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point.” — Malcolm Gladwell, 2000. Gladwell’s recent book got some negative reviews. No big deal. […]

Different challenges in replication in biomedical vs. social sciences

Summary – In biological sciences, it might be reasonable to expect real effects to replicate, but carrying out the measurement required to study this replication is difficult for technical reasons. – In social sciences, it might be straightforward to replicate the data collection, but effects of interest could vary so much by context that replication […]


X writes: Sur France Inter ce matin, le 23 septembre est le jour en France avec le plus de naissances (+5%). Have you done the same analysis on births for France than you did for the US? I replied that we (Aki, really) have not analyzed any French data, but if you have the numbers, […]

Vaping statistics controversy update: A retraction and some dispute

A few months ago we reported on two controversies regarding articles in the medical literature on the risks of e-cigarettes (vaping). One of the controversial papers was “Electronic cigarette use and myocardial infarction among adults in the US Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health [PATH],” by Dharma N. Bhatta and Stanton A. Glantz, published in […]

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 […]

Evidence-based medicine eats itself

There are three commonly stated principles of evidence-based research: 1. Reliance when possible on statistically significant results from randomized trials; 2. Balancing of costs, benefits, and uncertainties in decision making; 3. Treatments targeted to individuals or subsets of the population. Unfortunately and paradoxically, the use of statistics for hypothesis testing can get in the way […]

Putting Megan Higgs and Thomas Basbøll in the room together

OK, the’re both on the blogroll so maybe they already know about each other. But, just in case . . . here are two recent posts: Higgs, Fact detector? It is not.: Let’s assume that most people see science as the process of collecting more and more facts (where facts are taken as evidence of […]

Are GWAS studies of IQ/educational attainment problematic?

Nick Matzke writes: I wonder if you or your blog-colleagues would be interested in giving a quick blog take on the recent studies that do GWAS (Genome-Wide-Association Studies) on “traits” like IQ, educational attainment, and income? Matzke begins with some background: The new method for these studies is to claim that a “polygenic score” can […]