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Archive of posts filed under the Zombies 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 […]

When can we challenge authority with authority?

Michael Nelson writes: I want to thank you for posting your last decade of publications in a single space and organized by topic. But I also wanted to share a critique of your argument style as exemplified in your Annals of Surgery correspondence [here and here]. While I think it’s important and valuable that you […]

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 […]

Adjusting for differences between treatment and control groups: “statistical significance” and “multiple testing” have nothing to do with it

Jonathan Falk points us to this post by Scott Alexander entitled “Two Unexpected Multiple Hypothesis Testing Problems.” The important questions, though, have nothing to do with multiple hypothesis testing or with hypothesis testing at all. As is often the case, certain free-floating scientific ideas get in the way of thinking about the real problem. Alexander […]

The 2019 project: How false beliefs in statistical differences still live in social science and journalism today

It’s the usual story. PNAS, New York Times, researcher degrees of freedom, story time. Weakliem reports: [The NYT article] said that a 2016 survey found that “when asked to imagine how much pain white or black patients experienced in hypothetical situations, the medical students and residents insisted that black people felt less pain.” I [Weakliem] […]

Call for a moratorium on the use of the term “prisoner’s dilemma”

Palko writes: I’m not sure what the best way to get the ball rolling here would be (perhaps a kickstarter?) but we need to have a strictly enforced rule that no journalist or pundit is allowed to mention the prisoner’s dilemma for the next five or ten years, however long it takes to learn to […]

I have these great April Fools ideas but there’s no space for them in the margin of this blog

Not really. Actually I have no good April Fools ideas this year. Usually I write an April Fools post months in advance, but it’s been such an overwhelming year in so many ways with a pandemic, an attempted overthrow of the government, and lots more, that somehow the inspiration never came. Bu we should have […]

A tale of two epidemiologists: It was the worst of times.

A couple of commenters pointed me to the story of John Ioannidis and Gideon Meyerowitz-Katz. David Gorski tells the tale. Ioannidis still seems to be dealing with the after-effects of his extrapolation last year that there might be 10,000 coronavirus deaths in the United States. This was just a back-of-the-envelope calculation, and as Gorski says, […]

“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 […]

“The 100 Worst Ed-Tech Debacles of the Decade”

This is a list from Audrey Watters (link from Palko). 100! Wow—that’s a long list. But it is for a whole decade. I doubt this’ll make it on to Bill Gates’s must-reads of the year, but I liked it. Just to give you a sense, I’ll share the first and last items on Watters’s list: […]

Chernobyl disaster and Matthew Walker’s “Why We Sleep”

Alexey Smirnov writes: I was outraged with Walker’s claim that Chernobyl disaster was caused by the operators’ lack of sleep (do not remember exact page). I happened to live in Ukraine during the period, and the subject was somewhat of a painful area of memory. While the book up to that point seemed fresh and […]

Whassup with the haphazard coronavirus statistics?

Peter Dorman writes: This piece by Robinson Meyer and Alexis Madrigal on the inadequacy of Covid data is useful but frustrating. I think they could have dispensed with the self-puffery, rhetoric and sweeping generalizations and been more detailed about data issues. Nevertheless the core point is one that you and others have stressed, that too […]

The garden of forking paths: Why multiple comparisons can be a problem, even when there is no “fishing expedition” or “p-hacking” and the research hypothesis was posited ahead of time

Kevin Lewis points us to this article by Joachim Vosgerau, Uri Simonsohn, Leif Nelson, and Joseph Simmons, which begins: Several researchers have relied on, or advocated for, internal meta-analysis, which involves statistically aggregating multiple studies in a paper . . . Here we show that the validity of internal meta-analysis rests on the assumption that […]

Regression discontinuity analysis is often a disaster. So what should you do instead? Here’s my recommendation:

Summary If you have an observational study with outcome y treatment variable z and pre-treatment predictors X, and treatment assignment depends only on X, then you can estimate the average causal effect by regressing y on z and X and looking at the coefficient of z. If there is lack of complete overlap in X […]

Ahhhh, Cornell!

What’s up with that place? From his webpage: Sternberg’s main research interests are in intelligence, creativity, wisdom, thinking styles, teaching and learning, love, jealousy, envy, and hate. That pretty much covers it.

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 […]

This one pushes all my buttons

August Wartin writes: Just wanted to make you aware of this ongoing discussion about an article in JPE: It’s the same professor Lidbom that was involved in this discussion a few years ago (I believe you mentioned something about it on your blog). Indeed, we blogged it here. Here’s the abstract of Lidbom’s more recent […]

Marshmallow update

Gur Huberman points us to this interesting article by Dee Gill about a posthumous research publication. It’s about 80 zillion times better than the usual science press release. P.S. I did some quick googling and found some fun links showing past credulity on the marshmallow thing from the usual suspects: Sapolsky, Brooks, NPR. None of […]

Stanford prison experiment

Mark Palko points us to a review by Alison Abbott of a book by Susannah Cahalan telling a disturbing story of a psychology professor at a prestigious university who had stunning academic and popular success based on research that he seems to have incorrectly and misleadingly reported. Disturbing—but not surprising, given we now have a […]

What is the relevance of “bad science” to our understanding of “good science”?

We spend some time talking about junk science, or possible junk science, most recently that book about sleep, but we have lots of other examples such as himmicanes, air rage, ages ending in 9, pizzagate, weggy, the disgraced primatologist, regression discontinuity disasters, beauty and sex ratio, the critical positivity ratio, slaves and serfs, gremlins, and […]

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