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Archive of posts filed under the Zombies category.

2 perspectives on the relevance of social science to our current predicament: (1) social scientists should back off, or (2) social science has a lot to offer

Perspective 1: Social scientists should back off This is what the political scientist Anthony Fowler wrote the other day: The public appetite for more information about Covid-19 is understandably insatiable. Social scientists have been quick to respond. . . . While I understand the impulse, the rush to publish findings quickly in the midst of […]

Uncertainty and variation as distinct concepts

Jake Hofman, Dan Goldstein, and Jessica Hullman write: Scientists presenting experimental results often choose to display either inferential uncertainty (e.g., uncertainty in the estimate of a population mean) or outcome uncertainty (e.g., variation of outcomes around that mean). How does this choice impact readers’ beliefs about the size of treatment effects? We investigate this question […]

“So the real scandal is: Why did anyone ever listen to this guy?”

John Fund writes: [Imperial College epidemiologist Neil] Ferguson was behind the disputed research that sparked the mass culling of eleven million sheep and cattle during the 2001 outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease. He also predicted that up to 150,000 people could die. There were fewer than 200 deaths. . . . In 2002, Ferguson predicted that […]

“Positive Claims get Publicity, Refutations do Not: Evidence from the 2020 Flu”

Part 1 Andrew Lilley, Gianluca Rinaldi, and Matthew Lilley write: You might be familiar with a recent paper by Correira, Luck, and Verner who argued that cities that enacted non-pharmaceutical interventions earlier / for longer during the Spanish Flu of 1918 had higher subsequent economic growth. The paper has had extensive media coverage – e.g. […]

NPR’s gonna NPR (special coronavirus junk science edition)

1. The news! Zad’s cat, pictured above, is not impressed by this bit of cargo-cult science that two people sent to me: No vaccine or effective treatment has yet been found for people suffering from COVID-19. Under the circumstances, a physician in Kansas City wonders whether prayer might make a difference, and he has launched […]

The return of the red state blue state fallacy

Back in the early days of this blog, we had frequent posts about the differences between Republican or Democratic voters and Republican or Democratic areas. This was something that confused lots of political journalists, most notably Michael Barone (see, for example, here) and Tucker Carlson (here), also academics such as psychologist Jonathan Haidt (here) and […]

No, they won’t share their data.

Jon Baron read the recent article, “Presenting Characteristics, Comorbidities, and Outcomes Among 5700 Patients Hospitalized With COVID-19 in the New York City Area,” and sent the following message to one of the authors: I read with interest your article in JAMA. I have been trying to follow this issue closely, if only because my wife […]

“I don’t want ‘crowd peer review’ or whatever you want to call it,” he said. “It’s just too burdensome and I’d rather have a more formal peer review process.”

I understand the above quote completely. Life would be so much simpler if my work was just reviewed by my personal friends and by people whose careers are tied to mine. Sure, they’d point out problems, but they’d do it in a nice way, quietly. They’d understand that any mistakes I made would never have […]

Information or Misinformation During a Pandemic: Comparing the effects of following Nassim Taleb, Richard Epstein, or Cass Sunstein on twitter.

So, there’s this new study doing the rounds. Some economists decided to study the twitter followers of prominent coronavirus skeptics and fearmongers, and it seems that followers of Nassim Taleb were more likely to shelter in place, and less like to die of coronavirus, than followers of Richard Epstein or Cass Sunstein. And the differences […]


Just a reminder that life goes on (thanks to commenter Lemmus), from the British Journal of Social Psychology: Are women more likely to wear red and pink at peak fertility? What about on cold days? Conceptual, close, and extended replications with novel clothing colour measures. Evolutionarily minded researchers have hypothesized that women advertise their ovulatory […]

I’m frustrated by the politicization of the coronavirus discussion. Here’s an example:

Flavio Bartmann writes: Over the last few days, as COVID-19 posed some serious issues for policy makers who, both in the US and elsewhere, have employed statistical models to develop mitigation strategies, a number of non-statisticians have criticized the use of such models as useless or worse. A typical example is this article by Victor […]

Marc Hauser: Victim of statistics?

I have no idea; this is just a theory. In the past, when disgraced primatologist Marc Hauser has come up in this space, it’s been because he “fabricated data, manipulated experimental results, and published falsified findings” (in the words of the Department of Health and Human Services, as quoted by wikipedia), juxtaposed with the whole […]

“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.

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 […]

Are we ready to move to the “post p < 0.05 world”?

Robert Matthews writes: Your post on the design and analysis of trials really highlights how now more than ever it’s vital the research community takes seriously all that “nit-picking stuff” from statisticians about the dangers of faulty inferences based on null hypothesis significance testing. These dangers aren’t restricted to the search for new therapies. I’m […]

“Why We Sleep — a tale of institutional failure”

Table of contents Chapter 1. The latest chapter in Why We Sleep, a Saga of Research Misconduct Chapter 2. Why do we keep writing about this? Chapter 1: The latest chapter in Why We Sleep, a Saga of Research Misconduct In our previous installment of this podcast, we learned from independent researcher Alexey Guzey that […]

“As a girl, she’d been very gullible, but she had always learned more that way.”

I keep thinking about the above quote, which is from the Lorrie Moore story, “Community Life.” I’ve read some Lorrie Moore from time to time, but I found out about this particular story by hearing it on the New Yorker fiction podcast (which I absolutely love, but that’s a topic for another post). What struck […]