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Archive of posts filed under the Zombies category.

“Yes, not only am I suspicious of the claims in that op-ed, I’m also suspicious of all the individual claims from the links in these two sentences”

Someone pointed me with suspicion to a newspaper article that reported a cool-looking social science result, and asked me for my thoughts. I replied, Yes, not only am I suspicious of the claims in that article, I’m also suspicious of all the individual claims from these links. And I pointed to a bunch of links […]

George Orwell meets statistical significance: “Politics and the English Language” applied to science

1. Political writing: imprecision as a tool for obscuring the indefensible In his classic essay, “Politics and the English Language,” the political journalist George Orwell drew a connection between cloudy writing and cloudy content. The basic idea was: if you don’t know what you’re saying, or if you’re trying to say something you don’t really […]

Statistical-significance filtering is a noise amplifier.

The above phrase just came up, and I think it’s important enough to deserve its own post. Well-meaning researchers do statistical-significance filtering all the time—it’s what they’re trained to do, it’s what they see in published papers in top journals, it’s what reviewers for journals want them to do—so I can understand why they do […]

Evidence distortion in clinical trials

After seeing our recent post, “Seeding trials”: medical marketing disguised as science, Till Bruckner sent me this message: I’ve been working on clinical trial transparency issues for over two years now, first for AllTrials and now for TranspariMED, and can assure you that this is only the tip of the iceberg. This report by Transparency […]

Don’t worry, the post will be coming . . . eventually

Jordan Anaya sends along a link and writes: Not sure if you’re planning on covering this, but I noticed this today. This could also maybe be another example of the bullshit asymmetry principle since the original paper has an altmetric of 1300 and I’m not sure the rebuttal will get as much attention. I replied […]

“News Release from the JAMA Network”

A couple people pointed me to this: Here’s the Notice of Retraction: On May 8, 2018, notices of Expression of Concern were published regarding articles published in JAMA and the JAMA Network journals that included Brian Wansink, PhD, as author. At that time, Cornell University was contacted and was requested to conduct an independent evaluation […]

Statmodeling Retro

As many of you know, this blog auto-posts on twitter. That’s cool. But we also have 15 years of old posts with lots of interesting content and discussion! So I had this idea of setting up another twitter feed, Statmodeling Retro, that would start with our very first post in 2004 and then go forward, […]

More on that horrible statistical significance grid

Regarding this horrible Table 4: Eric Loken writes: The clear point or your post was that p-values (and even worse the significance versus non-significance) are a poor summary of data. The thought I’ve had lately, working with various groups of really smart and thoughtful researchers, is that Table 4 is also a model of their […]

The bullshit asymmetry principle

Jordan Anaya writes, “We talk about this concept a lot, I didn’t realize there was a name for it.” From the wikipedia entry: Publicly formulated the first time in January 2013 by Alberto Brandolini, an Italian programmer, the bullshit asymmetry principle (also known as Brandolini’s law) states that: The amount of energy needed to refute […]

What should JPSP have done with Bem’s ESP paper, back in 2010? Click to find the surprisingly simple answer!

OK, you all remember the story, arguably the single event that sent the replication crisis into high gear: the decision of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology to publish a paper on extra-sensory perception (ESP) by Cornell professor Daryl Bem and the subsequent discussion of this research in the New York Times and elsewhere. […]

When doing regression (or matching, or weighting, or whatever), don’t say “control for,” say “adjust for”

This comes up from time to time. We were discussing a published statistical blunder, an innumerate overconfident claim arising from blind faith that a crude regression analysis would control for various differences between groups. Martha made the following useful comment: Another factor that I [Martha] believe tends to promote the kind of thing we’re talking […]

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water . . . SHARK ATTACKS in the Journal of Politics

We’ve been here before. Back in 2002, political scientists Chris Achen and Larry Bartels presented a paper “Blind Retrospection – Electoral Responses to Drought, Flu and Shark Attacks.” Here’s a 2012 version in which the authors trace “the electoral impact of a clearly random event—a dramatic series of shark attacks in New Jersey in 1916” […]

The butterfly effect: It’s not what you think it is.

John Cook writes: The butterfly effect is the semi-serious claim that a butterfly flapping its wings can cause a tornado half way around the world. It’s a poetic way of saying that some systems show sensitive dependence on initial conditions, that the slightest change now can make an enormous difference later . . . Once […]

A ladder of responses to criticism, from the most responsible to the most destructive

In a recent discussion thread, I mentioned how I’m feeling charitable toward David Brooks, Michael Barone, and various others whose work I’ve criticized over the years, because their responses have been so civilized and moderate. Consider the following range of responses to an outsider pointing out an error in your published work: 1. Look into […]

How post-hoc power calculation is like a shit sandwich

Damn. This story makes me so frustrated I can’t even laugh. I can only cry. Here’s the background. A few months ago, Aleksi Reito (who sent me the adorable picture above) pointed me to a short article by Yanik Bababekov, Sahael Stapleton, Jessica Mueller, Zhi Fong, and David Chang in Annals of Surgery, “A Proposal […]

MRP (multilevel regression and poststratification; Mister P): Clearing up misunderstandings about

Someone pointed me to this thread where I noticed some issues I’d like to clear up: David Shor: “MRP itself is like, a 2009-era methodology.” Nope. The first paper on MRP was from 1997. And, even then, the component pieces were not new: we were just basically combining two existing ideas from survey sampling: regression […]

On deck for the first half of 2019

OK, this is what we’ve got for you: “The Book of Why” by Pearl and Mackenzie Reproducibility and Stan MRP (multilevel regression and poststratification; Mister P): Clearing up misunderstandings about Becker on Bohm on the important role of stories in science This is one offer I can refuse How post-hoc power calculation is like 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 […]

Authority figures in psychology spread more happy talk, still don’t get the point that much of the published, celebrated, and publicized work in their field is no good (Part 2)

Part 1 was here. And here’s Part 2. Jordan Anaya reports: Uli Schimmack posted this on facebook and twitter. I [Anaya] was annoyed to see that it mentions “a handful” of unreliable findings, and points the finger at fraud as the cause. But then I was shocked to see the 85% number for the Many […]

A couple of thoughts regarding the hot hand fallacy fallacy

For many years we all believed the hot hand was a fallacy. It turns out we were all wrong. Fine. Such reversals happen. Anyway, now that we know the score, we can reflect on some of the cognitive biases that led us to stick with the “hot hand fallacy” story for so long. Jason Collins […]