The current critique of experimental social science is coming mainly from the inside. Strohminger, Simmons, and a handful of other mostly young researchers are at the heart of a kind of reform movement in their field. Together with a loose confederation of crusading journal editors and whistle-blowing bloggers, they have begun policing the world of experimental research, assiduously rooting out fraud and error, as if to rescue the scientific method from embarrassment—and from its own success. The Reformation: Can Social Scientists Save Themselves?
posted by Ghostride The Whip
on May 19, 2014 -
Positive psychology superstars Barbara Fredrickson and Marcial Losada had put forward a theory, seemingly with experimental confirmation, that was bolder than bold: that mankind, whether working alone or in groups, is governed by a mathematical tipping point, one specified by a ratio of 2.9013 positive to 1 negative emotions. When the tipping point is crested, a kind of positive emotional chaos ensues—“that flapping of the butterfly’s wing,” as Fredrickson puts it—resulting in human “flourishing.” When it is not met (or if a limit of 11.6346 positive emotions is exceeded, as there is a limit to positivity), everything comes grinding to a halt, or locks into stereotyped patterns like water freezing into ice. Nick Brown smelled bull
posted by shivohum
on Oct 17, 2013 -
Most work in the psychological and social sciences suffers from a lack of conceptual rigor. It’s a bit sloppy around the edges, and in the middle, too. For example, “happiness research” is a booming field, but the titans of the subdiscipline disagree sharply about what happiness actually is. No experiment or regression will settle it. It’s a philosophical question. Nevertheless, they work like the dickens to measure it, whatever it is—life satisfaction, “flourishing,” pleasure minus pain—and to correlate it to other, more easily quantified things with as much statistical rigor as deemed necessary to appear authoritative. It’s as if the precision of the statistical analysis is supposed somehow to compensate for, or help us forget, the imprecision of thought at the foundation of the enterprise.
posted by AceRock
on Aug 22, 2013 -
Psychohistory, the imaginary scientific field created by Isaac Asimov in his "Foundation" series, may no longer be fiction
Song Chaoming, for instance, is a researcher at Northeastern University in Boston. He is a physicist, but he moonlights as a social scientist. With that hat on he has devised an algorithm which can look at someone’s mobile-phone records and predict with an average of 93% accuracy where that person is at any moment of any day. Given most people’s regular habits (sleep, commute, work, commute, sleep), this might not seem too hard. What is impressive is that his accuracy was never lower than 80% for any of the 50,000 people he looked at.
Full article at The Economist.
posted by Strange Interlude
on Feb 26, 2013 -
The amazing influence of unconscious cues is among the most fascinating discoveries of our time—that is, if it's true
The studies that raise eyebrows are mostly in an area known as behavioral or goal priming, research that demonstrates how subliminal prompts can make you do all manner of crazy things. A warm mug makes you friendlier. The American flag makes you vote Republican. Fast-food logos make you impatient. A small group of skeptical psychologists—let's call them the Replicators—have been trying to reproduce some of the most popular priming effects in their own labs. What have they found? Mostly that they can't get those results. The studies don't check out. Something is wrong.
posted by shivohum
on Feb 4, 2013 -
Generosity and Political Preferences
We test whether generosity is related to political preferences and partisanship in Canada, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States using incentivised dictator games. We document that support for social spending and redistribution is positively correlated with generosity in all four countries. Further, we show that donors are more generous towards co-partisans in all countries, and that this effect is stronger among supporters of left-wing political parties. All results are robust to the inclusion to an extensive set of control variables, including income and education. [more inside]
posted by wilful
on Dec 26, 2012 -
A chronic public health disaster.
Complex trauma and toxic stress puts children into a state of reflexive fight, flight, or freeze responses to a perpetually threatening world. The traditional authoritative response only serves to reinforce those behaviours and, perhaps worse, has long-term health consequences:
With an ACE score of 4 or more, things start getting serious. The likelihood of chronic pulmonary lung disease increases 390 percent; hepatitis, 240 percent; depression 460 percent; suicide, 1,220 percent.
One doctor describes it as “a chronic public health disaster”. Remediating this problem is going to require listening, kindness, and parachutes.
posted by davidpriest.ca
on May 1, 2012 -
In The Geographic Flow of Music
), researchers Conrad Lee and Pádraig Cunningham propose a method to use data from the last.fm API
to track the world's listening habits by location and time, showing where shifts in musical tastes have originated and subsequently migrated. Results show music trends originating in smaller cities and flowing outward in unexpected ways, contradicting some assumptions in social science about larger cities being more efficient engines of (cultural) invention.
posted by Blazecock Pileon
on Apr 26, 2012 -
Rethinking the Idea of 'Christian Europe'. Kenan Malik's
essay is awarded 3 Quarks Daily's
Top Quark for politics & social science by judge Stephen M. Walt
: "Soldiers in today’s culture wars believe 'European civilization' rests on a set of unchanging principles that are perennially under siege—from godless communism, secular humanism, and most recently, radical Islam. For many of these zealots, what makes the 'West' unique are its Judeo-Christian roots. In this calm and elegantly-written reflection on the past two millenia, Malik shows that Christianity is only one of the many sources of 'Western' culture, and that many of the ideas we now think of as 'bedrock' values were in fact borrowed from other cultures. This essay is a potent antidote to those who believe a 'clash of civilizations' is inevitable—if not already underway—and the moral in Malik’s account could not be clearer. Openness to outside influences has been the true source of European prominence; erecting ramparts against others will impoverish and endanger us all."
posted by homunculus
on Dec 19, 2011 -
A Real Science of Mind Neurobabble piques interest in science, but obscures how science works. Individuals see, know, and want to make love. Brains don’t. Those things are psychological — not, in any evident way, neural.
posted by shivohum
on Dec 27, 2010 -
From the U.S. National Academies Press: 3,000 Science, Technology, Medical, and Social Science Books Available Free, Online.
The interface is clunky - you can only see one page at a time, can't download PDFs (except paid) and image view is via TIFF - but!
the content is all there, and free. Some is quite technical, but much is readily accessible. Some idea of the breadth: A Doctor's Memoirs of Treating AIDS in Haiti
, The "Drama of the Commons"
, The 1872 Research Voyage of HMS Challenger
, Biography of Stephen Hawking
, Biotechnology Research in the Age of Terrorism
, Risk Reduction Strategies for Human Exploration of Space
, Forensic Lead Bullet Analysis
, 50 Short Essays on How Mathematicians Think
, Recent Research on Non-Lethal Weapons
, and Introduction to Tough Topics in Contemporary Science
Also, see their rather spiffy site on the cosmos
posted by Rumple
on Jun 12, 2006 -
a damning indictment of the (mis)use of regression analysis in the social sciences.
[Y]ou may have fallen for a pernicious form of junk science: the use of mathematical models with no demonstrated predictive capability to draw policy conclusions. These studies are superficially impressive. Written by reputable social scientists from prestigious institutions, they often appear in peer reviewed scientific journals. Filled with complex statistical calculations, they give precise numerical "facts" that can be used as debaters' points in policy arguments. But these "facts" are will o' the wisps. Before the ink is dry on one study, another appears with completely different "facts." Despite their scientific appearance, these models do not meet the fundamental criterion for a useful mathematical model: the ability to make predictions that are better than random chance.
posted by electro
on Feb 12, 2002 -