How to think about "Science Studies Prove My Position", for politicians and all non-scientists. Any collation of measures (the effectiveness of a given school, say) will show variability owing to differences in innate ability (teacher competence), plus sampling (children might by chance be an atypical sample with complications), plus bias (the school might be in an area where people are unusually unhealthy), plus measurement error (outcomes might be measured in different ways for different schools). However, the resulting variation is typically interpreted only as differences in innate ability, ignoring the other sources. This becomes problematic with statements describing an extreme outcome ('the pass rate doubled') or comparing the magnitude of the extreme with the mean ('the pass rate in school x is three times the national average') or the range ('there is an x-fold difference between the highest- and lowest-performing schools'). League tables, in particular, are rarely reliable summaries of performance.
posted by Dashy
on Nov 25, 2013 -
Statistics Done Wrong
is a guide to the most popular statistical errors and slip-ups committed by scientists every day, in the lab and in peer-reviewed journals. Statistics Done Wrong assumes no prior knowledge of statistics, so you can read it before your first statistics course or after thirty years of scientific practice.
posted by Foci for Analysis
on Oct 27, 2013 -
This is one example of a phenomenon I noticed throughout this chart: natural rival franchises tend to have similar numbers of goon seasons. This would suggest that goon employment may be (in some instances) localized arms races between rivals, whose cyclical number of goons tends to reflect the other’s in some perverted game of Mutually Assured Terrible Hockey (MATH)... We also have a team like Detroit near the bottom of the list, with only 8.5 goon seasons in their history. Since 1985-86, the Wings have only had 4.5 goon seasons. They’ve only had 2 goon seasons since 1988-89. Coincidentally, they’ve been pretty damned swell at winning hockey games since that time. The Evolution of Goon Culture in the NHL
posted by mannequito
on Sep 28, 2013 -
Psychologists recount a valuable lesson about the fragility of statistical validity and the state of publishing.
"Two of the present authors, Matt Motyl and Brian A. Nosek, share interests in political ideology. We were inspired by the fast growing literature on embodiment that demonstrates surprising links between body and mind to investigate embodiment of political extremism. Participants from the political left, right, and center (N = 1,979) completed a perceptual judgment task in which words were presented in different shades of gray. Participants had to click along a gradient representing grays from near black to near white to select a shade that matched the shade of the word. We calculated accuracy: How close to the actual shade did participants get? The results were stunning. Moderates perceived the shades of gray more accurately than extremists on the left and right (p = .01). Our conclusion: Political extremists perceive the world in black and white figuratively and literally. Our design and follow-up analyses ruled out obvious alternative explanations such as time spent on task and a tendency to select extreme responses. Enthused about the result, we identified Psychological Science as our fallback journal after we toured the Science, Nature, and PNAS rejection mills. The ultimate publication, Motyl and Nosek (2012), served as one of Motyl’s signature publications as he finished graduate school and entered the job market.
The story is all true, except for the last sentence; we did not publish the finding." [more inside]
posted by MisantropicPainforest
on Jul 29, 2013 -
Predicting Google Shutdowns.
"In the following essay, I collect data on 350 Google products and look for predictive variables. I find some while modeling shutdown patterns, and make some predictions about future shutdowns. Hopefully the results are interesting, useful, or both." Gwern
exhaustively analyzes Google products past and present with an eye to establishing what's not long for the bitverse. tl;dr? Results
posted by mwhybark
on May 4, 2013 -
Is Psychometric g a Myth?
- "As an online discussion about IQ or general intelligence grows longer, the probability of someone linking to statistician Cosma Shalizi's essay g, a Statistical Myth
approaches 1. Usually the link is accompanied by an assertion to the effect that Shalizi offers a definitive refutation of the concept of general mental ability, or psychometric g
." [more inside]
posted by kliuless
on Apr 11, 2013 -
"Brain training games don't actually make you smarter.
" Looking at recent meta-analyses and replication attempts of studies showing increased cognitive abilities gained from brain-training games, the New Yorker article comes to the conclusion that the results are suspect and these games haven't been shown to improve cognitive abilities broadly. Currently, brain training is a multi-million-dollar business.
posted by tykky
on Apr 9, 2013 -
The Most Dangerous Equation
If you have never taken the time to read any statistics, then take the time to read this short chapter excerpt. In order to understand the world a bit more accurately and be able to interpret data for public policy, understanding De Moivre’s equation and sample variability is very significant.
posted by SollosQ
on Mar 16, 2013 -
With a database of over 5,000 scientists, from Nobel prize winners to postdocs and PhD students, Sense About Science
works in partnership with scientific bodies, research publishers, policy makers, the public and the media, to change public discussions about science and evidence. They make these scientists available for questions from civic organizations and the public looking for scientific advice from experts
, campaign for the promotion of scientific principles in public policy
, and publish neat guides to understanding science intended for laypeople. [more inside]
posted by Blasdelb
on Feb 28, 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 -
Yesterday, the Nielsen Company released a report
showing that same-sex partnered households in America shop about 16% more than the average US household. Broken down into categories, Nielsen observes that gay couples drink a ton, while lesbian couples eat an awful lot of cottage cheese.
posted by schmod
on Jan 31, 2013 -
The practice of lying to one's children to encourage behavioral compliance was investigated among parents in the US (N = 114) and China (N = 85). The vast majority of parents (84% in the US and 98% in China) reported having lied to their children for this purpose. Within each country, the practice most frequently took the form of falsely threatening to leave a child alone in public if he or she refused to follow the parent. Crosscultural differences were seen: A larger proportion of the parents in China reported that they employed instrumental lie-telling to promote behavioral compliance, and a larger proportion approved of this practice, as compared to the parents in the US. This difference was not seen on measures relating to the practice of lying to promote positive feelings, or on measures relating to statements about fantasy characters such as the tooth fairy. Findings are discussed with reference to sociocultural values and certain parenting-related challenges that extend across cultures. [HTML]
-- [PDF] [more inside]
posted by Blasdelb
on Jan 23, 2013 -
The Nature of Computation
- Intellects Vast and Warm and Sympathetic
: "I hand you a network or graph, and ask whether there is a path through the network that crosses each edge exactly once, returning to its starting point. (That is, I ask whether there is a 'Eulerian' cycle.) Then I hand you another network, and ask whether there is a path which visits each node exactly once. (That is, I ask whether there is a 'Hamiltonian' cycle.) How hard is it to answer me?" (via
) [more inside]
posted by kliuless
on Dec 1, 2012 -
"We have little trouble recognizing that a chess grandmaster’s victory over a novice is skill, as well as assuming that Paul the octopus’s ability to predict World Cup games is due to chance. But what about everything else?" [Luck and Skill Untangled: The Science of Success
posted by vidur
on Nov 20, 2012 -
A Vast Left-Wing Competency
: "How Democrats became the party of effective campaigning — and why the GOP isn’t catching up anytime soon." Sasha Issenberg, author of The Victory Lab
, has been writing a series of posts on Slate that focus on different aspects of "the new science of winning campaigns". [more inside]
posted by flex
on Nov 8, 2012 -