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]
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]
"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.
"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]
Happyism: The Creepy New Economics of Pleasure. Economist Dierdre McCloskey, in the New Republic, digs into the mathematical underpinnings of the scientific study of happiness. Executive summary: she doesn't like what she finds.
Following the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology's decision to publish Daryl Bem's writeup of 8 studies (PDF) purporting to show evidence for precognition (previously), researchers from the University of Amsterdam have written a rebuttal (PDF) which finds methodological flaws not only in Bem's research, but in many other published papers in experimental psychology. Could this prove to be psychology's cold fusion moment? [more inside]
You are more likely to be killed by a pig than a shark. You run a greater risk of dying from an asteroid impact than a terrorist attack. You would have to fly an average of 38,000 years in commercial aviation before suffering a fatal crash. The fears parents have for their children have nothing in common to what will actually kill or hurt them. Our perception of risk has very little relation to threat: some helpful visual guides [PDF] and reasons why.
"Chance favours the prepared mind" (Pasteur) but can a science of n = 1 be credible? Seth Roberts is a UCBerkeley Psychology Professor who is into generating novel scientific ideas from self-experimentation. He has written a very serious journal article (abstract) in Behaviour and Brain Science in which he alleges: Seeing faces in the morning on television decreased mood in the evening and improved mood the next day . . . Standing 8 hours per day reduced early awakening and made sleep more restorative . . . Drinking unflavored fructose water caused a large weight loss that has lasted more than 1 year.. among other things. The entire paper was published along with formal peer reviews and a response from Roberts [warning: 63page .pdf] (Peers came down about 50:50 in support/dissenting) A short review/discussion of the article and followup and a short followup Roberts paper with experimental replications (pdf) via
Utah Leads Nation in Rate of Anti-Depressant Use. It is interesting (to me) in that the people doing the study credit a "Mother of Zion" syndrome of married Mormon women putting on the happy face regardless of how happy they truly are. My state is up at the top also. Could be all the rain I guess. . .*sigh*