Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics

Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics

In an interesting post, Michael Batnick, the Irrelevant Investor, makes a critical point about the oft-overlooked limitations of data in the world of behavioral finance: http://theirrelevantinvestor.com/2018/04/04/the-limits-to-data/

Using Excel shows you how a robot should allocate its lottery winnings.
It doesn't show you that 70% of human lottery winners go bankrupt.

Darwin famously didn't trust complicated mathematics ("I have no faith in anything short of actual measurement and the Rule of Three," he wrote in a letter). He wasn't wrong: complex procedures can obscure what's going on 'under the hood.' This can render a formula's weaknesses virtually invisible.

Have you heard about the studies showing that irrelevant neuroscientific information in a research summary makes people rate the conclusion as more credible? The same seems to go for math—when people see some complex, technical information, they'd often rather just believe it instead of thinking critically.

 By Signe Wilkinson, for the Philadelphia Daily News

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Stats Doesn't Have to be Scary!

Looking for a free, open-source, easy-to-use statistics program? If you haven't heard about JASP before, then I suggest you read my blog more often! 😂 I've already promoted the use of JASP in the classroom and in research, despite a few limitations such as the inability to edit graphs.

Check out the full playlist: 

In trying to probe the limits of JASP, I uploaded a dataset with over 40,000 rows and 6 or 7 columns of data. It took a minute to upload such a large file, but there was no problem with running analyses even on a large dataset such as that one!

I think most behavioral researchers could spend their entire careers using this program, as long as they also have another program handy to generate publication-quality graphs. R is a popular solution for this (though you'll have to learn a bit of programming to use it).

Benjamin Nanes, MD, PhD, recommends additional options such as ImageJ or Inkscape. They're free, which is a big plus for impoverished graduate students and/or those who simply want to avoid the hassle of trying to get a license for SPSS or another such program on their personal computers.

Though I haven't tried these myself (yet!), I trust Dr. Nanes' recommendations and plan to try them out soon. Another option, also recommended by Dr. Nanes, is Inkscape: this could be used to add text (such as axis labels) to the graph generated by JASP and export it in a vector format that your journal will accept.

Everything I've said so far about JASP also goes for jamovi, another free and open-source program with a user-friendly interface. JASP started development before jamovi, so it's a little further along in its capabilities, but the original lead programmer for JASP is the lead programmer for jamovi, so there are many similarities between the programs--and I like both of them! jamovi does have a few features that JASP lacks, including the ability to see the R syntax for a given operation. This makes jamovi a great bridge for those who would like to learn R!

Since both JASP and jamovi are based on R but provide a far more visually appealing user interface, the analyses are trustworthy (though I've double-checked some analyses myself) and the programs themselves are easy to use.

In any case, if you're wondering why I like JASP so much, I made and edited a series of videos yesterday showing how to install JASP, upload files, and run most of the common tests in JASP I've compiled these videos into a YouTube playlist; note that the instructions for jamovi are going to be quite similar.

screenshot of JASP from my own computer

If you haven't already tried JASP or jamovi, what are you waiting for?

Wondering about the social media usage of actual college students? 
Check out the results of this totally informal—but realsurvey.

In case you missed it, I review some fantastic, easy-to-use, and FREE stats programs here.
For more help explaining statistical concepts and when to use them, 
please download my freely available PDF guide here!

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Peer Review On Trial

Peer Review Gone Wrong
or, A Cynic's Manifesto

This behavior should get your scientific knickers in a knot: https://theintercept.com/2018/02/23/3m-lawsuit-pfcs-pollution/

Essentially, 3M used perfluorinated chemicals in the production of some of their products (like Scotchgard). Research has demonstrated that such chemicals may harm humans, other organisms, and the environment when they seep into the ground water.

The State of Minnesota sued 3M for this; 3M settled the case for less than 1/5 the amount of the lawsuit, and all without admitting wrongdoing. And 3M had the gall to release a statement describing the settlement as "consistent with 3M’s long history of environmental stewardship."

With 'environmental stewards' like that, who needs polluters?...

Just as outrageously (perhaps more so, if you're an early-career researcher!), this article points out that Minnesota's lawsuit named a widely-published professor, Dr. John Giesy, who allegedly took money from 3M while putting obstacles to publication in the path of scientists whose work showed that perfluorinated chemicals can be dangerous.

State's evidence includes this e-mail, and this particularly damning one, which shows that Giesy knew perfectly well that he was protecting 3M and its interests.


Monday, January 15, 2018

In memoriam of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

On this date in 1929 (January 15), the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was born.

To honor his legacy today, I'd like to share a couple of his important works. Here's a brief excerpt from "Letter From a Birmingham Jail:"
I would agree with St. Augustine that 'an unjust law is no law at all'...We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was 'legal' and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was 'illegal.' It was 'illegal' to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany.

The entire "Letter From a Birmingham Jail" is brilliant, insightful, and well worth a read! The full text can be found at http://amp.miamiherald.com/opinion/op-ed/article194707929.html

The "I Have a Dream" speech, an instant classic, was delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at the March on Washington in 1963. Fortunately for posterity, his speech was recorded in its entirety. Here it is, via YouTube:

Dr. King was assassinated on April 4, 1968. Though the man himself was mortal, his actions, his words, and his legacy of nonviolent resistance to injustice shine as brightly today as they did in the 1960s!

I would like to leave you with two other inspiring quotes from the Rev. Dr. King: 

Always remember Dr. King's principles and his commitment to fairness and justice. May we all work with tireless integrity to uphold these principles, in all times and places, and for all people.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

When Google Is Wrong (!)

Picture this scenario:

You're talking with a group of people, when somebody says, "I crossed the Mississippi River a couple weeks ago. You know, I was expecting it to be huge and impressive, right? But it really wasn't even that wide—it only took a minute to cross the old iron bridge, and I was on land again. Isn't the Mississippi supposed to be the third-longest river in the world?"

"Wait, I thought it was the fourth-longest."

"I'm pretty sure I learned that it was third-longest."

"Ok, let's look it up. How long is the Mississippi, anyway?"

"How do you spell 'Mississippi' again?..."

And people pull out their phones and Google "Mississippi river length." But maybe you shouldn't be so quick to rely on Google for your facts!

Thursday, December 28, 2017

...And the winner is! (Fall 2017)

...And the winner is... (Part II)

Which form of social media reigns supreme among college students today?

You may or may not have seen the results I shared here in April 2017. My Stats class at BGSU in Spring 2017 collected the data, and I used it to demonstrate the one-way ANOVA.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017


Lyon College, where I teach, participated in today's inaugural nationwide celebration of first-generation college students. This was orchestrated by the Council for Opportunity in Education, and designated for November 8th in honor of the 52nd anniversary of 1965's Higher Education Act.

Lyon's event, which involves collecting these cards and making them into a wall that demonstrates the experiences and values of first-generation college students. Since I'm a first-gen college student, I participated in this event by filling out a card.

You should be able to see my card above, but in case that doesn't work properly on some people's devices, I've also put the text below:

As a 1st-gen college student, I value the role of education in creating 
a better-informed citizenry and pushing the frontiers of knowledge. A liberal arts 
education helped me reach my potential, and now I'm going for a PhD!

Wondering about the social media usage of actual college students? 
Check out the results of this totally informal—but realsurvey.

In case you missed it, I review some fantastic, easy-to-use, and FREE stats programs here.
For more help explaining statistical concepts and when to use them, 
please download my freely available PDF guide here!