Monday, August 26, 2013

University of Cambridge's Facebook Research

University of Cambridge's Psychometric Center has used statistics to make make personality predictions based upon an individual's Facebook "likes".

For instance, your likes can be used to create your Big Five personality trait profile. Your students can have their data FB "likes" analyzed at as to determine their Big Five traits. After your students complete the FB version of the scale, you could have your students complete a more traditional paper and pencil version of the inventory and discuss differences/similarities/concurrent validity between the two measures. Below, I've included a screen grab of my FB-derived Big Five rating from Note: Yes, that is how I score on more traditional versions of the same scale.

Generated at

In addition to Big Five prediction, the researchers also used the "like" data to make predictions of other qualities, like sexual orientation, intelligence, etc., based upon what you have liked on FB. Highlights: Liking curly fries is related to high intelligence, liking fan fiction with introversion, and a fondness for Timmy from South Park seems to be related with competitiveness.

And...if you register as a collaborator at the UofC website, you can access some of their data. Which is pretty generous, I think.

Here is the information regarding the data from the actual source.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Geert Hofstede's website

Hofstede is a psychology rockstar who studies multiculturalism (specifically, how his cultural dimensions vary from country to country and how this can impact organizations). This page generates bar graphs that illustrate how the two countries you specify vary on his dimensions. Below is a screen grab of the U.S. compared to Brazil along his dimensions. Note: If this all sounds vaguely familiar, it may be because you read Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers and he discusses Power Distance in the context of the Korean Air safety issues.

How could you use this in the classroom?
1) This could be a quick example of the importance of multicultural research (as the Western view of the world/attitudes are not the default setting for humans). 
2) A quick way of demonstrating bar graphs.
3) A good example of applied social psychology. 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Meme III

Want a good way to waste time when you should be prepping for the semester ahead? Go generate some stats/research methods memes. If you are feeling extra generous, please feel free to send them to me so I can share them with the group.

Created at by Jess Hartnett

Created at by Jess Hartnett

Monday, August 5, 2013

US News's "Poll: 78 Percent of Young Women Approve of Weiner"

Best. Awful. Headline. Ever.

This headline makes it sound like a large majority of young woman support the sexting, bad-decision-making, former NY representative Anthony Weiner. If one takes a moment to read the article, they will learn that the "young women" sampled were recruited from A website for women looking for sugar daddies.

If you want your brain to further explode, read through the comments section for the article. Everyone is reacting to the headline, very few people actually read through the article themselves...which provides further anecdotal evidence of the fact that most folks can't tell good data from bad (and that part of our job as statistics instructors, in my opinion, is to ameliorate this problem).

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Statistics and Pennsylvania's Voter ID Law

Prior to the 2012 presidential election, Pennsylvania attempted to enact one of the toughest voter ID laws in the nation. This law has been kicked up to the courts to examine its legality. One reason that so many people protested the law was because it would make it more difficult for the elderly and the poor to vote (as it would be more difficult for them to obtain the ID required). Here is an NPR story that gives a bit of background on the law and the case in court.  Also, for giggles and grins, here is Jon Stewart's more amusing explanation of the law and why it was struck down prior to the election, including video footage of a PA legislature flat-out stating that the Voter ID law would allow Romney to win the 2012 election.

In order to support/raise questions about the impact of the law on the ability to vote, statisticians have been brought in on both sides in order to estimate exactly how disenfranchising this law will be.

Essentially, the debate in court centers around an analysis performed by Dr. Bernard Siskin. His analysis found that 11,000 of PA's 8.2 million voters lacked the proper ID required to vote. The state argues that this number is inflated and that Dr. Siskin's research methods did not take into account the variety of different kinds of valid IDs that will be reasonable IDs.

More on the court case available below:

I think this could be useful in demonstrating a) statistics being used in court in order to persuade people about a big, important social justice issues, b) statisticians having jobs that don't involve non-stop number crunching, c) statistics in the news, and d) the experts here are arguing about research methods, thus reinforcing to your students that the problems that most people have with statistics don't have to to with the math, but the methods.