Monday, May 26, 2014

Marketing towards children: Ethics and research

Slate's The Littlest Tasters

More research methods than statistics, this article describes the difficulty in determining taste preferences in wee humans who don't speak well if at all.
The goods for teaching: They mention the FACE scale. The research methods described go beyond marketing research and this could be useful in a Developmental class to describe approaches used in data collection for children (like asking parents to rate their children's reactions to foods). I've used this as a discussion board prompt when discussing research ethics, both for simply conducting research with children as well as the ethics of marketing (not so healthy foods) towards children.

Aside: They also describe why kids like Lunchables, which has always been a mystery to me. Apparently, kids are picky about texture and flavor but they haven't developed a preference for certain foods to be hot or cold.

The Huffington Post's "You'll Never Look at Cereal Boxes the Same Way Again."

This post is related, in that research has found evidence that suggests that marketers are thinking of their littlest consumers when they design cereal boxes. Specifically, it appears that a) that cereals marketed towards children are placed on middle shelves in supermarket aisles and b) cereal box designers are strategically making cartoon characters on boxes of cereal gaze at children (based upon their middle-shelf placement). The researchers also found that adults feel a greater sense of brand trust and connection to the brand when boxes were designed so that the cereal box made eye contact with them (see example below).


The HuffPo link contains a video that describes the study. Here is a link to the lengthy description of the in-press study directly from Cornell.

Finally, The Onion's take on the Cornell research.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Tyler Vigen's Spurious Correlations

Tyler Vigen has has created a long list of easy-to-paste-into-a-powerpoint graphs that illustrate that correlation does not equal causation. For instance, while per capita consumption of cheese and number of people who die by become tangled in their bed sheets may have a strong relationship (r = 0.947091), no one is saying that cheese consumption leads to bed sheet-related death. Although, you could pose The Third Variable question to your students for some of these relationships).

Property of Tyler Vigens,
Vigen has also provided a menu of frequently used variables (deaths by tripping, sunlight by state) to help you look for specific examples. This portion is interactive, as you and your students can generate your own graphs. Below, I generated a graph of marriage rates in Pennsylvania and consumption of high fructose corn syrup.

Generated at

Monday, May 12, 2014

Matt Daniel's "The Largest Vocabulary in Hip Hop"

a) The addition of this post means that I now have TWO Snoop Dogg blogg labels for this blog.
b) Daniels' graph allows students to see archival data (and research decisions used when deciding how to analyze the archival data as well as content analysis) in order to determine which rapper has the largest vocabulary.

Here is Matthew Daniels interactive chart detailing the vocabularies of numerous, prominent rappers.

Daniels sampled each musician's first 35,000 lyrics for the number of unique words present. He went with 35,000 in order to compare more established artists to more recent artists who have published fewer songs. (The appropriateness of this decision could be a source of debate in a research methods class.) Additionally, derivatives of the same word are counted uniquely (pimps, pimp, pimping, and pimpin count as four words). This decision was guided, from what I can gather, by the time of content analysis performed.

Property of Matthew Daniels...note: The original graph, available at his website, is interactive. For example, you can compare West Coast v. East Coast OR just look at the various members of Wu-Tang Clan. WU-TANG!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Shameless self-promotion 3

If you are going to the Association for Psychological Science annual convention in San Francisco later this month AND you are attending the Teaching Institute, I will be giving a presentation on Teaching Undergraduates to See Statistics. The talk will feature tips for engaging students via humor and current events AND share some unpublished data about using discussion boards in a statistics classes as well as an activity that introduces students to the growing trend of Big Data. Hope to see some of you there!

Chew and Dillion's "Statistics Anxiety Update Refining the Construct and Recommendations for a New Research Agenda"

Here are two articles, one from The Observer and one from Perspectives on Psychological Science. The PPS article, by Chew and Dillion, is a call for more research to study statistics anxiety in the classroom. Chew and Dillon provide a thorough review of statistics anxiety research, with a focus on antecedents of anxiety as well as interventions (The Observer article is a quick summary of those interventions) and directions for further research.

I think Chew and Dillion make a good case for why we should care about statistics anxiety as statistics instructors. As a psychologist who teaches statistics, I find that many of my students are not in math-related majors but can still learn to think like a statistician, in order to improve their critical thinking skills and prepare them for a data/analytic driven world after graduation. However, their free-standing anxiety related to simply being in a statistics class is a big barrier to this and I welcome their suggestions regarding the reduction of this barrier.