Monday, June 23, 2014

Public Religion Research Institute's “I Know What You Did Last Sunday” Finds Americans Significantly Inflate Religious Participation"

A study performed by The Public Religion Research Institute used either a) a telephone survey or b) an anonymous web survey to question people about their religious beliefs and religious service habits. The researchers found that the telephone participants reported higher rates of religious behaviors and greater theistic beliefs.

The figure below, from a New York Time's summary of the study, visualizes the main findings. The NYT summary also provides figures illustrating the data broken down by religious denomination.

Property of the New York Times
Participants also vary in their reported religious beliefs based on how they are surveyed (below, the secular are more likely to report that they don't believe in God when completing an anonymous online survey).

Property of Public Religion Research Institute

 This report could be used in class to discuss psychometrics, sampling, motivation to lie on surveys, social desirability, etc. Additionally, the source article provides a good literature review on various ways to "count" religious behavior, including going to churches and counting the people in the pews as well as framing such questions as to take the focus away from religion (ironically, in hopes of prompting more honest answers).

It might also be interesting to ask student to generate a list of other sensitive topics about which people are inclined to lie, ways in which telephone and online respondents may differ demographically, or to think of ways to encourage more honest responding.

Also, The Onion weighed in on the report:

Property of The Onion

Monday, June 16, 2014

Priceonomic's Hipster Music Index

This tongue-in-cheek  regression analysis found a way to predict the "Hipster Music Index" of a given artist by plotting # of Facebook shares of said artist's Pitchfork magazine review on they y-axis and Pitchfork magazine review score on the x-axis. If an artist falls above the linear regression line, they aren't "hipster". If they fall below the line, they are. For example, Kanye West is a Pitchfork darling but also widely shared on FB, and, thus demonstrating too much popular appeal to be a hipster darling (as opposed to Sun Kill Moon (?), who is beloved by both Pitchfork but not overly shared on FB).

As instructors, we typically talk about the regression line as an equation for prediction, but Priconomics uses the line in a slightly different way in order to make predictions. Also, if you go to the source article, there are tables displaying the difference between the predicted Y-value (FB Likes) for a given artist versus the actual Y-value, which could help an instructor introduce the idea of the Least Squares Estimate in selecting the best fitting regression line for data.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Hey, girl...(updated 6/25/14)

Updated 6/25/14: Giving credit where credit is due:

Silly, yes. But if your students can explain why they are funny, it does demonstrate statistical knowledge.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Jess Hartnett's presentation at the 2014 APS Teaching Institute

Hi! Here is my presentation from APS. I am posting it so that attendees and everyone else can have access to the links and examples I used. If you weren't there for the presentation, a warning: It is text-light, so there isn't much of a narrative to follow but there are plenty of links and ideas and some soon-to-be-published research ideas to explore. Shoot me an email ( if you have any questions.

ALSO: In the talk I reference the U.S. Supreme Court case Hall v. Florida (also did a blog entry about this case). Update: The court decided in the favor of Hall/seemed to understand standard error/made it a bit harder to carry out the death penalty, as discussed here by Slate).

Woot woot!