Monday, February 29, 2016

Science Friday's "Spot the real hypothesis"

Annie Minoff delves into the sins of ad hoc hypotheses using several examples from evolutionary science (including evolutionary psychology). I think this is a fun way to introduce this issue in science and explain WHY a hypothesis is important for good research.

This article provides three ways of conveying that ad hoc hypotheses are bad science.

1) This video of a speaker lecturing about absurd logic behind ad hoc testing (here, evolutionary explanations for the mid-life "spare tire" that many men struggle with).


NOTE: This video is from an annual event at MIT, BAHFest (Bad Ad Hoc Fest) if you want more bad ad hoc hypotheses to share with students.

2) A quiz in which you need to guess which of the ad hoc explanations for an evolutionary finding is the real explanation.

3) A more serious reading to accompany this video is Kerr's HARKing: Hypothesizing after results are known (1998), a comprehensive take down of this practice.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Climate change deniers misrepresent data and get called out

 Here is another example of how data visualizations can be accurate AND misleading.

I Fucking Love Science broke down a brief Twitter war that started after National Review tweeted the following post in order to argue that global climate change isn't a thing.

Note: The y-axis ranged from 110 - -10 degrees Fahrenheit. True, such a temperature range is experienced on planet Earth, but using such an axis distracts from the slow, scary march that is global climate change and doesn't do a very good job of illustrating how discrete changes in temperature map onto increased use of fossil fuels in the increasingly industrialized world.

Twitter-verse responded thusly:

Monday, February 15, 2016

Totilo's "Antonin Scalia's landmark defense of violent video games"

A great example using a topic relevant to your students (video games), involving developmental psychology (the effect of violent media on children), and a modern event (Scalia's passing) in order to demonstrate the importance of both research psychology as well as statistics.

This article extensively quote Scalia's majority opinion regarding Brown vs. Entertainment Merchants, a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court case that decided against California's attempt to regulate the sale of violent video games to minors (the full opinion embedded in the article).

Why did Scalia decide against regulating violent video games in the same manner that the government regulates alcohol and cigarette sales? In part, because research and statistics. Of particular use to an instructor of statistics are sections when Scalia cites shaky psychological research and argues that correlational research can not be used to make causal arguments...


...Scalia also discusses effect sizes...


Why do psychologists do psychology? To answer real life problems. Why do our students need to understand research design and statistics? Because not all research is created equal and students must learn to distinguish the good from the bad. Taking statistics in college shouldn't be just about learning how to do a correlation by hand or find a p-value, students must understand the limitation of correlation as well as the role of effect size in interpreting results.

Stromberg and Caswell's "Why the Myers-Briggs test is totally meaningless"

Oh, Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, you unkillable scamp.

This video, from Vox, gives a concise historical perspective on the scale, describes how popular it still is, and summarizes several of the arguments against the scale.

This video explains why the ol' MBTI is not particularly useful. Good for debunking psychology myths and good for explaining reliability (in particular, test-retest reliability) and validity.


I like this link in particular because it presents its argument via both video as well as a smartly formatted website. The text in the website includes links to actual peer-reviewed research articles that refute the MBTI.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Davies' "Ted Cruz using firm that harvested data on millions of unwitting Facebook users"

So, this is a story of data mining and Mechanical Turk and data privacy and political campaigns. Lots of good stuff for class discussion about data privacy, applied use of data, etc.. It won't exactly teach your students how to ANOVA, but it is a good and timely discussion piece.

Short version of the story: Ted Cruz's campaign hired a consulting firm (Strategic Communications Laboratories, SCL) to gather information about potential voters. They did so by using Amazon's Mechanical Turk to recruit participants. Participants were asked to complete a survey that would give SCL access to your Facebook account. SCL would then download all visible user information from you. And then they would download the same information FROM ALL OF YOUR FRIENDS who did not consent to be involved in the study. Some mTurk users claim this was a violation of Amazon's Terms of Service.

This data was then used to create psychological profiles for campaigning purposes.

Discussion pieces:
-Would you be mad if your data was accessed thusly?
-Did the Cruz campaign violate ethics by gathering data from individuals who did not consent to having their data collected?
-Do you think that such data collection and research should be subject to an IRB? If yes, were IRB rules violated (the right to withdraw from a study, informed consent).

Monday, February 1, 2016

Dr. Mages' "APA Exposed: Everything you wanted to know about APA formatting but were afraid to ask."

Teaching undergraduates APA style is not fun. It is not fun for teachers. It is not fun for students. However, I think that the more tools that we, the teachers, have in order to convey the rules of APA style, the more likely we are to find something that finally sticks for our students. This week, I offer one such tool created by Dr. Wendy K. Mages. Dr. Mages created an online, self-paced, free Powerpoint presentation that teaches the essentials of APA style.

Lessons are presented in a PowerPoint-esque format with a voice-over (as well as a transcript)

I like that Dr. Mages includes some of her own experiences grading students papers in order to keep current students from making frequent mistakes that Dr. Mages has encountered. She also offers plenty of original examples and uses appropriate Powerpoint animations/highlighting to engage the viewer.