Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Ask Pinker Anything

I'm not quite sure how this works. But here you go.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Better advice on PowerPoint

Although I've enjoyed reading Tufte's rants against Powerpoint, he offers little in the way of advice and even less in the way of empirically supported advice. That's why I was happy to find these seven Powerpoint tips based on empirical evidence in a recent issue of gradPsych. I'd make one amendment to the point that says "use graphs, not tables" because there's some evidence that tables, though less appealing, actually get the message across better sometimes.

And here's an eighth point: you don't have to use Powerpoint.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Want to do social research without getting off your couch?

Amazon Mechanical Turk is the answer. If you're unfamiliar with Mechanical Turk (or MTurk for short), it's a web-based survey tool that allows you get participants for pennies. which means if you want to do a survey on whether the population at large really likes chocolate or vanilla ice cream more you can get a sample large enough to figure this out, it will end up costing you about as much as a can of Coke. As long as your survey (or psychological experiment) can be administered online, you can run your experiment on MTurk, so you can do implicit association tests too. Because of small earnings, it's not surprising that many Mechanical Turk workers are from India and this (somewhat dated) blog post looks at the demographics of the people who actually take surveys on MTurk. It's interesting to see the contrasts and similarities between the Indian turkers and the American ones.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Flourishing vs. Languishing

One of the few nice things about the graduate school search process is that you end up having to assess your potential advisor through more than just their publications. For instance, I've been looking on YouTube and other sites for videos by my two potential advisors, and here's one of them, Corey Keyes, talking about his research on the difference between languishing and flourishing among those without mental illness:

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Does Weather Affect Mood? Let Me Count the Ways

Theo Klimstra, of longitudinal personality analysis fame, recently did a study on whether weather affects mood in a way that varies across persons. He found that there are Summer Lovers (better mood with warmer and sunnier weather), Unaffected (weak associations between weather and mood), Summer Haters (worse mood with warmer and
sunnier weather), and Rain Haters (particularly bad mood on rainy days). I'd classify myself as a Rain Hater, although I'm also a Summer Lover. I suspect there's a negative correlation between those two anyway. It's interesting that are truly people who hate warm, sunny weather. Of course, that could be good for you if you live in the Netherlands, which is where Klimstra works.

Here's the study:

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Habsburg Empire May Be Dead, but its Honest Bureaucracy's Legacy Lives On

When I think Habsburg Empire, I think of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, whose assassination famously marked the beginning of World War I and less famously, the decline of the empire itself until its dissolution in 1918. However, the silhouette of the empire still marks a psychologically different part of Europe, according to research by Sascha Becker and Ludger Woessmann. In their 2011 short paper, The Empire Is Dead, Long Live the Empire! Long-Run Persistence of Trust and Corruption in the Bureaucracy, (summarized here) they compared levels of trust on opposite sides of the long-gone Habsburg Empire border within five countries. Surprisingly, they found that the border was still meaningful. Within the border, firms and people have higher trust in courts and police. Outside the border--specifically in regions that were once part of the Ottoman empire--levels of trust are relatively lower. Historians have described the Habsburg bureaucracy as “fairly honest, quite hard-working, and generally high-minded” (Taylor 1948). According to Becker and Woessman, this lies at the root of the higher trust levels.

Taylor, AJP (1948), The Habsburg Monarchy 1809-1918: A History of the Austrian Empire and Austria-Hungary, Penguin Books (reprint 1990)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Best Books of 2011: A Review

I used to try compiling a list of "best books" there were mentioned on several annual lists. I eventually gave up, but I recently discovered that the Williamsburg public has the ABBC: All the Best Books Compilation for 2011. The top novels are The Tiger's Wife, The Marriage Plot, and State of Wonder. The top books in non-fiction are In the Garden of Beasts, The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood, and Lost in Shangri-La.