Tuesday, November 30, 2010

If You Murder Another Researcher To Steal Their Data

At least you have good precedent. Maybe

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Would You Rather Have Little Power or No Power?

In a situation where your opponent has an overwhelming amount of power, you would still want to hold on to the power that you do have. This study suggests that, in at least one respect, you'd better be off coming across as entirely powerless. If you're entirely powerless, your opponent feels duty bound to be more generous towards you, whereas if you have declining power, not so much.

Less Power or Powerless? Egocentric Empathy Gaps and the Irony of Having Little Versus No Power in Social Decision Making
Authors: Michel J. Handgraaf, E. Van Dijk, R. C. Vermunt, H. A. Wilke, & C. K. De Dreu
Affiliation: Department of Work and Organizational Psychology, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Friday, November 26, 2010

Does the Internet Make You Dumber?

"The pioneering neuroscientist Michael Merzenich believes our brains are being 'massively remodeled' by our ever-intensifying use of the Web and related media. In the 1970s and 1980s, Mr. Merzenich, now a professor emeritus at the University of California in San Francisco, conducted a famous series of experiments on primate brains that revealed how extensively and quickly neural circuits change in response to experience. When, for example, Mr. Merzenich rearranged the nerves in a monkey's hand, the nerve cells in the animal's sensory cortex quickly reorganized themselves to create a new 'mental map' of the hand. In a conversation late last year, he said that he was profoundly worried about the cognitive consequences of the constant distractions and interruptions the Internet bombards us with. The long-term effect on the quality of our intellectual lives, he said, could be 'deadly.'"

That was an excerpt from Does the Internet Make You Dumber?, a WSJ Essay by Nicholar Carr.

And here's a preview of Nicholas Carr's "The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains."

Carr and other scholars were featured on today's episode of To The Point, a KCRW radio show.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Siblings Share Genes, But Rarely Personalities : NPR

Siblings Share Genes, But Rarely Personalities : NPR

Then in the 1980s, a researcher named Robert Plomin published a surprising paper in which he reviewed the three main ways psychologists had studied siblings: physical characteristics, intelligence and personality. According to Plomin, in two of these areas, siblings were really quite similar.

Physically, siblings tended to differ somewhat, but they were a lot more similar on average when compared to children picked at random from the population. That's also true of cognitive abilities.

"The surprise," says Plomin, "is when you turn to personality."

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Does the Institutional Review Board System Encourage Deceit?

I have much to criticize about the Institutional Review Board (IRB) system, which requires all psychological experiments to be reviewed for ethical concerns before they are implemented. The institutional review system was formed for medical research, where it was needed, but its scope expanded to include psychology, sociology and even history departments, where it has done all sorts of harm. For instance, IRBs can not only fail to ensure ethical standards but can actually lower ethical standards[pdf link] by motivating researchers to submit deceptive proposals.

For a complete work on the problems with the IRB system in the social sciences, see Ethical Imperialism: Institutional Review Boards and the Social Sciences, 1965-2009 by Zachary M. Schrag.

Thinking About the Past and Future: Recent Psychological Research

View more presentations from Chris Martin.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Anti-Racism: Does the Witchhunt Become the Primary Goal?

Calling anti-racism a witchhunt is certainly provocative, but when you put the two side by side, there are certain commonalities: the idea that the superordinate, defining feature of a person with racist beliefs is racism, the assumption that a person with racist beliefs as inherently disgusting, and the belief that the punishment should entail a permanent banishing of the person in question.

Given these similarities and America's Puritanical roots, it's not surprising that a few researchers have chosen to measure a person's racism not by whether they actually demonstrate any racist behavior, but by whether they choose to report racist behavior that they view. To put it less gently, they place import on how much you support the witchhunt, not on much you internalize racial equality.

In their study, they were attempting to determine whether teaching children colorblindness is an effective means to end future racial inequality. But they rig their study to come to the conclusion they want to. Instead of measuring any indications of implicit (or, for that matter, explicit) racist behavior by the child, they choose to measure whether the child reports a racially charged incident to the authorities. The authors elide the fact that this is exactly a sort of scenario where you would definitely expect colorblind children to behave exactly as they did. Colorblindness, by definition, preempts one from comprehending that a conflict has a racial element.

Moreover, a society that is comprised of colorblind people cannot, by definition, have racial conflicts, so it would be completely moot to find out whether people are alarmed by racist conflicts. There is a transitional period when a society moves from non-colorblindness to colorblindness, but I imagine the goal of colorblindness supporters is to achieve colorblindness among all citizens or at least enough to establish herd immunity.

I'm not making this argument because I think there's compelling evidence that colorblindness is effective. I am, however, arguing that this study is thoroughly flawed, but, remarkably, the flaws are more informative than the content.

Disclaimer: I can't get the full text version of this article through my library, so I'm working from the abstract here. Even if the authors addressed the above issues in their paper, I doubt that they have a compelling defensive argument for their choices in methods and measures.

Article: Apfelbaum, E. P., Pauker, K., Sommers, S. R., & Ambady, N. (2010). In Blind Pursuit of Racial Equality? Psychological Science, 21 (11), 1582-1586.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Writing Papers for No Credit

At least not the sort of credit we're used to. Here's an interview with a ghost paper writer who completes student assignments for money. He reminds me of a character on Veronica Mars:
The proposal was approved, and now I had six days to complete the assignment. This was not quite a rush order, which we get top dollar to write. This assignment would be priced at a standard $2,000, half of which goes in my pocket.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Eighty-eight miles per hour: sufficient or necessary?

According to Daryl Bem, it's not necessary because events from the future can cause events in the present. His journal article, which is available in preprint [pdf] and also summarized in plain English by New Scientist, will be published by one of the prestigious psychology journals, the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. From New Scientist:
[The paper] describes a series of experiments involving more than 1000 student volunteers. In most of the tests, Bem took well-studied psychological phenomena and simply reversed the sequence, so that the event generally interpreted as the cause happened after the tested behaviour rather than before it.
Incidentally, the mean effect size was only 0.22 so this is a fairly weak effect overall, but the effect is stronger among extraverted, sensation-seeking persons.