Monday, June 27, 2011

What Predicts A Longer Life?

Melanie Greenberg summarizes The Longevity Project.

And Susan Whitbourne writes on the stages of life, an idea whose time has gone.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

"You do not talk about Fight Club if you do not notice Fight Club"

That's the title of this new study on inattentional blindness.

Abstract: Inattentional blindness—the failure to see visible and otherwise salient events when one is paying attention to something else—has been proposed as an explanation for various real-world events. In one such event, a Boston police officer chasing a suspect ran past a brutal assault and was prosecuted for perjury when he claimed not to have seen it. However, there have been no experimental studies of inattentional blindness in real-world conditions. We simulated the Boston incident by having subjects run after a confederate along a route near which three other confederates staged a fight. At night only 35% of subjects noticed the fight; during the day 56% noticed. We manipulated the attentional load on the subjects and found that increasing the load significantly decreased noticing. These results provide evidence that inattentional blindness can occur during real-world situations, including the Boston case.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

On the behavior of reviewers: Why unconventional ideas are rejected

"Editors, with good reason, send submissions to scholars who are knowledgeable about, and who have previously published on, the particular topic of the paper submitted. However, it is exactly those scholars, though, who have most to lose when a new idea that undermines the approaches and ideas they have championed over many years is promoted. Such reviewers knowingly or unknowingly introduce a marked conservative bias. Well-established ideas tend to be favoured and unconventional ideas rejected particularly because the latter are normally less well formulated and tested than those following the trodden path."
From the section "Protecting Intellectual Capital" in "Editorial Ruminations: Publishing Kyklos" by Frey, Eichenberger, and Frey.

What is left unsaid is that this problem is aggravated by the gap between perception and reality when people discuss how many times a scholar is cited. Conventionally, the perception is that a scholar is frequently cited if he or she is doing high-quality . Realistically, a scholar is frequently cited if he or she is doing moderate-quality research on a topic that lots of other researchers are already interested in.

Of course, there's also the problem of political bias, at least in American social psychology.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Using Mechanical Turk to Gather Psychological Data

Buhrmester, Kwang and (the ubiquitous) Sam Gosling published a paper about this recently, entitled "Amazon's Mechanical Turk: A New Source of Inexpensive, Yet High-Quality, Data?" Here's a bit of the abstract":
Findings indicate that (a) MTurk participants are slightly more demographically diverse than are standard Internet samples and are significantly more diverse than typical American college samples; (b) participation is affected by compensation rate and task length, but participants can still be recruited rapidly and inexpensively; (c) realistic compensation rates do not affect data quality; and (d) the data obtained are at least as reliable as those obtained via traditional methods. Overall, MTurk can be used to obtain high-quality data inexpensively and rapidly.
As a social psychologist, I'm particularly impressed by (a) because social psychology is one area where it's really troublesome to generalize the findings you get with college students.