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February 16th, 2009

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08:35 am - facs and figgers
i am reading stumbling on happiness, by daniel gilbert. it's interesting, but i find myself even more suspicious of the descriptions of psych studies than i usually am. often i'll read or be told about something, like "they did x and the test subjects responded with y, therefore z" and my first reaction is "bullshit! that could mean this that or the other, depending on all these other unmentioned factors". now, likely (i hope), the actual studies took that into account -- i don't feel inclined to go wading through academic articles to find out -- but the recountings of them are just not convincing in the least. maybe this means i should suck it up and read the actual studies if i want academic rigor, or i should suck it up and live with ambiguity if i don't bother.

however! the real reason i am here is a shameless misuse of statistics that i just found, so off it prompted me to come post this. gilbert sez "the average american... marries more than once". now according to the endnotes (because i'm a nerd who checks endnotes), the actual numbers are 10% will never marry, 60% will marry once, and 30% will marry more than once. now, yes, the average american according to this will marry at least 1.2 times. but that is nonsense, you can't marry .2 times: you is or you ain't. the number needs to be rounded. if 99.9% of people married exactly once and 0.1% married more than once, on average we would all marry more than once. but saying it that way gets the situation exactly backwards. whoopty doo.

it's funny that, in a book dedicated in part to debunking the ways people unconsciously cook facts to support their beliefs, he'd pull such a shenanigan.
state: nitpicky
np: Nine Inch Nails - And All That Could Have Been - 6 - The Day the World Went Away

(6 shots upside the head | en garde!)


[User Picture]
Date:February 16th, 2009 06:01 pm (UTC)
Rigur is not a wurd, sur... Or is that the umbiguity you are living with? =)
[User Picture]
Date:February 16th, 2009 06:42 pm (UTC)
er uhh shhh
[User Picture]
Date:February 16th, 2009 08:21 pm (UTC)
fjsekljflkdf you need to read up on how psych studies are conducted and then you probably won't be as damn skeptical of them.
[User Picture]
Date:February 17th, 2009 01:26 pm (UTC)
well, while in an ideal world psych studies are carried out in a sensible, counfound-reducing manner, in practice there's often a lot of slipshod assumptions and uncontrolled variables, especially in social psych type things (but also in, horrifyingly, neuropsych. Man).

But, yeah, if it's published and it's referenced and the references aren't all like "HAY GAIS CHECK OUT WHAT I FOUND LOL" you're probably ok to tenatively support their hypothesis... probably.

But reading the papers is a good idea, Dan. I've seen a couple which strongly support their hypothesis despite having p-values of like 0.1 (Which means that 1/10 times you'd get that result at random, which is not strong enough to decide that there's statistical evidence). Plus, learning! awesome.
[User Picture]
Date:February 16th, 2009 09:39 pm (UTC)
want to help me debunk a statistic? Raggy of raging misogynist fame is claiming that he has 3 studies that support his assertion that 45% of rape is falsely reported. Which sounds ridiculous, but I can't really be bothered to figure out why.
[User Picture]
Date:February 23rd, 2009 03:28 pm (UTC)
has he cited or even better linked the studies? the only number i've ever seen for that is 2% which also strikes me as ridiculous

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