Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Notable and Quotable

There's a political activist who's more numerate than many social scientists. Technology Review reports:

“You’re making significant resource decisions based on 160 people?” asks Mitch Stewart, director of the Democratic campaign group Organizing for America. “Isn’t that nuts? And people have been doing that for decades!”

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sample Sizes 41 and 67

According to a recent study:

Researchers from the University of California quizzed 41 women in long-term relationships about how attractive they found their husbands or boyfriends.

And, twice over the course of a month, they were asked how committed they were to their relationship and how close they felt to their partner.

In a second, similar experiment, 67 women were questioned twice about how likely they were to find fault with their other half.

The results showed that the women’s attitudes changed depending on how fertile they were and how attractive their man was.

A propensity to rush into print based on minimal evidence in the field of gender relations is not limited to feminists.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Rosin v. Hymowitz

Hanna Rosin's article on the “hookup culture” and how it empowers women disagees with Kay S. Hymowitz, who found that the least empowered women were least likely to marry. The only part of the study that came close to looking at control groups had a sample size of 53:

The researchers found their first day of interviewing so enlightening that they decided to ask the administration if they could stay on campus for four years and track the 53 women’s romantic lives.
I won't more than mention that the study might have indicated the opposite of Ms. Rosin's claim.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

At Long Last …

There's some actual data to support one of Freud's theories, based on a study with a sample size of 11:

Researchers took 11 people with anxiety disorders who all received psychoanalysis as part of the study, to see what underlying unconscious conflict might be causing the anxiety.

Words capturing the nature of the unconscious conflict were then selected from the interviews, as well as words that related to each patient's experience of anxiety disorder symptoms.

A control category with words that had no relationship to the unconscious conflict or anxiety symptoms were presented to three patients wearing scalp electrodes to measure brain responses.

Researchers found a new measurement of the brain's alpha wave frequency, linked to communication, was made when the unconscious conflict words were presented directly before the conscious words.

Results showed highly significant correlations, suggesting an inhibitory effect, were obtained when the amount of alpha generated by the unconscious words were grouped with the conscious words.

Wow. Is that the best they can do?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Conclusion Makes Sense but …

According to a recent study, organic food can turn people into obnoxious snobs:

To find out, Eskine and his team divided 60 people into three groups. One group was shown pictures of clearly labeled organic food, like apples and spinach. Another group was shown comfort foods such as brownies and cookies. And a third group -- the controls -- were shown non-organic, non-comfort foods like rice, mustard and oatmeal. After viewing the pictures, each person was then asked to read a series of vignettes describing moral transgressions.


"We found that the organic people judged much harder compared to the control or comfort food groups," says Eskine. "On a scale of 1 to 7, the organic people were like 5.5 while the controls were about a 5 and the comfort food people were like a 4.89."

When it came to helping out a needy stranger, the organic people also proved to be more selfish, volunteering only 13 minutes as compared to 19 minutes (for controls) and 24 minutes (for comfort food folks).

I don't think a study with a sample size of 60 should be taken seriously even if its conclusion (that “organic people” act like jerks) is plausible.

I won't more than mention that it was the sight of the organic food that had the effect, which might have been due to us anti-environmentalists getting p___ed off.

Monday, April 9, 2012

A Rival Blog

There's another blog on roughly the same topic but somewhat more active.

Four Small Studies

According to four studies (sample sizes 85, 38, 36, and 34), people give more allegedly right-wing answers to survey questions when they are less able to think. The only one that even came close to a decent size was also the one most subject to selection effects. (It found that drunker people in bars gave more right-wing answers. The lesson we might learn is that high-IQ conservatives don't go to bars.)

Maybe they should come back when they have real data.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Is There a Slant to Small Samples?

Maybe I should start checking to see if studies with a sample size of 17 are likely to bolster ridiculous feminist cliches. I suspect I can find at least 17 of them.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Are Drivers of Expensive Cars @ssholes?

On the one hand, it seems intuitively obvious and there's even some empirical data to back up this conclusion. On the other hand, the data for car classes 2–5 are well within random variation, which means the conclusion is ultimately drawn from a sample of the five cars in class 1. (I also suspect that the lines between the classifications were drawn in order to derive a predetermined conclusion.)

Besides, the intuitively-obvious result would have class 5 be the outlier instead of class 1.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

20 Subjects vs. 428 Subjects

Wired is reporting that a study with 428 subjects indicated that being sleepy might aid creativity and that a study with 20 subjects (I checked the ScienceNews report) purportedly indicated that being drunk can aid creativity. I have a question: Why is a study with 20 subjects reported as though it were as sound as a study with 428 subjects? It looks like there is some actual evidence that being sleepy can aid creativity. The claim that being drunk can aid creativity is still as anecdotal as ever.

Monday, January 30, 2012

An Unforgettable Small Sample

The most unforgettable scientific lecture ever was based on a sample size of 1. Professor G. S. Brindley tested an experimental treatment for erectile dysfunction on himself and, to prove it worked, dropped his pants during a presentation of the paper at a scientific conference. After that it got weird…