Just how big is that effect size?

24 Jan

On Monday The Washington Post ran a story with this headline: “Teens who spend less time in front of screens are happier — up to a point, new research shows.”

What the article does not tell us (but the abstract does) is the that the study had 1.1 million participants. Well that seems like a good thing, doesn’t it?

The problem is that with a sample that large almost any correlation will be statistically significant. For example, according the Post account, the correlation between texting and happiness was r = -.05. Typically a correlation of the this magnitude would be described as “none or very weak.” 


Yes, we have no tofu!

22 Jan

No, I am not becoming a food blogger, but a couple of weeks ago, I intersected with this news story while shopping at Whole Foods. I couldn’t find any tofu. I asked one of the employees and was told that they were completely out. Tofu seems like a fundamental building block of the health food store universe, and I was duly surprised by its absence.



The many voices of Nic De Houwer

19 Jan


And let’s not forget the work of the late great Mel Blanc:


Are all evening-types doomed?

17 Jan

An interesting interview with Royette Tavernier of Wesleyan University, about her work on sleep and chronotype:

Empirical evidence indicates that US children and adults alike are getting less sleep than previous generations. This is a critical issue because of the importance of adequate and good-quality sleep for physical, cognitive, psychological, and interpersonal functioning. Furthermore, this pattern of increasing sleep debt coincides with increases in several physical and psychological health ailments, including depression, anxiety, and obesity.

Here is a paper she co-authored with the interesting title: “Are all evening-types doomed? Latent class analyses of perceived morningness–eveningness, sleep and psychosocial functioning among emerging adults”

400 failed Alzheimer’s drugs

15 Jan

An article in The Washington Post examines why it is so hard to find an effective drug to treat Alzheimer’s disease:

These setbacks pile on to an already depressing situation: more than 400 failed clinical trials since the last Alzheimer’s drug — which only treats the symptoms of the disease, temporarily — was approved more than a decade ago.


Alzheimer’s is a formidable foe for a number of reasons. The brain isn’t easy to access, and much about how it works remains mysterious, even as scientific knowledge has moved forward. Doctors can’t take easy, repeat biopsies to see whether a drug is working.

Trials are long and expensive. It has become increasingly clear that it is necessary to treat patients early in the disease, and then wait to see if the disease is prevented or slowed.

Patients, though they are affected in heartbreaking ways, typically are unable to act as advocates for more funding or research when they are in the throes of the disease — unlike cancer or AIDS patients.

Does extra virgin olive oil prevent Alzheimer’s disease?

12 Jan

Sound too good to be true? It probably is. Here is a post on the topic by Joy Victory:

To deconstruct how this went off the rails, let’s start with the university news release sent to journalists: “Temple study: Extra-virgin olive oil preserves memory & protects brain against Alzheimer’s.”

That’s a headline that surely got journalists’ attention. It’s not until after two very long opening paragraphs extolling the virtues of the nearly magical powers of extra virgin olive oil that we find out who, exactly this was tested on.


Andrew Gelman gives his take:

I looked briefly at the published research article and am concerned about forking paths, type M errors, and type S errors. Put briefly, I doubt such strong results would show up in a replication of this study.

Psychology podcast on children’s imaginary friends

10 Jan

An InExact Science is a podcast sponsored by the Association for Psychological Science. I just listened to this episode about children’s imaginary friends and I highly recommend it.

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