What happens in society, stays in …the brain?

I finally had the chance to catch up on my reading this morning, and at the top of the list was this “We Aren’t the World” article. As Schaun pointed out in his last post, the basic narrative behind the piece (and a lot of the discussion around Henrich’s work) is that science is moving away from the view that humans have more or less universal cognitive faculties. This old view assumed everyone would respond similarly to basic stimuli. But then Henrich and others came along and showed that people respond differently to those stimuli. So now we know that cognition itself is shaped by “culture, environment, etc.” Continue reading


The qualitative/quantitative divide is sort of useless. Focus on replicability instead.

I’ve decided to create a new “no longer useful” tag for posts about topics that social researchers seem to harp on a lot but for which it seems we have already derived all of the useful lessons to be had. I’ve gone back and appended this label to my post on the George Box quote that “all models are wrong but some are useful,” and to my most recent post on the lack of individual objectivity among scientists. I don’t think my posts will put these sort of assertions to bed, but I feel better adding my voice to those who think they ought to be put to bed. Continue reading

Dying Like the Enemy

The rise of suicides within the US military has been one of the most tragic and noteworthy aspects (among many) of US efforts in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) in Iraq and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in Afghanistan. OIF and OEF have also been marked by the extensive use of suicide-attacks by insurgents. In the respective areas of medical/psychological and military/conflict-studies research these two types of phenomena have been rigorously documented and analyzed, but they also seem to have remained almost entirely separate and disconnected. As far as I’m aware, no published research has considered the possibility of a relationship between the two. While there are certainly reasons to consider suicide-attacks and military suicides as unrelated and distant phenomena, a connection between the two is also worth considering. Continue reading

Surveys, Assumptions, and the Need for Data Collection Alternatives

This is a long post. My previous posts have mostly been about my thoughts on various research subjects. This one reports an actual analysis. If you don’t want to read the whole thing, here are the highlights:

  1. We really need to stop using surveys so much.
  2. If we have to use surveys, it’s probably best to use a three-point scale where it’s clear that the middle point is a neutral option.
  3. If we have to (or really, really want to) use more than a three-point scale, we should probably use an even-numbered scale, preferably no more than a six-point, and make it clear that the top half of the scale choices indicate approval of a particular proposition while the bottom choices indicate disapproval.
  4. We really, really need to stop using surveys so much.
  5. Continue reading

Yes, all models are wrong…that totally misses the point

The LinkedIn discussion (mentioned here) that started in response to my post on theory raised some interesting issues that I want to explore a little more. (I’d give a hyperlink to the LinkedIn discussion itself, but it’s unfortunately in a members-only group. I like that LinkedIn connects people interested in discussing common interests, but I really wish people would comment here, in public. Why use a social media tool to stovepipe communication? Oh, well.) Here’s the comment that got me thinking: Continue reading