Cognition and behavior (getting to different ends from the same beginning)

My twitter feed has been throwing this around. I even got an email about it from a colleague.

The growing body of cross-cultural research that the three researchers were compiling suggested that the mind’s capacity to mold itself to cultural and environmental settings was far greater than had been assumed. The most interesting thing about cultures may not be in the observable things they do—the rituals, eating preferences, codes of behavior, and the like—but in the way they mold our most fundamental conscious and unconscious thinking and perception.

For instance, the different ways people perceive the Müller-Lyer illusion likely reflects lifetimes spent in different physical environments. American children, for the most part, grow up in box-shaped rooms of varying dimensions. Surrounded by carpentered corners, visual perception adapts to this strange new environment (strange and new in terms of human history, that is) by learning to perceive converging lines in three dimensions.

I think it’s funny that they’re talking about this as if it were a recent thing – the WEIRD paper has been floating around since 2009. Continue reading

Data science? Yes, please. Data scientist? Meh.

I wrote a post a while ago about not being sure if I wanted to call myself a data scientist. The post was less about what title I wanted to ascribe myself and more about the many divergent ways “data science” seems to be defined. At the time, I wrote: Continue reading

Science is more than its methods (but social science currently isn’t)

Paul called my attention to this piece (behind a pay wall…of course), titled “The science in social science” and written by anthropologist H. Russell Bernard. When I was doing my graduate work at UCONN, we commonly referred to Bernard’s Research Methods in Anthropology as our “methods Bible,” so I went into his article with favorable expectations. Unfortunately, I think he engaged in some logical leaps that I just can’t make. From his abstract: Continue reading

The Value of Reproducible Research: Sometimes the response matters more than the results

Yesterday I followed a tweet to a post by Jason Lyall responding to apparently widespread criticism of a new survey in Afghanistan done by the Asia Foundation. The post was the first I’d heard of the survey or of the response to it, so I don’t know anything more about the criticism than what Jason wrote, or much about the nature or arguments of the criticism. But the post did link to one criticism in particular, from Sarah Chayes, a journalist turned NGO-founder and regular ISAF-hired expert on Afghanistan. The general approach taken in her critique seems illustrative of something I find very valuable about systematic and reproducible research and analysis: it facilitates productive and progressive (though perhaps not always intentionally so) responses. Continue reading

Bottom-up creation of data-driven capabilities: show don’t tell

I’ve been writing lately on what to do when people who make decisions in an organization say they want data-driven capabilities but then ignore or attack the results of data-driven analysis for not saying what they think the data ought to say. Some of the most productive things you can do in that situation include automating your work so you can devote more time and attention to more important (and labor-intensive) projects, as well as building support among the organization’s weak actors as a means of garnering positive attention from higher-power stakeholders. Continue reading