A good quote

“Ah, there’s nothing more exciting than science. You get all the fun of... sitting still, being quiet, writing down numbers, paying attention... Science has it all.”- Principal Skinner

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Readings for the class on Saturday

Hi folks;
Class this weekend will focus on (among other things) quasi-experimental designs and evaluation studies. These aren't really different areas - quasi-experimental designs are frequently used to evaluate programs. We'll be discussing two program evaluation studies in class: The Oregon Health Plan Standard study, and the evaluation of the drug-abuse prevention program D.A.R.E.

For the DARE article, click HERE.

There are two articles about OHP Standard.
Click Here for the first

Click Here for the second.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Experimental evidence: Does thinking about God make you a daredevil?

Howdy folks.
Applied social science research reaches into lots of related fields - management theory, political science, and marketing are three big ones. CLICK HERE to read about a study from the Standford Graduate School of Business about how thinking about God influences subsequent behavior.

In the study, a group of participants read a Wikipedia entry about God (the EXPERIMENTAL group) while a different group of participants read a Wikipedia entry about something metaphysically neutral (the CONTROL group.  Then both groups were asked if they wanted to view something benign, or something a bit more risky (as in, a possibility that it would harm their eyes). The risky choice had a small reward attached.

The study shows that reading about God made people more likely to pick the risky-but-rewarding choice. Interestingly, this was independent of people's beliefs in God.

If you remember the list of "cognitive biases" that we talked about in class, you might recognize this as related to "Knowledge Bias" - the tendency to stick with what you know than to try new things, even if the new thing provides greater reward.  Why would thinking about God lead to riskier behavior? Hard to know, off-hand. But that's the thing about science - a good study can inspire follow-up research.

This article is a great introduction to experimental and control groups which we'll discuss on the 24th and 25th.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Article to Discuss in Class

In our first class, we'll discuss an article from the NY Time's website, "Upshot" (a link to the article is HERE).  In the article, the authors discuss a controversial study that did not find a link between parental engagement with children and child well being.

As you read the article (there's also a link to the original research if you want to view that, as well) ask yourself if the method used to measure parental engagement was a good one. Were there other methods that could have worked better? And what does this bit of controversy say about the relationship between social scientists and the press?

Avoiding Cognitive Bias

Our first class covers, among other things, common biases that we all could fall prey to.  Cognitive biases can lead us to see things that aren't there, or (just as bad) not see things that are there. Using the systematic, scientific method to investigate social behavior can help reduce the influence of these biases, but they don't go away. Always be vigilant!

After the jump (click below) you'll find a list of ten common cognitive biases we'll talk briefly about in class.  Some apply to decision-making in general, others to survey construction in particular.