Sunday, August 05, 2018

A Novel Defense of Bad Social Psychology Studies

They may not be true, but they feel true (!).  It's very similar in climate studies.  They WANT their consensus to be true

ANDREW FERGUSON below points out that scientific studies that go against the accepted narrative in that science risk abuse and various attacks ob the author from champions of the mainstream view.  That certainly happens in climate science.

Another much more common strategy to deal with attacks on the consensus is simply to ignore the discordant writer and his findings.  That is what happened to my work. I had over 200 papers in print that attacked the dominant Leftist explanation of racism but they were all ignored.  They were seldom even referred to let alone generating any doubts about the consensus

Normally a mini-essay by a journeyman reporter for the New York Times would not be worth rebutting with another mini-essay. We can all agree that the world has quite enough mini-essays as it is. But the recent piece by science writer Benedict Carey is a landmark in its own small way. It demonstrates two related cultural dilemmas—a crisis in social science, usually called “the replication crisis,” and a crisis in the news business, as yet unnamed. And it shows how our “thought leaders” hope to evade both of them.

The crisis in the social sciences has grown so obvious that even mainstream social scientists have begun to acknowledge it. In the past five years or so, disinterested researchers have reexamined many of the most crucial experiments and findings in social psychology and related fields. A very large percentage of them—as many as two-thirds, by some counts—crumble on close examination. These include such supposedly settled science as “implicit bias,” “stereotype threat,” “priming,” “ego depletion” and many others known to every student of introductory psychology. At the root of the failure are errors of methodology and execution that should have been obvious from the start. Sample sizes are small and poorly selected; statistical manipulations are misunderstood and ill-performed; experiments lack control groups and are poorly designed; data are cherry-picked; and safeguards against researcher bias are ignored. It’s a long list.

The second dilemma has to do with the first, though it is less often discussed. The great bulk of journalism—what used to constitute the stuff of a large metropolitan daily newspaper—involves only a handful of general subjects. We read sports, politics, weather, celebrity doings, and pop science. Without them the trade would collapse. Readers and editors alike especially love stories that begin “A new study finds . . . ” or “Scientists have discovered . . . ” This last sort of news—easily digested findings that scientifically explain the mysteries of human behavior—is fed and constantly replenished by the same social science whose elemental assumptions are withering before our eyes. This is bad news for the news.

The circle is vicious indeed. Journalism craves pop-science stories from researchers, who like publicity and must get their work into print, according to the pitiless mandate of publish or perish. The researchers’ urgency encourages corner-cutting and conclusion-jumping, which conveniently tend to produce flashy findings, which are inhaled by news outlets, which publish them under the headline “Researchers find!” and then turn back to the researchers to demand more, more, more.

The growing realization of this unhealthy co-dependency is the kind of thing that can ruin a science writer’s day—his livelihood, too. For Benedict Carey, the Times science writer, the collapse of social psychology is an understandably painful subject. The tone of his mini-essay is mournful, as if he’s watching an old friend walk to the electric chair.

He opens his article by mentioning the 50-year-old Stanford Prison Experiment, a simulation designed to prove that people in positions of power are more likely to behave cruelly than the Dorothy Gales among us, the small and meek. The prison experiment, which required psychology students to play-act as prisoners and prison guards, launched a thousand other experiments that used its findings as an unquestioned premise. The unique dangers of power disparities—as found, for example, in capitalist societies—became a theme of social science, confirming the leftish, class-based politics of social psychologists.

In the last 10 years, thanks to several whistle-blowing researchers working independently, the prison experiment and its findings have been largely discredited. The editor of at least one popular textbook has removed mentions of it. It turns out that the behavior of college students in role-playing exercises under the watchful eye of their professors doesn’t tell us much about the behavior of ordinary people in the real world, no matter how powerful or powerless they are. This has surprised social psychologists. Many of them still refuse to believe it.

Carey also mentions another famous, and much cuter, experiment called the Marshmallow Test. It, too, he notes glumly, has been subverted by further examination. In the marshmallow test, young and adorable children were filmed as they tried not to eat marshmallows. The researchers concluded that children who were taught the ability to delay gratification would, thanks to this single trait, grow up to have happier and more successful lives. On the basis of the marshmallow experiment, policymakers over the next generation developed character-building programs that became all the rage in the fad factories of public education. Teach a kid self-control when he’s 5, went the thinking, and 20 years later you’ll have a college graduate on your hands.

Anyone uncontaminated by social science would understand this proposition to be laughably mechanical and simplistic. And even social scientists are now seeing that the study was severely limited in application. Almost all the kids in the test were white and well-to-do; the results didn’t take into account family stability, the level of parents’ education, the behavior of peers, or any of the other infinite factors that form a child’s character. For nearly 30 years the “marshmallow effect” was science. Now it’s folklore.

Carey could have picked dozens of other examples. Every few weeks, it seems, another established truth of social science comes a cropper. But Carey is a man of faith, as believers in social science must be. He doesn’t want to let go. He is wounded by critics who think the replication crisis somehow undermines social psychology’s standing as science. “On the contrary,” he writes. The crisis proves social science is self-correcting, just the way real sciences are.

“Housecleaning is a crucial corrective in science,” Carey writes. This is true. He also says “psychology has led by example.” This is not true. A science cannot correct itself unless its findings are subjected to replication, but even now such self-examination is rare in social science—indeed, it is often deemed seditious. Reformers and revisionists who question famous findings are subjected to personal and professional abuse from colleagues online and elsewhere.

Still, Carey insists, psychology is a science. It’s just not a science in the way that other, fussier sciences are science. “The study of human behavior will never be as clean as physics or cardiology,” he writes. “How could it be?” And of course those farfetched experiments aren’t like real experiments. “Psychology’s elaborate simulations are just that.”

These are large concessions, but Carey doesn’t seem to realize how subversive they are. Those “elaborate simulations” are held up by social scientists as experiments on a par with the controlled experiments of real science. We are told they re­-create the various circumstances that human beings find themselves in and react to. The only reason anyone pays attention to social psychology is that its findings are supposed to be widely, even universally, applicable, as the findings of the physical sciences are. Otherwise it’s unlikely news outlets would hire reporters to write about social science.

Carey’s defense of social psychology fits the current age. It is post-truth, as our public intellectuals like to say. “[Social psychology’s] findings are far more accessible and personally relevant to the public than those in most other scientific fields,” Carey writes. “The public’s judgments matter to the field, too.”

Okay, but are the findings true? Carey’s answer is: Who cares? The headline over his piece summarizes the point. “Many famous studies of human behavior cannot be reproduced. Even so, they revealed aspects of our inner lives that feel true.”

Feeling true is what’s important. “It is one thing,” Carey goes on, “to frisk the studies appearing almost daily in journals that form the current back-and-forth of behavior research. It is somewhat different to call out experiments that became classics—and world-famous outside of psychology—because they dramatized something people recognized in themselves and in others.”

The public likes them. They’re famous. They’re classics! And they feel true.

Or true-ish, anyway. This is good enough for the New York Times and its guardians of science. They have adapted the scientific method to the Trump era.



An airhead


CNN Anchor Asks Same Question 3 Times, Farmer Knows Exactly How to Answer

A CNN host gave a soybean farmer three swings at a chance to criticize President Donald Trump’s trade policy, but in the end it was the host who struck out.

On Wednesday CNN’s Brooke Baldwin interviewed soybean farmer Mark Jackson. Trump has slapped tariffs on Chinese imports, resulting in Chinese retaliation that has sapped soybean sales.

In response, the Trump administration has authorized about $12 billion to be used to help farmers ride out the storm until Trump and China can reach a new trade policy.

“Farmers are resilient. They understand that China has not been playing fair,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said last month, according to CNBC. “They are patriots, but they also know that patriotism can’t pay the bills and that’s where they are concerned.”

Trump has also worked to increase soybean sales to Europe, as well as liquified natural gas.

With that as the background, Baldwin went sniffing for concerns about Trump and his policies.

“Are you supportive of what the president’s doing?” Baldwin asked on “CNN Newsroom” on Wednesday, according to TheBlaze. “And you know we talked a lot, I talked to a pork farmer last week about, you know, this whole $15 billion bailout for a lot of farmers who needed it.”

“Are you in support of the president and do you have any concerns that he’s fighting this on multiple fronts?” she added. “Are you worried about that hitting you long-term?”

Jackson would neither pretend there was not a problem nor criticize Trump.

“Yeah I mean everyone’s concerned. As far as the direction that it’s going now, I think, as far as whether we support the president or not, it’s a matter that the hand has been dealt and I think at this point in time, let’s look at the bigger picture,” he said.

Jackson then showed that he understood the bigger picture. “That China is, they are abusing the intellectual property rights and there are a lot of other factors involved here,” he added.

“Soybeans are just a $14 billion element in a $300 billion plus maneuver here,” Jackson explained. “So I think from that perspective we are probably the biggest target because we are the smallest population, given that 99 percent of the people in the United States do not farm.”

Baldwin wanted one more shot at Trump. “But, Mark, let me just jump in quickly. Last question, you say it’s the hand you’ve been dealt, but the hand is that of this president. Do you support this president and what he is doing?” Baldwin said.

Jackson wasn’t budging. “At this point in time, yes, I definitely support what he’s doing,” Jackson said. “And moving forward, I think, for a long-term solution to a better agriculture, I think that effort is there, because there’s only one source of food in this world and that’s the farmer producing it.

“Nearly half, between 40 and 50 percent of the soybeans grown in this world are produced in the United States,” he concluded. “China needs soybeans and they do need ours. It’s just a matter of what the final price will be that we receive.”


Ontario Ends UBI Experiment Two Years Early

It was Milton Friedman who first notably proposed this but Leftists love the idea.  But attempts to implement it always founder on the rock of unsustainable costs

A provincial minister said the basic-income experiment "was certainly not going to be sustainable."

A Canadian province's planned three-year experiment with a universal basic income (UBI) is ending after just one year.

Ontario's previous government implemented the pilot program last July, estimating that it would cost about CA$150 million. Instead of traditional welfare benefits, around 4,000 randomly selected low-income or jobless residents would be provided with yearly stipends of CA$16,989 per person (or CA$24,027 per couple). Participants with jobs had to give the government half of their work income. According to The Guardian, the experiment was meant to determine "whether the funds would improve health, education and housing outcomes."

But Ontario just ousted the Liberal Party and elected a new Progressive Conservative government, and the new regime had other ideas. Provincial Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod said yesterday that Ontario would be ending the "quite expensive" experiment. "It was certainly not going to be sustainable," MacLeod said. She didn't provide any data to back that up, so it's not clear whether the program was costing more than expected or if the new government just has different ideas about how this was likely to end.

The announcement came several months after Finland decided not to extend its own UBI experiment, which distributed monthly stipends of 560 euros to about 2,000 residents. But other countries are still considering a UBI. Italy and the Netherlands are both implementing UBI trials, and some Scottish cities are mulling it over as well. And a privately funded basic-income experiment is now underway in Kenya.

The UBI's basic premise is not new. (Reason's Jesse Walker has documented the idea's history here.) But it remains controversial, even among libertarians. Some libertarians are firmly against the idea, arguing that it is as unjust as any other form of wealth redistribution. Others say a UBI would be less intrusive and more cost-effective than a traditional welfare state, and therefore would be a step toward smaller government.

In the United States, the idea is far from dead. Stockton, California, is ready to test its own version of a UBI, and lawmakers in Chicago have proposed a similar experiment.



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