Monday, July 29, 2013

Statistics: Too Good to Be True

Are women three times more likely to wear red or pink when they are most fertile? No, probably not. But here's how hardworking researchers, prestigious scientific journals, and gullible journalists have been fooled into believing so. The paper I'll be talking about appeared online this month in Psychological Science, the flagship journal of the Association for Psychological Science, which represents the serious, research-focused (as opposed to therapeutic) end of the psychology profession. "Women Are More Likely to Wear Red or Pink at Peak Fertility," by Alec Beall and Jessica Tracy, is based on two samples: a self-selected sample of 100 women from the Internet, and 24 undergraduates at the University of British Columbia...Pretty exciting, huh? It’s (literally) sexy as well as being statistically significant. And the difference is by a factor of three—that seems like a big deal. Really, though, this paper provides essentially no evidence about the researchers' hypotheses, for three little reasons and one big reason. more

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