Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Off Beat Humor

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Data Talks

Best of the Bee

I see wonderful things

Fearless (You'll Never Walk Alone) by Pink Floyd

Fearless (You'll Never Walk Alone) by Pink Floyd

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Fearless (You'll Never Walk Alone)
by Pink Floyd

You say the hill's too steep to climb
You say you'd like to see me try
You pick the place and I'll choose the time
And I'll climb
The hill in my own way
just wait a while, for the right day
And as I rise above the treeline and the clouds
I look down hear the sound of the things you said today
Fearlessly the idiot faced the crowd, smiling
Merciless, the magistrate turns 'round, frowning
and who's the fool who wears the crown
Go down in your own way
And everyday is the right day
And as you rise above the fear lines in his brown
You look down
Hear the sound of the faces in the crowd

Russell William's tree, 2015 by Ron Francis

Russell William's tree, 2015 by Ron Francis

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Wisdom of the crowds versus the expertise of the technocrats? Go with the crowds.

Via Ethan Mollick.

All my life it has been a cultural trope that there are three things which likely increase cognitive functioning - learning a new language, playing an instrument and

These are beliefs unsupported by evidence. Or rather, they are beliefs supported only by flawed or cherry-picked evidence. I don't think that the actions are in anyway detrimental and are topically valuable under the right circumstances. They just don't deliver the systemic benefits predicted.

Multi-lingualism - From Is bilingualism associated with enhanced executive functioning in adults? A meta-analytic review by Minna Lehtonen, et al. From the Abstract:
Because of enduring experience of managing two languages, bilinguals have been argued to develop superior executive functioning compared with monolinguals. Despite extensive investigation, there is, however, no consensus regarding the existence of such a bilingual advantage. Here we synthesized comparisons of bilinguals’ and monolinguals’ performance in six executive domains using 891 effect sizes from 152 studies on adults. We also included unpublished data, and considered the potential influence of a number of study-, task-, and participant-related variables. Before correcting estimates for observed publication bias, our analyses revealed a very small bilingual advantage for inhibition, shifting, and working memory, but not for monitoring or attention. No evidence for a bilingual advantage remained after correcting for bias. For verbal fluency, our analyses indicated a small bilingual disadvantage, possibly reflecting less exposure for each individual language when using two languages in a balanced manner. Moreover, moderator analyses did not support theoretical presuppositions concerning the bilingual advantage. We conclude that the available evidence does not provide systematic support for the widely held notion that bilingualism is associated with benefits in cognitive control functions in adults. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved)

Musical instrument playing - Cognitive and academic benefits of music training with children: A multilevel meta-analysis by Giovanni Sala and Fernand Gobet. From the Abstract:
Music training has repeatedly been claimed to positively impact on children’s cognitive skills and academic achievement. This claim relies on the assumption that engaging in intellectually demanding activities fosters particular domain-general cognitive skills, or even general intelligence. The present meta-analytic review (N = 6,984, k = 254, m = 54) shows that this belief is incorrect. Once the study quality design is controlled for, the overall effect of music training programs is null (g ̅ ≈ 0) and highly consistent across studies (τ2 ≈ 0). Small statistically significant overall effects are obtained only in those studies implementing no random allocation of participants and employing non-active controls (g ̅ ≈ 0.200, p < .001). Interestingly, music training is ineffective regardless of the type of outcome measure (e.g., verbal, non-verbal, speed-related, etc.). Furthermore, we note that, beyond meta-analysis of experimental studies, a considerable amount of cross-sectional evidence indicates that engagement in music has no impact on people’s non-music cognitive skills or academic achievement. We conclude that researchers’ optimism about the benefits of music training is empirically unjustified and stem from misinterpretation of the empirical data and, possibly, confirmation bias. Given the clarity of the results, the large number of participants involved, and the numerous studies carried out so far, we conclude that this line of research should be dismissed.

Too much screen time is deleterious to well being - Screens, Teens, and Psychological Well-Being: Evidence From Three Time-Use-Diary Studies by Amy Orben and Andrew K. Przybylski. From the Abstract:
The notion that digital-screen engagement decreases adolescent well-being has become a recurring feature in public, political, and scientific conversation. The current level of psychological evidence, however, is far removed from the certainty voiced by many commentators. There is little clear-cut evidence that screen time decreases adolescent well-being, and most psychological results are based on single-country, exploratory studies that rely on inaccurate but popular self-report measures of digital-screen engagement. In this study, which encompassed three nationally representative large-scale data sets from Ireland, the United States, and the United Kingdom (N = 17,247 after data exclusions) and included time-use-diary measures of digital-screen engagement, we used both exploratory and confirmatory study designs to introduce methodological and analytical improvements to a growing psychological research area. We found little evidence for substantial negative associations between digital-screen engagement—measured throughout the day or particularly before bedtime—and adolescent well-being.
I am always leery of meta-studies, so this isn't conclusive, but it does match other research I have read. But it is enough to make more general point that there are nearly infinite poorly designed studies with big effect sizes which disappear when you make the study larger and more rigorous.

These three beliefs (Screen time harm, value of bilingualism, and value of instrument playing) are widely shared among virtually all segments of society. They are not existential beliefs but they are consequential.

These studies serve as an example of how easily swayed we are. They also support a position towards which I have been glacially moving around an even more fundamental point which has to do with the limits of technocrats and executive decision-making in population level governance.

We should be deferring to emergent group decision-making much more than we are. Right now, we still have latent confidence, despite the the arrogance and ignorance, to believe that technocrats know what they are doing, can make better decisions and should have the power to impose those decisions through executive action/coercion.

I have an inclination to look at the world as a series of problem-solving opportunities and that most problems have defensible solutions. As I have become more grounded in emergent order theory, complex systems science and statistical uncertainty, I have become more open to the idea that almost nothing should ever be done at a group level without some sort of super-majority affirmation. Examples:
Want bike lanes on roads? Only if 75% of stakeholders agree.

Want to start schools later in the morning to improve child sleep? Only if 75% of stakeholders agree.

Want to reduce population obesity by reducing sugar content in foods? Only if 75% of stakeholders agree.

Improve population mental and physical health by increasing access to parks and geenspaces? Only if 75% of stakeholders agree.
All great sounding ideas. They seem rational and we can certainly muster apparently strong evidence to support them. But the past few decades have shown time and again that the system is more complex than we anticipated and the evidence is far weaker and more cherry-picked than we considered, the effect sizes are almost always smaller or non-existent, and the chance of net negative outcomes much greater.

Wisdom of the crowds versus the expertise of the technocrats? Go with the crowds. They may be mistaken but if you insist on super-majorities, only the realest of evidence passes muster.

It is not that there isn't value to expertise and knowledge. By no means. The issue is that expertise and knowledge are much more constrained and rare than we assume.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Off Beat Humor

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Best of the Bee

When the racism and sexism of postmodernism drove a rise in cynicism.

Not sure about the qulity of the research but it is thought-provoking. From Victims, perpetrators, or both? The vicious cycle of disrespect and cynical beliefs about human nature. by Olga Stavrova, Daniel Ehlebracht, and Kathleen Vohs. From the Abstract:
We tested how cynicism emerges and what maintains it. Cynicism is the tendency to believe that people are morally bankrupt and behave treacherously to maximize self-interest. Drawing on literatures on norms of respectful treatment, we proposed that being the target of disrespect gives rise to cynical views, which predisposes people to further disrespect. The end result is a vicious cycle: cynicism and disrespect fuel one another. Study 1’s nationally representative survey showed that disrespect and cynicism are positively related to each other in 28 of 29 countries studied, and that cynicism’s associations with disrespect were independent of (and stronger than) associations with lacking social support. Study 2 used a nationally representative longitudinal dataset, spanning 4 years. In line with the vicious cycle hypothesis, feeling disrespected and holding cynical views gave rise to each other over time. Five preregistered experiments (including 2 in the online supplemental materials) provided causal evidence. Study 3 showed that bringing to mind previous experiences of being disrespected heightened cynical beliefs subsequently. Studies 4 and 5 showed that to the extent that people endorsed cynical beliefs, others were inclined to treat them disrespectfully. Study 6’s weeklong daily diary study replicated the vicious cycle pattern. Everyday experiences of disrespect elevated cynical beliefs and vice versa. Moreover, cynical individuals tended to treat others with disrespect, which in turn predicted more disrespectful treatment by others. In short, experiencing disrespect gives rise to cynicism and cynicism elicits disrespect from others, thereby reinforcing the worldview that caused these negative reactions in the first place. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved)
IF true, this might be an element in the explanation of so-called polarization. Polarization is much discussed in the MSM but it is not quite right. Before Trump, there was of course competition between the parties but it was intramural between the establishment parties. Not really debating fundamentals, just ensuring that their respective interest groups got scraps from the national pie.

Trump, more of a Tea Party outsider, set the cat among the pigeons. Reviled by establishment Republicans he has to some extent brought them over by his survival and effectiveness. Democrats have nothing but revulsion for him.

But all of that isn't polarization per se. It is inside baseball for the inside the beltway crowd. Outside Washington, polarization is barely visible.

My inclination is to look at this as an issue of the populi versus the establishment rather than as partisan polarization. And I think that is substantially true and evidenced across the world, particularly among the developed countries.

But this research suggests something else is going on, though it may be a coincidence of time.

If the research is true that there can be a cycle of disrespectful escalation which drives cynicism, then I wonder whether the perceive anxiousness, polarization, etc. might not be as much driven by ideology as it is by partisan interests.

Specifically, the umbrella postmodernist ideological camps which have blossomed post-Berlin Wall and gained traction circa 1995 in academia and then later in media might be much more of a driver of cynicism and polarization.

Critical Race Theory (ideological racism), Critical Theory (class ideology), Third Wave Feminism (ideological sexism) are very much the frame for all MSM discussions. See, for example, today's delightfully sexist and absurd headline.

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It defies comprehension.

Both Obama ("bitter clingers") and Clinton ("basket of deplorables") were transparent in their ridicule of the poor, men, and whites. You net these out and that is a lot of privileged disdain by the 1%ers for the numeric majority of people. Disdain trumpeted without comment by the MSM.

So if the majority of the population has targeted and sustained insults hurled at them, would it be surprising that their cynicism might rise?

The incubation habitats for postmodernism (academia and media) then become the birthers of perceived increase in polarization which is really just a rise in common cynicism owing to the disdain of the privileged one percenters for the great majority (males, whites, and middle and lower classes).

Just an alternate perspective.