Wednesday, June 9, 2021

The current state of social psychology

I think this is a very useful post on Retraction Watch for understanding the current state of Social Psychology. The author, Augustine Brannigan, excerpted part of a book chapter that looks back at the replication crisis, but also looks forward. The various forms of data fraud and notorious incidents are very well-known at this point, as are Daryl Bem's infamous publication from 2011, as are the replication failures of social priming experiments. That Bem's experiment was not intended to be replicable but a form of persuasive argument is itself antithetical to what we are supposed to do in the sciences, as are other infamous classic experiments (by Sherif, Milgram, and Zimbardo). Brannigan is apt at pointing out the shortcomings of these classics, including the lack of clear hypotheses, control groups, etc. Brannigan also questions whether what we are doing as Social Psychologists is really particularly useful. The experimental approach that has "taken the social out of social psychology" is critiqued. I do think a more realistic appraisal of our field is to understand that many of the phenomena we study may be ephemeral. We probably should question when experimentation is appropriate and when we might wish to use other methods for understanding social phenomena. I suspect getting there will take some time. Whatever we do, we need to make sure that we are doing actual science and not merely making persuasive arguments, which turn out not to be all that persuasive.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

On mass shootings

I still use Mother Jones' relatively cautious count of mass shootings, as I noted a few years ago. It's relatively cautious in terms of how it operationally defines mass shootings. This year, so far, appears to be a return to the immediate pre-pandemic years of 2017-2019. One of the few positives that came from the various lockdowns and curfews that came to define 2020 was that there were fewer opportunities for those with the means to commit mass shootings to do so. Other facets of daily life in the US are going back to some semblance of normality. Regrettably, so too are mass shootings. As I also noted earlier, defining mass shootings has proven to be quite difficult and politically charged. While I think the risk in a number of circles regarding being victimized by a mass shooter incident can get overstated, it's pretty clear from the pattern of data I see from Mother Jones' database that the trend over the decades is one of increased risk. We would do well to commit ourselves to a sober analysis of the root causes of this increase in mass shootings, as well as viable solutions. I seriously doubt that the political will exists at either the legislative or judicial levels to limit access to military grade firearms, even if doing so is an obvious step in the right direction. If some of the root causes are economic, perhaps the best available solutions are economic, and thankfully are ones that a functional legislative branch could begin to address. We've seen some beginnings of addressing some potential economic causes in the American Relief Act that was passed and signed into law earlier this year. Whether or not remaining economic legislation happens is a bit up in the air at the moment. If nothing else, we might be able, after a few years, to see if we begin to see a trend of decreased mass shootings that might be attributable to tangible efforts to address economic inequality and misery. That might not decrease the number of firearms in circulation, but if it decreases their use in mass shooting incidents, we might be willing to accept that is as good as it gets. We might also keep an eye on how the Department of Homeland Security responds in the next few years. Thus far, domestic terrorists have not been treated as enemies of the state. If that changes, we may potentially see a dampening effect on mass shootings, to the extent that they had some ideological or ethnic origin. We shall see.

Monday, June 7, 2021

A weapons effect-related pet peeve

One of the periodic irritants I experience is that of finding documents such as this amicus brief that cites one of my weapons effect papers (see the footnote on page 22). This is probably not the first time that work I have authored or coauthored on some facet of the weapons effect has been misused, and it most certainly won't be the last. Even when I still had reason to believe that there appeared to be a reliable causal relation between short-term exposure to weapons such as firearms and aggressive behavior, it was with the understanding that the behavioral effects we were measuring in the lab were fairly mild. If at any time I made more of the findings either collected or summarized, mea culpa. There is, even under the best case scenario in which research unequivocally shows a solid causal link between short-term exposure to weapons and lab-based measures of aggression, no reasonable way to jump to the conclusion that the same sort of exposure would produce violent behavior (primarily gun violence, which is what the attorneys are focused on in their amicus brief). 

 Even if I am fairly sympathetic to what these attorneys wished to accomplish, I really wish they would have consulted with me first. If nothing else, I would have pointed them to the meta-analysis (Benjamin et al., 2018) and suggested that positive findings in the literature needed to be taken with a grain of salt. I've been pretty clear about that since (see Benjamin, 2019, or Benjamin, 2021 for more details). Based on some preliminary meta-analytic work I've done pre-pandemic, I have reason to believe that many of the positive findings regarding the weapons effect can be chalked up to an experimenter allegiance effect. The upshot is that folks really need to be careful when they interpret this literature. The evidence is ambiguous, at best, and any suggestions that short-term exposure to weapons could explain gun violence probably have historical origins in a moral panic over media violence that has been on-going since at least the 1960s. 

In the meantime, since this appears to be a mess for which I bear some responsibility, I also bear some responsibility for cleaning it up. That's probably part of my life's work going forward, whether I like it or not. There are only a small handful of social psychologists who are legitimate experts when it comes to this body of work. I am, regrettably, one of them, and I am probably the one who is the proverbial skunk at the picnic. That can happen when the available data require one to be a skeptic. If folks really want to discuss this body of research with me, I'll do so. I will try to be less prickly or non-responsive, especially if I am convinced that whoever is contacting me is doing so in good faith. I may or may not tell you the story you want to hear, but I will tell you the story you need to hear - i.e., the truth as we currently understand it.

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Is there a brain drain in the science reform movement?

The answer, according to Alexander Danvers, appears to be yes, there is indeed a brain drain. There are plenty of reasons why we appear to be losing our best and brightest, at a time when we arguably need them the most. There doesn't appear to be much of an incentive for reformers to do their work, including post-peer review necessary to weed out grossly incompetent and fraudulent research. Nor is there much of an incentive to develop or engage in the sort of necessary work of conducting replication research, developing and validating our measures in a way that would inspire confidence, etc. Certainly the grant money isn't there for such work. And gaining a reputation for engaging in reform-minded research activities is a terrible way to get promoted, given the way the power structure in the academic world currently works. There simply are not enough mid and late career scholars willing to defend this necessary work, and those who carry out that work. There's also the question of whether what we do in my field has much meaning. That's certainly a question that haunted Joe Hilgard as he contemplated his eventual exit from academic life. Indeed, one might make more of a difference as a data scientist in any of a number of industries. And although I am quite happy for my peers who have found more lucrative and rewarding careers outside of the academic world, I can't help but wonder how that bodes for the future of reform. How much of what some very driven and competent reformers within psychology will become normative? How much will get set aside as the publish-or-perish model of scholarly life continues to dominate, and those who have profited from the old status quo continue to call the proverbial shots? Could independent research centers like IGDORE Institute be a way of sidestepping at least some of the current power structure? In the meantime, on a more personal note, I am having to accept that at least some subset of the people I met at SIPS in 2019 and again virtually in 2020 are ones who will not be around once I can finance another international conference trip in a couple years. I'll miss them. Hopefully some newer members at SIPS will be ready to carry the torch further. We shall see. Whatever happens, we need to make sure that there are incentives in place to keep our best minds with us. Otherwise, my field is one that will deserve to slip into irrelevance.

Monday, May 31, 2021

Interesting article on academic bullying

I stumbled upon this article on academic bullying on Twitter thanks to Charlie Ebersole. Needless to say, it is a discouraging document to read. That said, it is quite valuable, as in a real important and tangible sense, you are getting to read something of an oral history of the experience of early career researchers (primarily graduate students and post-docs). I agree with Dr. Ebersole that this is a very difficult issue, and one where those with actual power seem unwilling to confront what is going on in their own departments and universities. As someone who went to two different graduate programs (one for my MA in Experimental Psychology and the other for a PhD in Social Psychology), I can say that I had very different experiences in each program. My experience at CSU Fullerton was very positive. I had a helpful advisor and mentor, and I learned a lot from not only my advisor, but the other faculty with whom I worked. I would not trade that experience for anything. My experience at University of Missouri during the late 1990s was a bit different, and I will spare you the details.I did certainly learn a few lessons, although perhaps not the ones that I had expected when I began. Somehow, a culture of keeping one's head down and remaining passively silent is not one conducive to intellectual or emotional well-being, and I can certainly empathize with those who left their situations embittered. I made a promise to myself that I would never treat early career researchers (grad students and post-docs, in particular) negatively, but would instead be constructive and nurturing. I never quite had the opportunity to put that in practice. Such is life. I try to practice a form of patience and grace with my undergrads instead, and also serve as someone to share potential red flags to be on the lookout for just in case any of them do go into research-oriented graduate programs. That is perhaps good enough.

Friday, May 28, 2021

Yes, the US Republican Party Remains an Authoritarian Party

This post is intended as a follow-up to a couple of posts I published in the days and weeks prior to the US Presidential election:

Does the Republican Party seem more authoritiarian than it once did?

What will a post-Trump Republican Party look like?

At the time, I was making use of findings from the V-Dem Institute's research, and included a link to the summary of its findings. The gist was that although the US Democratic Party's positions appeared to be fairly similar to what they were at the start of this century (with a few fluctuations, such as in terms of LGBTQ rights) the Republican Party's positions were had evolved into those more akin to authoritarian ruling parties in failed democracies such as Hungary (Fidesz) and Turkey (Justice and Development Party, otherwise known as AKP). In each instance, the party in question started the century as relatively democratic, and somewhat conservative. 

Given that the US Republican Party's trajectory over the last couple decades, I was skeptical that the party would begin a shift away from its increasingly authoritarian turn. Biden (the Democratic Party candidate) did win the Presidential election, and the Republican Party lost its control of the US Senate (although barely, which was about what one would reasonably expect). That said, the Republican Party managed to pick up seats in the US House of Representatives, narrowing the Democratic Party's majority in that chamber, and did well enough in state and local elections to where one could say that the party didn't receive the sort of convincing defeat necessary to engage in a serious dialog about how to move forward. Regrettably, my skepticism has been rewarded.

I've been focused on overt behavior of the Republican Party's leaders' and members' overt behaviors over the last several months, and I've been trying to take care to place those actions in the broader context of a party whose turn away from democratic norms and values has been noticeable for a relatively long period of time. 

One of the markers I look at is how a party's leaders and members react to a loss of a major election. Parties and their rank and file members committed to democracy will understandably express disappointment at a loss, without questioning or outright rejecting the legitimacy of the outcome. In the aftermath of Mitt Romney's loss to Barack Obama in 2012, the Republican Party's leaders conducted a postmortem, that prescribed more inclusiveness, and a better effort at messaging. In the aftermath of 2020's election, the reaction was much different. Trump's loss was not accepted, either by Trump himself or by a significant portion of his base. Instead, the message was that of a stolen election, in spite of a lack of evidence of any tampering of the voting machines. Even multiple recounts in several swing states, which merely confirmed the initial count, were rejected by Trump and his Republican followers. Then again, Trump had been grooming his followers to expect any loss to be illegitimate since he began to make his first campaign appearances and rallies in 2015. Those baseless allegation of massive voter fraud were enabled by numerous authoritarian or authoritarian leaning news sites and channels, social media influencers (including Trump himself, who had amassed an enormous following on Twitter), and known right-wing social media and chat outlets like Parler in the run-up to the 2020 election and in the aftermath of the election. Slogans such as "stop the steal" became commonplace over the last couple months of 2020. 

In a functioning democracy, we might expect some members of a party that lost an election to engage in protests, and some party members who may be more on the fringes of that party to try to make threats or to in some way deny an election's legitimacy. Usually, they are safely ignored. 2020 was different. There was considerable coverage of efforts to intimidate those employed to tally the votes during recounts, as well as election officials at county and state levels. Efforts included armed protests outside of county election offices (e.g, Maricopa County in Arizona) and to forcibly enter election offices (e.g., Wayne County, Michigan). Trump apparently contacted election officials at various levels in order to influence them to refuse to certify the results in swing states that Biden won. In some cases, that worked, as when a couple Wayne County officials chose initially to not certify the county's results, and when a couple Michigan state officials chose not to certify the results (although thankfully, there was a majority to certify the votes in that instance). There is a recorded phone call of Trump making an effort to persuade the Georgia Secretary of State to "find" enough votes to declare Trump the winner, in spite of the fact that recounts in that state consistently found Trump to have lost. Between those efforts by Trump and various followers, the numerous law suits filed to overturn the results, and the belligerent rhetoric as the last months of 2020 unfolded, I can understand how my counterparts outside the US might be gravely concerned about the health of our own democratic government. I am sure plenty of us who reside in the US, across the partisan and ideological spectrum, are gravely concerned as well.

One of the markers of a functioning democracy is a peaceful transition of power from one government to the next, or in our case from one Presidency to the next. What happens when a candidate or a sitting President signals that he would refuse to accept a loss, and would do whatever possible to hold on to power? We actually got to see how that plays out on January 6th, which was the culmination of Trump's efforts to hang on to power, based on what at that time was the Big Lie: Trump's allegations that the election was "stolen" from him. Between Election Night and January 6th, efforts to organize not only a mass rally but an attack on the US Capitol Building were ongoing, apparently with a belief by those involved that they were doing Trump's bidding. A good number belonged to organized militias, and others were willing followers. The events that day are well-documented, along with the tangible threats to the lives of VP Pence, Speaker Pelosi, and well, anyone else who might be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Fortunately, that act of terrorism failed. What we witnessed was what Altemeyer and other authoritarianism researchers call authoritarian aggression - aggressive and violent acts perpetrated based on the demands of perceived authoritarian leaders (in this case Trump). And yet, when the time to resume the certification of the electoral vote came, a majority of the Republican caucus in the House of Representatives still voted to reject certifying electors in several states Biden had won. In the months that have followed, those elected officials who have spoken up against the Big Lie have been censured, and where possible purged from the Republican Party, or will be at least purged from their elected positions in 2022. Trump seems to want to downplay the attack on the Capitol, and party members have willingly gone along. Clearly, the majority of Republican voters still believe in the Big Lie. After all, even if Trump has lost most of the levers of his influence (including his social media accounts), there are plenty of party leaders and media outlets willing to continue to keep that myth alive. In other words, we are witnessing authoritarian submission in action. Given that most of us seem to live in media bubbles, perhaps that should not be too surprising. Whether two thirds of Republican voters continue to believe in the Big Lie over the next several years is something to watch, and a marker of how legitimate Trump and other allied leaders are perceived by their party's base. Unconventional efforts to continue auditing votes in swing counties across the country by private sector entities with no tangible record of electoral experience (which at best will create an unnecessary expense for counties that have to replace voting machines that can no longer be used) will perhaps continue to perpetuate the voter fraud myth for the foreseeable future. 

If a major terrorist attack happens in a functioning democracy, there is typically a consensus across political parties and rank and file voters and members to investigate. Our 9/11 Commission in the early oughts is a prime example. In the spring of 2021, Trump has made it very clear he does not want a similar bipartisan commission to be formed to investigate the events of the January 6th Capitol Building attack. Republican officials who might have once supported such a commission have walked back their support, and for now, such a bipartisan commission appears unlikely to be formed. Many legislators who were very much in the line of fire have had to engage in quite a bit of cognitive dissonance. Objective observers will likely agree that the insurrectionists were not merely tourists. However, to note that the objective of the events of January 6th was an attempted overthrow of the government within the Republican Party at this time is likely to lead to punishment. Even casual conversations with rank and file Republican voters can be revealing. Those who know very well what we all witnessed through televised footage and social media footage are often hesitant to speak too loudly, as doing so may not be good for their ability to keep businesses open, remain in good standing in their communities, or with people they have counted on as friends and family. Others, many, continue to make excuses, appearing to parrot whatever talking points have been given. Authoritarians do tend to follow the dictates of their perceived legitimate leaders to a letter. We call that authoritarian submission.

Reliably Republican friendly news outlets, like Fox, learned the hard way that telling the truth about the election would cause a loss of viewers, at least for a while. After all, Fox was among the first to call Arizona for Biden, preventing Trump from preemptively declaring himself the victor on Election Night. Other outlets reaped the spoils for a while. Fox has learned its lesson, no doubt, and any Decision Desk journalists who were responsible for what Trump and followers consider an outrage - namely dare to make an honest call based on the vote counted and where remaining outstanding ballots were located - were purged.

Somewhere I read recently that both major US parties once had some authoritarians among the membership, and they were distributed just evenly enough to where most, outside social science researchers and perhaps FBI agents would pay them no mind. What we've seen in the at least the past half decade, and perhaps somewhat longer is a shift in which authoritarians have largely coalesced around one of the two major parties, are taking up leadership positions at various levels within the party, and the party is shifting more toward the illiberalism of a number of its counterparts internationally. In spite of rhetoric advocating freedom and liberty, it is clear that there is no room for dissent within the party in its current form. Those whose psychology might lead them to hold somewhat heterodox views are increasingly learning that they are not welcome. 

We've also seen that the Big Lie is one that can be used to justify efforts to suppress voter turnout, as there are hundreds of bills, a number of which have passed, that will make it more difficult for citizens to vote, which presumably will favor a party that has determined that its best chance to victory in 2022 and 2024 is to appease Trump and appeal to Trump's base. We might also look at whether or not efforts to intimidate voters and poll workers increases over the next electoral cycles. That is something that should concern us all, regardless of our own leanings.

Whether the Republican Party can pull itself from the brink is doubtful. The base of the party has its leader who still has a strong grip on power within the party. Breaking the former President's grip on the party would be a necessary first step toward the long road to moderation. Personally, I would find such a development a welcome one, as a functioning moderate-conservative party committed to governance, democracy, and acceptance of heterodox views within its own leadership and membership to counterbalance the functioning moderate-liberal party that has already demonstrated such commitment is necessary for the continued stability of the US. In the meantime, we should be aware of what is going on. Authoritarian Nightmare, by John Dean and Bob Altemeyer (2020) would be a good contemporary start. Altemeyer's ebook, The Authoritarians, would also be a useful primer.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Recent Vox article on the Psychological Science Accelerator

 Vox has been covering the replication crisis for some time. This time, Vox has an article on the Psychological Science Accelerator, its foundation, successes (so far), and some tangible challenges (including funding). This is worth a read, if for nothing else one can get an idea of what an approach to open science looks like in practice.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Another from the "too good to be true" department

I imagine many of us saw the news story about a study suggesting that glasses wearers were less susceptible to contracting COVID-19 than those who don't wear glasses. As someone who wears bifocals, and hence is bespectacled from the moment I get up until the moment I go to sleep, I really wanted to believe that were true. As with so many claims of this type it isn't. A self-selected small sample of in-patients does not lend much confidence to the claim. Short of just getting one of the vaccines once it is made available to you, about all you can do is mask up, wash your hands (a lot) and keep hand sanitizer available for when soap and water are not readily available, physically distance as much as possible, and open the windows when feasible. Let's stick to what's realistic, and be thankful that the vaccines that are now circulating appear to work. We're going to live with this particular coronavirus for a good long time, it appears, but at least if we do what we can to prevent catching and spreading it, we will get to a point where it can be easily contained and treated, and whatever normality becomes in the 2020s can begin.

Friday, January 29, 2021

Research Confidential: How Self-Correcting is Science?

The question is arguably rhetorical. Science in and of itself is not self-correcting. It takes living, breathing human beings to notice something is wrong, take the time and make the effort to report what is wrong to relevant stakeholders (e.g., journal editors, relevant university adminstrations, etc.), and then have good reason to believe that the relevant stakeholders will show due diligence, correct or retract flawed papers as needed, and otherwise hold those responsible for the flaws, whether due to sheer incompetence or fraud, accountable. In an ideal world, that is how it would work. In this world, it's considerably more complicated, and often more than a bit disheartening.

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you are quite aware of our favorite media violence researcher who is notorious for some of the worst papers published in that particular niche area of psychology - Qian Zhang of Southwest University. I have documented, over the last couple years or so, some of the most insane tables with means, standard deviations, and test statistics that simply are impossible to interpret. I have reported test statistics that, based on the degrees of freedom reported, would have to be incorrect. I have reported discrepancies between degrees of freedom for test statistics and the sample size reported. I have documented evidence of potential plagiarism and self-plagiarism - the latter due to the tendency for Zhang to rely heavily on copying and pasting from one paper to another. I have also found some amusing typos that resulted from Zhang's tendency to copy and paste tables from paper to paper. I've tagged Zhang's work as I have documented here (for your convenience) and on PubPeer under a pseudonym. 

Dr. Joe Hilgard has gone considerable further than have I. He's blogged about his own experiences in documenting problems with Zhang's work in great detail, and the efforts he's made to contact journal editors along with officials at Zhang's university, offering painstaking evidence of the problems he has discovered. You can read about Joe Hilgard's efforts, and the decidedly mixed and disappointing outcome of his efforts here. You should really take to the time to read Hilgard's post as it is thorough and damning. The short version? Some journal editors responded rather well, and in one case very quickly to retract two papers that were clearly unsound. Other journal editors have either stonewalled or ignored Hilgard's concerns. Zhang's university cleared him of wrongdoing, chalking it all up to Zhang being "deficient in statistical knowledge and research methods." So in other words, the university writes it off as "the guy's merely an idiot, but hey, let's just give him a remedial stats course and call it even." I agree with Hilgard that the university's failure to take action is not that surprising, as universities seem to be in the business of taking care of their own, especially if the researcher in question might be bringing in grants or other forms of prestige. So the guy maybe fudges some numbers and has no idea what random assignment means. There's nothing to see here. Move along.

My take on the matter is that the most charitable view that one could take based on the body of Qian Zhang's work is that this is a researcher who is grossly incompetent, but that a more probably defensible case can be made that his activities are on some level fraudulent. I am more inclined to the latter less charitable view. I've seen too much. Regardless, this is research that should have never made it past peer review. I agree with Hilgard that this body of research is very problematic given that as long as it remains published, it will distort our understanding of what is actually happening with stimuli such as video games that contain violent content on outcome variables such as aggressive behavior or cognition. Meta-analyses are especially vulnerable given that some of the reported findings by Zhang rely on large samples. Those results could artificially inflate effect sizes, leading meta-analysts and those consuming meta-analyses to believe that an overall effect is stronger than it actually is. 

This is one of the dark alleys I mentioned a few years ago. And given what Hilgard has experienced and what I've experienced in my own way, it's one that few leave with any sense of hope for the state of this particular are of psychological inquiry. If blatantly problematic papers, ones where the problems are so obvious that a beginning methods student could discover them, cannot be retracted within a short window of time, what is going on with work in which potentially fraudulent data analyses are more cleverly presented? What else is out there that cannot be trusted? That is something that should cause us all to lose some sleep.

One final thought for anyone thinking of collaborating with Zhang: don't. If you absolutely cannot help yourself, insist on seeing the data before agreeing to be part of that particular project. I'd say that is a safe practice regardless of the situation. If I take on a statistician for a project, or someone who is at least better versed in a particular statistical method than I am, I insist on sending the data set or database, and I expect that the statistician on the project will double check my work and ask difficult questions as needed. That can save a lot of grief, assuming that the statistician involved is actually looking at what is being sent. One of the tragedies for some of Zhang's coauthors is that they've never had access to the data sets to which they lent their names and reputations, nor were they apparently allowed access. That is not how we do science, folks.

In the meantime, more papers are in the pipeline to be published by this particular author, and it will become more of a struggle to keep up with the dross that is likely to be found in any of those papers. Again, that is something that should cause us all to lose some sleep.

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

The attempt to thwart the certification of electors: some quick thoughts

I'm pretty exhausted at the moment, given the unexpectedly long day we experienced here in the US, and perhaps around the world. This is the first time that I have ever witnessed something like this in our nation's capital. I am aware this happens in fragile democracies elsewhere. So, we're really not that special, I suppose. So I offer a few thoughts. Perhaps I will expand on those later.

I think it is interesting to be reminded that the last time the Capitol Building had been breached by insurrectionists was during the War of 1812. Thanks to Sen. Cory Booker for the history lesson. In each case many insurrectionists carried flags devoted to a single despot. Back then, it was a King of England. Today, it is actually a sitting President. The difference then is that this particular day of violence was instigated not by a foreign adversary but someone who had sworn to uphold the US Constitution. 

I've been reading The Authoritarian Nightmare by John Dean and Bob Altemeyer. I suspect that authoritarianism explains much of what we saw this January 6, 2021, and really events leading up to this moment. The authors rightly point out that often we focus on the despot in situations like this, and that is important. But, every despot needs willing followers. In our case Trump is the despot. He would probably score as an authoritarian if he were to complete any of a number of authoritarianism questionnaires. He's highly social dominant as well, which is pretty obvious to all. His followers tend to wish for some fantasized past that either no longer exists or never really quite did, are submissive to an authoritarian leader's demands, and are willing to accept or participate in aggressive and violent acts if encouraged by authoritarian leaders. Trump has been practically shouting via Twitter (his favorite means of communication) and rallies that he won by a landslide and that the election was stolen. He spouts a lot of conspiracy theories for how such a highly unlikely thing could happen. His followers are enraged as he would want. He's been encouraging them for a bit now to come to a rally he'd hold in DC during the Congressional certification of Biden as the duly elected President and Harris as the duly elected Vice President. He spouted more of the usual, along with a few others sharing the podium with him. He encouraged the crowd to march to the Capitol Building, which they did. And the rest is history. 

That's the short version of the story, anyway. It's probably a bit more complicated, but that appears to be the gist. Inside the mind of those willing to do his bidding, the Congressional leadership has become the enemy. Trump has quite a number of elected Congressional members willing to do his bidding, minus the violence as well. We are witnessing that, which is why certification of the Electoral Vote will stretch into the wee hours overnight.

I would watch for what Trump says and does. Chances are that he will demand even more extreme actions from his followers in the days leading up to Biden's swearing in on January 20th. I would certainly hope FBI officials are monitoring the usual places where his followers congregate on social media (Parler, Gab, etc.). His true believers still believe, and are still almost certainly willing to act.

Friday, January 1, 2021

Our political divide as explained by a neuroscientist and a political scientist

Happy New Year


Well, when we rang in 2020, I seriously doubt any of us was thinking of SARS-CoV-2 (or COVID-19 as it is also known) would turn our personal and professional lives upside down. As I was wishing you all a happy new year last year, I was expecting to be going to a couple professional conferences (NSSA and SIPS) and would be participating in some way with repliCATS. I expected to do my usual AP Psychology Reading in Tampa in June. Those did happen, in a way, but all of those activities ended up virtual. It appears to be virtual conferences and so on for the upcoming year as well, at least until the vaccines that are very painfully slowly being rolled out are administered to enough people to allow us to discover the emerging contours of our new normal. In some ways, I miss in person conferences, but I don't miss the travel expenses I racked up over the years. After universities on my level stopped paying conference travel and hotel in advance, folks like me loaded up credit cards, awaited partial reimbursement, and then found that in the interim that the interest accrued alone had wiped out any benefit to the partial reimbursements. Having a couple years where I am actually paying down credit cards is a real boon. I may just decide to abandon all travel going forward and stick to virtual options. Such is life. Those of us who toil in smaller regional colleges and universities in the US probably have more in common with our peers in the Global South than we might realize.

As for the blog? The pandemic really had some impact on the amount of content I posted. Flipping labs from seated to online was a huge task, and that took a lot out of me. That didn't stop me from posting items of interest. That said, some of what had my interest in 2019 had more or less played itself out. There are only so many critiques of a specific lab's papers one can write before it really does become overkill. I am hoping that a broader point of using tools available for detecting problems (Statcheck, GRIM, SPRITE) gets through, and that we see more folks use those tools and report problems as they find them. I am sure I will find some items of interest to discuss. Anytime I see an injustice in my field, I certainly want to find time for it. I am hoping that as time permits, I can discuss some projects that I effectively shelved in 2020. Those need to be dusted off and completed. Starting something and not finishing it tends to leave a bad taste in my mouth, so it's close to time to get back to it. 

I do have a challenging spring semester ahead of me. I am once more dealing with lab courses online that are better suited for in-person instruction. That will again suck up some time, and give me some heartburn. I agreed to some overload for the spring. I am glad I did as it looks like one of my streams of income (some adjuncting for a nearby community college) is going to dry up, at least for a while. If my other income streams remain constant, it won't be too much of a problem. Unfortunately, in the academic world, there is far too much uncertainty. 

This will be a challenging year. At least this time around, I have an idea of what is headed my way. That's something of an advantage. 

I hope each of you has a better year than last year. Take care and stay safe.

Prebunking as a strategy to reduce vulnerability to disinformation

 This is an interesting application of innoculation theory.

Check it out:

Roozenbeek, J.; van der Linden, S; Nygren, T. (2020). Prebunking interventions based on “inoculation” theory can reduce susceptibility to misinformation across cultures. The Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) Misinformation Review.