Archive for October, 2008

Obama’s success due to marketing science?

October 30, 2008

A recent article suggests that Obama’s campaign has benefited from the work of a psychologist, Drew Western of Emory University. The full article is here.

Science without theory

October 28, 2008

Kevin Kelley’s post on doing science without theory is interesting. I disagree with it wholeheartedly, but is worth reading.

Full text is here.

How people perceive the world

October 28, 2008

In yesterday’s NY times, David Brooks has a nice piece on decision-making. It dovetails well with the Professional Vision paper that you read last week, along with our discussion during Emily’s talk. One of the comments he makes is this: “Perceiving a situation seems, at first glimpse, like a remarkably simple operation. You just look and see what’s around. But the operation that seems most simple is actually the most complex, it’s just that most of the action takes place below the level of awareness. Looking at and perceiving the world is an active process of meaning-making that shapes and biases the rest of the decision-making chain.”

Read the full text here.

Distinguishing fact from fiction

October 26, 2008

The central problem in empirical research is distinguishing fact from fiction (unless you are a postmodernist, in which case the task is to distinguish fashionable, status-enhancing fiction from embarrassing fiction). The Snopes site tries to track and verify urban legends.

It’s interesting to search for events and names of current interest, such as “Obama”.

Unusual economic indicators

October 19, 2008

A long time ago, it was noticed that hemlines fluctuated with the economy: the higher the hemlines, the stronger the economy (I’m not hinting, just saying …). Now, a number of other correlations have been found, from the sale of laxatives to the tempo of hit songs. See the full article in today’s New York Times.

e and pi go out for a date

October 18, 2008

Change in direction for the class

October 16, 2008

I realized after the last class (on factor analysis) that I was doing the class a disservice. The mathematical underpinnings of measures of association, regression, factor analysis etc are not what you guys need most. There are kind of three ways of teaching a course like this. 

Approach 1. In-depth examination of research methods from a formal, mathematical perspective. So formal measurement theory, vectors and matrices, how correlation really works, the underlying math of factor analysis, and so on.
Approach 2. In-depth, hands-on workshop on how to use the main techniques of data collection, construction and analysis in the social sciences. Mostly about the software and the actual nuts and bolts.
Approach 3. Survey of the components of a research project. Exposure to key concepts, such as measurement, validity, reliability etc, as well data collection techniques and data analysis techniques. Emphasis on what they are and what they are used for, but not how they work. 
I intended the course to be a combination of Approach 1 and Approach 2.  But now I am going to reorganize things to be about 70% Approach 3, and 30% Approach 2. My sense of aesthetic purity says go 100% Approach 3, but I can’t resist showing you some tools you can use to analyze real data. It is too much fun.
Of course, it is hard to let go of the math stuff too. So my approach is going to be “if you don’t ask, i won’t tell”. But I hope you do ask about the mathematical nuts and bolts underneath the techniques, and I will explain.

Anthroplogy Methods Mall

October 16, 2008

The 2009 Anthropology Methods Mall is online. This site has info about four, NSF-supported opportunities for methods training in cultural anthropology.

1. Now in its fifth year, the SCRM (Short Courses on Research Methods) program is for cultural anthropologists who already have the Ph.D. Three five-day are offered during summer 2009 at the Duke University Marine Lab in Beaufort, North Carolina.

2. Now in its 14th year, the SIRD (Summer Institute on Research Design) is an intensive, three-week course for graduate students in cultural anthropology who are preparing their doctoral research proposals. The 2009 course runs from July 13–31 at the Duke University Marine Laboratory. (Instructors: Jeffrey Johnson, Susan Weller, and H. Russell Bernard)

3. Now in its sixth year, the SFTM (Summer Field Training in Methods) program in Bolivia is open to graduate students in cultural anthropology. This course involves five weeks of fieldwork in the Bolivian Amazon from June 8-July 13.  (Instructors: Ricardo Godoy, William Leonard, Victoria Reyes-Garcia, Thomas McDade, Clarence Gravlee, J. Richard Stepp, and Susan Tanner).

4. The WRMA (Workshops in Research Methods in Anthropology) program offers one-day workshops in conjunction with national meetings of anthropologists. Two workshop will be offered at the meetings of the American Anthropological Association in November.

Full details on all these opportunities at the Methods Mall,

H. Russell Bernard
Professor of Anthropology, Emeritus
University of Florida

What’s the difference between sense and nonsense?

October 14, 2008

Listen to this youtube video.

Artistic Text Analysis

October 13, 2008

A beautiful way of visualizing the words in a text. Word size is proportional to frequency. The text in this case was an interview by conducted by Ginny Kidwell and Travis Grosser for a project about the MBA job search process.

For more information, visit the course website or the site that generated the picture,