Monday, January 22, 2007

Trusting the Random

A common source of confusion for new students studying research methodology is lack of faith in the random. If you're trying to determine whether or not, for example, classical music improves memory retention, the students will want to break down the control and experimental groups based on everyone's -existing- memory skills to make sure it all breaks down evenly.

You can do this, but it has its drawbacks: you run serious risk of thinking your research is more significant than it is by breaking everyone down along arbitrary lines in a fashion which doesn't have a factual basis. You also take on unconscious experimenter bias when you make intentional efforts to break down the groups in an equitable fashion.

If, however, you break them down along totally random lines, you place yourself in a better situation by removing yourself from the equation of choosing who goes into which group. You also run a risk of these random factors influencing your experimental results, but this gets taken care of through replication and reassessment. The random elements involved become statistically insignificant should you have multiple experiments that suggest the same results.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Billingual Benefits

Yahoo news is reports today on a Canadian study which suggests that bilingualism delays onset of dementia.

For years, I've been telling my students about the benefits of a bilingual education: understanding multiple languages not only provides great ben and health benefits, but also helps us understand language to be something more fluid and less rigid.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Great resource in Phinneas Gage

As you may know, Phinneas Gage was a railroad foreman who suffered a major personality change after an injury damaged his frontal lobe. I was doing some research for a project and found this resource on Gage.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Like I've been trying to tell everyone forever...

...Reuters reports Funding affects study results:

Studies funded entirely by industry were four times to eight times more likely to be favorable to the financial interests of the sponsors than those paid for by other groups, the researchers found.

Of the 22 studies clearly identified as funded by companies or industry groups, just three, or 13.6 percent, had findings that were unfavorable to the beverage studied.

More than 38 percent of the independently funded studies were negative, the researchers found

Like I always say, know your sources.