Monday, May 23, 2016

Elections and women

Today, happy news, that the next Austrian president is a former colleague of mine: Alexander (Sascha) Van der Bellen... 50,35 %. 2,254,484 Stimmen fuer VdB und 2,223,458 fuer Hofer. He came is an an independent, but was the former head of the green party. For the economists, he has an Econometrica.


He won all the state capitals, and here is another familiar picture: People who voted for him: Women, Educated, 



Slate writes: "The Austrian Version of Trump Lost His Election, but Only Just Barely"

Monday, May 16, 2016

Grit: A review on scientific progress...

Daniel Engber at Slate writes "Is “Grit” Really the Key to Success?"

"Up in the Hudson Valley, among the plebes at Beast Barracks, Duckworth found the secret of success. Students who identified with statements such as “Setbacks don’t discourage me” and “I never give up” were more likely than their peers to make it through West Point’s seven-week test of fortitude. (That’s how grit is measured: Students assign themselves a score of 1 to 5 for each of 10 related character statements; the 10 scores are then averaged together.) This was Duckworth’s first case study, and it delivered a clear and forceful message: If you want to make it through basic training, you gotta have grit."

"Even the task of graduating from West Point itself doesn’t really compare to the trials of Beast. When Duckworth looked at students’ grades and “military performance scores” during their first year at school, she found that grit offered little guidance on how they’d handle the rest of the United States Military Academy curriculum. The whole candidate score—that old-fashioned, talent-based assessment—did much better. Considering that three-quarters of the students who fail to finish at West Point flunk during the post-Beast curriculum, those first seven gritty weeks appear to represent a special case, and one of marginal importance.

To show that the challenges of Beast stand in for those of life, Duckworth looked for grit in other settings, places where one might not expect to find endurance as a major factor in success. For one study, she surveyed 149 undergrads at the University of Pennsylvania, finding that the students’ grit and SAT scores—the latter used as a proxy for their natural aptitude—were each and independently related to their school performance as measured by their grades. Even for these brainy Ivy Leaguers, grit seemed to be just as important as intelligence. Indeed, Duckworth writes that this was one of the key findings that led her to the “fundamental insight that would guide [her] future work.”"

He then writes

"When everyone excels on one dimension—height, SAT scores—other factors will appear to play an outsize role. In the case of Duckworth’s brainy Ivy Leaguers, this makes their SATs seem less important for predicting how they’ll do in school and exaggerates the relative importance of their grit. If she’d mixed the same people in with a more balanced sample of their peers, let’s say those with average SAT scores closer to 1,000, then the link between their aptitude and grades would have appeared more pronounced—and that would in turn have made the correlation with their grit seem less impressive."

I actually don't fully agree with that, as we could still think of Grit being important when, say, admitting smart students. 

"That’s long been a problem for personality psychologists, who often struggle with competing terms for common, underlying inclinations. The field had become a tangled mess by the 1950s and the 1960s, says Brent Roberts, a professor at the University of Illinois (whom Duckworth also cites). For any given outcome in a person’s life—whether he might turn out to be a drunk, let’s say, or a genius or a crook—researchers would devise a brand-new measure, calibrated to predict it. “It had a brutal elegance,” Roberts says, “and I often pine for those days, to be honest with you.”

But this rampant sowing of new ideas made it hard even for the specialists to find their way within the field. They didn’t always know how their measures related to their colleagues’ or if they might be duplicating one another’s work. By the 1980s and the 1990s, lumpers in psychology had embraced a grand unified theory of personality, which collapsed all the nuances that came before into a set of supertraits—the Big Five. Under this new system, grit and all its near and distant cousins—willpower, superego strength, industriousness, and so on—would fall under an umbrella factor known as “conscientiousness.” (The remaining four of the Big Five supertraits: extraversion, agreeableness, neuroticism, and openness to experience.) Like grit, conscientiousness could be measured with a survey: a set of statements, maybe several hundred, for a person to read and then assign himself a score. (There are other ways to measure personality: A psychologist might ask people, for example, whether they engage in specific behaviors such as making lists or showing up early for meetings.)

“[The Big Five] brought clarity to a true buzz of confusion,” Roberts says, and it allowed researchers to make bigger claims about the broad significance of character. A measure of someone’s conscientiousness, for example, could help predict her longevity and physical health, as well as her marital stability. It could also tell you how likely she would be to find success in high school, college, and the workplace. But if the adoption of the Big Five proved useful in the lab, it made the science of personality harder to explain to outsiders. “When I say, conscientiousness,” says Roberts, “people go, ‘Huh?’ ”

That’s why Duckworth worked so hard to give her measure a catchy name. “I came up with it over other terms like pluck, tenacity, persistence, perseverance,” she said during one interview. “It has the connotations that I wanted. It sounds good.” It’s true: Conscientiousness comes off as something weak—a nerdy way of playing by the rules; grit suggests a vigorous, old-fashioned form of virtue. Grit’s the antidote for an overpolished age, a return to rough-hewn authenticity. “It’s brilliant in terms of marketing,” says Roberts. “People understand it immediately.”
..

"A brand-new meta-analysis of the literature on grit—conducted by researchers Marcus Credé, Michael Tynan, and Peter Harms using 88 samples and 67,000 subjects—provides some clues.* There isn’t much space between Duckworth’s measure and conscientiousness, the study argues. If you test a group of people for both traits, administering standard surveys to measure grit and conscientiousness, the results will end up very tightly linked; in some studies their relationship approaches 1-to-1. In Roberts’ view, grit corresponds very closely to a facet, or subtrait, of conscientiousness that has for many years been called industriousness."

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Science and Replication

A topic becomes really important when it reaches TV shows. This is just what happened with replication in science: cHeck out John Oliver's Science segment:


Check out my paper with Lucas Coffman on that topic, and my earlier post

Monday, May 9, 2016

Discrimination

Nicholas Kristof in the NYtimes writes about "A Confession of Liberal Intolerance"

"A study published in The American Journal of Political Science underscored how powerful political bias can be. In an experiment, Democrats and Republicans were asked to choose a scholarship winner from among (fictitious) finalists, with the experiment tweaked so that applicants sometimes included the president of the Democratic or Republican club, while varying the credentials and race of each. Four-fifths of Democrats and Republicans alike chose a student of their own party to win a scholarship, and discrimination against people of the other party was much greater than discrimination based on race."

The study is "Fear and Loathing across Party Lines: New Evidence on Group Polarization," by Shanto Iyengar  from Stanford University and Sean J. Westwood from Princeton University
American Journal of Political Science, Vol. 59, No. 3, July 2015, Pp. 690–707

The abstract reads:
When defined in terms of social identity and affect toward copartisans and opposing partisans, the polarization of the American electorate has dramatically increased. We document the scope and consequences of affective polarization of partisans using implicit, explicit, and behavioral indicators. Our evidence demonstrates that hostile feelings for the opposing party are ingrained or automatic in voters’ minds, and that affective polarization based on party is just as strong as polarization based on race. We further show that party cues exert powerful effects on nonpolitical judgments and behaviors. Partisans discriminate against opposing partisans, doing so to a degree that exceeds discrimination based on race. We note that the willingness of partisans to display open animus for opposing partisans can be attributed to the absence of norms
governing the expression of negative sentiment and that increased partisan affect provides an incentive for elites to engage in confrontation rather than cooperation.

Monday, February 22, 2016

There is a new paper coming out: "Discrimination in the laboratory: A meta-analysis of economics experiments," by Tom Lane in the European Economic Review.


The abstract reads:

"Economists are increasingly using experiments to study and measure discrimination between groups. In a meta-analysis containing 441 results from 77 studies, we find groups significantly discriminate against each other in roughly a third of cases. Discrimination varies depending upon the type of group identity being studied: it is stronger when identity is artificially induced in the laboratory than when the subject pool is divided by ethnicity or nationality, and higher still when participants are split into socially or geographically distinct groups. In gender discrimination experiments, there is significant favouritism towards the opposite gender. There is evidence for both taste-based and statistical discrimination; tastes drive the general pattern of discrimination against out-groups, but statistical beliefs are found to affect discrimination in specific instances. Relative to all other decision-making contexts, discrimination is much stronger when participants are asked to allocate payoffs between passive in-group and out-group members. Students and non-students appear to discriminate equally. We discuss possible interpretations and implications of our findings."

Thanks Christine Exley who pointed this paper out to me.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Overrated Men

Josh Logue writes at insidehighereducation, about "Overrated Men Do the biology students celebrated (perhaps undeservingly) for their intellect always seem to be male? A new study says the answer lies in gender bias." on February 12, 2016

"Male students appear to consistently and significantly overrate the abilities of other male students, whereas female students showed no such bias, according to a new study in the journalPLoS ONE."

"Researchers at the University of Washington surveyed more than 1,700 students in three introductory biology classes, asking them to nominate those who they felt were doing exceptionally well in the class. Even after controlling for outspokenness and actual graded performance, male students in each of the classes consistently overestimated the performance of other men to the tune of an assumed 0.765 bump in grade point average. Effectively, for an outspoken female student to be nominated at the same rate as an outspoken man, her class GPA would need to be three quarters of a point higher than that of the guys.
Female students, on the other hand, demonstrated no statistically significant bias. Researchers found they were equally likely to nominate male and female students with equivalent GPAs."

The paper is called " Males Under-Estimate Academic Performance of Their Female Peers in Undergraduate Biology Classrooms", by Daniel Z. Grunspan  , Sarah L. Eddy , Sara E. Brownell, Benjamin L. Wiggins, Alison J. Crowe, Steven M. Goodreau
Published: February 10, 2016

Here is the abstract:

"Women who start college in one of the natural or physical sciences leave in greater proportions than their male peers. The reasons for this difference are complex, and one possible contributing factor is the social environment women experience in the classroom. Using social network analysis, we explore how gender influences the confidence that college-level biology students have in each other’s mastery of biology. Results reveal that males are more likely than females to be named by peers as being knowledgeable about the course content. This effect increases as the term progresses, and persists even after controlling for class performance and outspokenness. The bias in nominations is specifically due to males over-nominating their male peers relative to their performance. The over-nomination of male peers is commensurate with an overestimation of male grades by 0.57 points on a 4 point grade scale, indicating a strong male bias among males when assessing their classmates. Females, in contrast, nominated equitably based on student performance rather than gender, suggesting they lacked gender biases in filling out these surveys. These trends persist across eleven surveys taken in three different iterations of the same Biology course. In every class, the most renowned students are always male. This favoring of males by peers could influence student self-confidence, and thus persistence in this STEM discipline."

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Financial Incentives to Increase Physical Activity Among Overweight and Obese Adults

"Framing Financial Incentives to Increase Physical Activity Among Overweight and Obese Adults: A Randomized, Controlled Trial" published online, Annals of Internal Medicine
Mitesh S. Patel, MD, MBA, MS; David A. Asch MD, MBA; Roy Rosin, MBA; Dylan S. Small, PhD; Scarlett L. Bellamy, ScD; Jack Heuer, EdD; Susan Sproat, MS; Chris Hyson, MEd; Nancy Haff, MD; Samantha M. Lee, MD; Lisa Wesby, MS; Karen Hoffer, BS; David Shuttleworth, MS; Devon H. Taylor, BS; Victoria Hilbert, MPH, RD; Jingsan Zhu, MBA, MS; Lin Yang, MS; Xingmei Wang, MS; and Kevin G. Volpp, MD, PhD

Here is the abstract - or what counts as abstract in medical journals:

"Background: Financial incentive designs to increase physical activity have not been well-examined.

Objective: To test the effectiveness of 3 methods to frame financial incentives to increase physical activity among overweight and obese adults.

Design: Randomized, controlled trial. (ClinicalTrials.gov: NCT 02030119)

Setting: University of Pennsylvania.

Participants: 281 adult employees (body mass index ≥27 kg/m2).

Intervention: 13-week intervention. Participants had a goal of 7000 steps per day and were randomly assigned to a control group with daily feedback or 1 of 3 financial incentive programs with daily feedback: a gain incentive ($1.40 given each day the goal was achieved), lottery incentive (daily eligibility [expected value approximately $1.40] if goal was achieved), or loss incentive ($42 allocated monthly upfront and $1.40 removed each day the goal was not achieved). Participants were followed for another 13 weeks with daily performance feedback but no incentives.

Measurements: Primary outcome was the mean proportion of participant-days that the 7000-step goal was achieved during intervention. Secondary outcomes included mean proportion of participant-days achieving the goal during follow-up and mean daily steps during intervention and follow-up.

Results: The mean proportion of participant-days achieving the goal was 0.30 (95% CI, 0.22 to 0.37) in the control group, 0.35 (CI, 0.28 to 0.42) in the gain-incentive group, 0.36 (CI, 0.29 to 0.43) in the lottery-incentive group, and 0.45 (CI, 0.38 to 0.52) in the loss-incentive group. In adjusted analyses, only the loss-incentive group had a significantly greater mean proportion of participant-days achieving the goal than control (adjusted difference, 0.16 [CI, 0.06 to 0.26]; P = 0.001), but the adjusted difference in mean daily steps was not significant (861 [CI, 24 to 1746]; P = 0.056). During follow-up, daily steps decreased for all incentive groups and were not different from control.

Limitation: Single employer.

Conclusion: Financial incentives framed as a loss were most effective for achieving physical activity goals.

Primary Funding Source: National Institute on Aging."

Here is a write up by medpage today.

"There's plenty of previous research on the behavioral economics concept of loss aversion, or people's tendency to prefer avoiding losses to getting gains. In an interview with MedPage Today, co-author Mitesh Patel, MD, MBA, also at UPenn, said that the results were in line with what they were expecting.
But he added that this study was the first to test the loss aversion principle in a prospective study of employees with physical activity as an outcome."

Here is a figure from a write up by UPenn