Monday, December 31, 2018

A Finer Grain

After many years of blogging at Cognitive Strain, I'm moving to a new blog titled A Finer Grain.

Every once in a while it helps to separate my current self from my historical posts. I'm not who I was when I started Cognitive Strain, and I hope I won't stay the same in the future. I have a lot that I'm embarrassed of in Cognitive Strain, and a little that I'm proud of. I hope A Finer Grain is a new braver step into new ideas.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Meta Analysis Associates Spanking and Detrimental Child Outcomes

The paper here,
Meta-analyses focused specifically on spanking were conducted on a total of 111 unique effect sizes representing 160,927 children. Thirteen of 17 mean effect sizes were significantly different from zero and all indicated a link between spanking and increased risk for detrimental child outcomes.
It's not hard to find studies like this. Spanking is linked to lower IQs and higher violent crime rates. Eating family dinners is linked to not doing drugs. Reading to your children is linked to  better performance in school.

The most common interpretation is that "linked to" means "caused by", but it takes very little intellectual discipline to see why that wouldn't be the case.

The effects do not only go one way. Children also cause parents to act differently. I would expect violent children to get spanked more than more peaceful children. Children who like books get read to more often. Teenagers who aren't off doing drugs are more likely to spend time with their families.

These studies also don't control at all for genes. Children's environment is not the only way parents effect their children. They also pass down their genes. It's not hard to imagine how more physically aggressive parents who spank more also pass down genes for violence to their children.

I remember these alternative interpretations were obvious to me in my early 20s, before I knew anything about the attempts of behavioral genetics to account for the effect of genes. When I discovered them I felt amazed and validated. Someone else actually noticed what was so apparent to me!

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Fallacy of Reversed Moderation

From Scott Alexander,
This is a pattern I see again and again. 
Popular consensus believes 100% X, and absolutely 0% Y. 
A few iconoclasts say that X is definitely right and important, but maybe we should also think about Y sometimes. 
The popular consensus reacts “How can you think that it’s 100% Y, and that X is completely irrelevant? That’s so extremist!”
 I've known people who act like child development is 100% based on the parents. When I point out that genes/biology exist, they interpret me as saying, "everything is predetermined by biology."

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Women earn less when their supervisor is the same sex

Sci-Hub for full paper here. From the abstract:
This article analyzes wage differences according to whether or not employees and their supervisors are of the same sex. The mechanism of homophily predicts that having supervisors of the same sex has a positive effect on wages. Additionally, we introduce four conflicting theories that consider group composition as a moderating factor. The hypotheses are tested with data from the Bavarian Graduate Panel via fixed-effect panel regressions. Results show that relative group sizes must be considered in order to see wage differences. These wage benefits emerge in minority and majority groups for male academics, but women earn less in majority groups when their supervisor is of the same sex.
Homophily: refers to the tendency for people to have (non-negative) ties with people who are similar to themselves in socially significant ways.

As always keep in mind that this is only one study.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Gender Differences in Violent Offending

From the abstract:
It is concluded that there are important differences in violent offending between male and female patients. Most importantly, female violence was more often directed towards their close environment, like their children, and driven by relational frustration. Furthermore, female patients received lower punishments compared to male patients and were more often considered to be diminished accountable for their offenses due to a mental illness.

Monday, December 10, 2018

The Definition of Cheating

Listen to this intriguing Ted Talk, 6.5 million people already have.

It's filled with great lines like,
Why do we think that men cheat out of boredom and fear of intimacy, but women cheat out of loneliness and hunger for intimacy?
Monogamy used to be one person for life, today monogamy means one person at a time.
As Marcel Proust said, 'it's our imagination that is responsible for love, not the other person'
One line I'm not so fond of,
Throughout history men practically had a licence to cheat, with little consequence, and supported by a host of biological and evolutionary theories that justified their need to roam. So the double standard is as old as adultery itself.
First, no, adultery is far older than evolutionary or even biological theories of it. Her last sentence does not follow from what came before.

Second, there's a difference between explaining it and "justifying" it. Biology can explain men's proclivity to cheat without justifying it. This is a case of the naturalistic fallacy.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

How Google Plans to Kill the Mosquitos

From Bloomberg:
It was Dobson’s lab that figured out how to infect mosquitoes with a form of Wolbachia that’s different from the type of the bacteria that mosquitoes usually carry. That’s what makes the eggs unviable. MosquitoMate makes two species of mosquitoes infected with Wolbachia, A. aegypti and Aedes albopictus. Fresno became one of its test sites.
But don't mosquitos like everything else play an important part in the ecological balance?

Read the balance of nature myth here, here, and here.