A Banner Week in Science

Science magazine, that is…

First and foremost, there was the retraction of LaCour and Green (2014), When contact changes minds: An experiment on transmission of support for gay equality, at the behest of the second author. The retraction states:

The reasons for retracting the paper are as follows: (i) Survey incentives were misrepresented. To encourage participation in the survey, respondents were claimed to have been given cash payments to enroll, to refer family and friends, and to complete multiple surveys. In correspondence received from Michael J. LaCour’s attorney, he confirmed that no such payments were made. (ii) The statement on sponsorship was false…

In addition to these known problems, independent researchers have noted certain statistical irregularities in the responses ( 2 ). LaCour has not produced the original survey data from which someone else could independently confirm the validity of the reported findings.

Michael J. LaCour does not agree to this Retraction.

LaCour and Green - retracted May 28 2015

The “statistical irregularities” were uncovered by Broockman, Kalla, and Aronow in a 27 page critical report. And as promised, LaCour issued a 23 page rebuttal to Broockman et al. on May 29 (which is being mercilessly dissected as we speak).

You can read complete coverage of the scandal at Buzzfeed, Retraction Watch, and Science of Us (New York magazine). And of course, there’s the time sink known as poliscirumors (if you dare).

Some see L’Affair LaCour as a shining example of the self-corrective nature of science, a triumph of modern statistics and self-publishing. Others are more cynical and view it as a move to cover Don Green’s back.

Thus, the political scientists have started a narrative to defend their rank of science and have explained the fraud as a sign of their fortress, because, as science works and they are scientists, they can catch the dishonest colleagues. A narrative that necessarily has to make of Donald P. Green a hero, as we can read in the article of The New Republic. The problem is that there are a few lies in this story, a lot of incoherence and, worse, a very small triangle formed by the three main characters, the villain Michael J. Lacour, the opportunist boss, Donald P. Green, and the detective who discovered the fraud and former disciple of the opportunist boss, David Broockman. A very close triangle of three scholars who shared academic careers and who might have not be driven by, at least, the pursuing of the truth.

 

Sometimes, I reach a state of despair when considering the characteristics needed for a “successful” academic career.

 

Chocolate with high cocoa content as a weight-loss accelerator

Next, we have Science contributing correspondent reporting on The Retraction the DAY AFTER his own unethical phony study was trumpeted in io9. Will Science slap him on the wrist? Force him to retract his stunt paper on chocolate as a weight-loss accelerator 1  from International Archives of Medicine? Oops, too late, the predatory publisher already pulled the article from their site without issuing a retraction notice. Fortunately, you can still get the PDF here.

Bohannon portrayed it as another sting,2 this time of lazy journalists who don’t bother to check their sources. The ones who were really fooled, however, were public consumers of diet news. Deliberate propagation of false health information is unethical, and I wonder if Science will do anything about it.

I’ve been harping on sensationalistic media coverage and trumped up press releases for nearly ten years now (often in a funny/cynical/sarcastic way), but I’ve never disseminated false health information. Well, OK, I’ve jokingly written about Vegas casino develops technique for unobtrusive radiofrequency ablation of the amygdala and The Neurology of Twitter and Anthropomorphic Neuroscience Driven by Researchers with Large TPJs, but these were clearly parodies, not recommendations that people should change their diets (under the guise of SCIENCE).

….. time for a chocolate now …..

 

Science Magazine

Sleeping your way out of a bad attitude (Feld & Born, 2015).

Then there’s the cure racism and sexism while you sleep 3 paper (Hu et al., 2015), published on that fateful May 28 Retraction Day, along with the first time researchers have been able to suppress a memory and then restore it in an animal article (Ryan et al., 2015). I haven’t read either one, so no deconstruction here.

Credulous coverage of the latter prompted a Nature editor to link to this earlier paper and to say:

Some day journos will either learn to read the literature or stop using sensationalist language like “OMG 1ST TIME!!”

Neither of those scenarios will ever happen. It Feels Like The First Time in 2007, as it does today.

Time for another chocolate.

 

Footnotes

1 Total n=15 for three groups (i.e., n=5 in each of the groups):

  • Low-carb diet with daily serving of 42 grams of chocolate
  • Low-carb diet without chocolate
  • Eat at own discretion

Also, a ridiculous age range (1967) and irresponsible BMI range (19.1539.95)… who in their right mind enrolls someone at the low end of “normal” into a diet study?

2 Bohannon’s first sting, of predatory open access journals, was published (where else) in Science. The chocolate sting was underwritten by German filmmakers.

3 Another fun headline: Could SLEEP make you less racist? Gender and racial bias can be ‘erased’ during a nap, claims study.

Here Comes Optomom!

Optogenetic manipulation in a naïve female mouse induces maternal behavior in response to pup distress calls (Marlin et al. 2015).

Video 6: Pup retrieval by Oxt-IRES-Cre virgin female after optical stimulation of left primary auditory cortex (Marlin et al. 2015).

One of the really amazing things is that neural activity in response to the distress cries is left lateralized in the auditory cortex. In a mouse!

This is markedly similar to the asymmetry of speech processing in human temporal lobe43, 44, and supports earlier behavioural observations of auditory lateralization in maternal mice19.

A number of separate experiments showed that the hypothalamic hormone oxytocin was a key player in modulating neural activity and behavioral responses to the pup’s calls, with the requisite demonstrations of maternal behavior being turned on and off at the will of the investigators.

An extensive literature (dating back to the 1940s-50s) has already established that oxytocin plays a role in promoting maternal behavior, so that part did not come as a surprise (e.g., Pedersen et al., 1982). But modern optogenetic methods provide more precise control of specific neuron populations (and more dramatic videos).

Media outlets: do not extrapolate from this mouse study to potential interventions in neglectful human mothers. There are no implants for bad moms!

 

Reference

Marlin, B., Mitre, M., D’amour, J., Chao, M., & Froemke, R. (2015). Oxytocin enables maternal behaviour by balancing cortical inhibition. Nature DOI: 10.1038/nature14402

And the finalists for the 3 Quarks Daily Science Prize are…

3QD_not a finalist

That’s a trick question!

You can still vote for one of the nominees for the 3QD Science Prize 2014 until September 1st at 11:59 pm Eastern Daylight Time!

The top 20 most-voted-for posts (out of a grand total of 85, so that makes 23.5% of the entries) will make it into the finals. Seems like pretty good odds, eh? Much higher than applying for a grant.

Imagine now that you could lobby for federal funding via popular vote:

“I deserve to be among the scientific One Percenters. Vote for my ground breaking research on Bunny Hopping as an animal model for compulsive drug taking behavior and I will cure addiction .”

The Neurocritic has two posts nominated for the 3QD Prize:

 

{Looks like I should not abandon my day job for a lucrative career in science blogging any time soon…}

For Your Consideration: In the event that you haven’t cast your ballot for one of the other nominees, there’s still time to end your search for meaning and VOTE FOR EXISTENTIAL NEUROSCIENCE (alphabetically filed under “The Neurocritic”).

Otherwise I will be obligated to add another Banner of Failure to the sidebar of my main blog.

Thank you, and good night.

Continue reading

YOUR BLOG IS FUTILE

Douglas Coupland, Slogans for the 21st Century (2011-2014)

 

Like much of life, I’m afraid…

THIS is the true meaning of Negative Psychology, my friends. Melancholia and Futility.

Don’t be fooled by false idols claiming that followers of “Negative Psychology” are all bullies out to destroy others’ reputations, with public shaming as their primary motivation.

I am here to take back the term “Negative Psychology” as an outlook (or mood or stance) in opposition to Positive Psychology, which is mainly for rich white people.

And in fact, sometimes it’s positive to be negative — as Dr. Margaret Nichols, a clinical psychologist, explains:

I acknowledge that for many endeavors, having a positive and confident attitude increases the odds of your success. But as a total life strategy – it’s got some major flaws.  For starters,  unless you’re unusually lucky, as you go through life you will encounter numerous situations where good is NOT rewarded, evil goes unpunished, and bad shit happens to you that you can’t control,  and it happens for no particular reason, let alone a good one.

And positive thinking can get you in trouble here.  For the entire ‘positive thinking’ philosophy rests on two flawed assumptions:  That most of our life is under our control, if only we approach it correctly;  and that things that we can’t control are at least governed by laws  that are fair and just.  In short, the principles of “visualize and you will attain it” and “what goes around comes around.”

…and when bad things happen, it’s all your fault!

Of course, this has nothing to do with academic psychology research or the social psychology replication movement. It’s simply that I didn’t agree with the co-opting of the term for use in the current “replication debate“.  But I’m not a psychologist, and I’m operating outside this debate. I was actively trying to avoid the acrimony, in fact, because I found it depressing.

Finally, “public shaming” has never been my goal (assuming I was included among “a handful of other blogs devoted to exposing bad science”). For the record, I think shame is corrosive, which is laid bare in The Destructive Power of Shame.

But in the end, this blog post is futile, much like everything else I write.

 

Coupland wall

Images: Douglas Coupland, Slogans for the 21st Century (2011-2014) at the Vancouver Art Gallery. NOTE: the artist encouraged photography and tagging of his work

 

The Gay Fruit Fly Lab

Starring:

Janeane Garofalo as Dr. Mills, a fruit fly geneticist
Ingrid Jungermann as Ingrid, who wants a test to determine whether or not she’s gay

 

Ingrid: “Oh it’s just you in here, huh?”

Dr. Mills: “Yeah they all left for Rockefeller University.”

Ingrid: “Why’d you stay?”

Dr. Mills: “They seemed very happy and successful when they worked there, and those two things make me very nervous.”

 

 F to 7th Season 2 – Episode 8 – Nature

 

Ingrid: “I Googled you too and I know for a fact that you’re working on some serious secret gay fruit fly shit.

Dr. Mills: “A. it’s not top secret at all, and B. fruit flies aren’t people. People are crazy, right?

 

The Journal of Megalomania

American International Journal of Contemporary Research

AIJCR aims to promote contemporary research in business, humanities, social science, science and technology and become the leading journal in the world.

Now here’s a journal that not only wants to be all things to all people, it wants to take over the world. It’s American and International. It publishes papers in “three broad specific fields” [sic] of Business and Economics, Humanities and Social science, and Science and Technology.

Have a simulation model on dance, social welfare, tourism, and botany? Don’t know where to send that technical note on the international relations of robotic forestry? Now there’s a journal for all your multidisciplinary work! In fact, it hopes to become premiere journal for all the research in the universe, publishing “original papers, review papers, conceptual framework, analytical and simulation models, case studies, empirical research, technical notes, and book reviews.”

What journal is it, you ask?

Why it’s American International Journal of Contemporary Research (AIJCR)!  Here’s their e-mail pitch to me:

Call for Papers

American International Journal of Contemporary Research
ISSN 2162-139X (Print), ISSN 2162-142X (Online)

American International Journal of Contemporary Research (AIJCR) is an open access, peer-reviewed and refereed multidisciplinary journal published by Center for Promoting Ideas (CPI), USA. The main objective of AIJCR is to provide an intellectual platform for the research community. AIJCR aims to promote contemporary research in business, humanities, social science, science and technology and become the leading journal in the world.

The journal publishes research papers in three broad specific fields as follows:

Business and Economics

Management, marketing, finance, economics, banking, accounting, human resources management, international business, hotel and tourism, entrepreneurship development, business ethics, development studies and so on.

Humanities and Social science

Anthropology, communication studies, corporate governance, criminology, cross-cultural studies, demography, education, ethics, geography, history, industrial relations, information science, international relations, law, linguistics, library science, media studies, methodology, philosophy, political science, population Studies, psychology, public administration, sociology, social welfare, linguistics, literature, paralegal, performing arts (music, theatre & dance), religious studies, visual arts, women studies.

Science and Technology

Astronomy and astrophysics, Chemistry, Earth and atmospheric sciences, Physics, Biology in general, Agriculture, Biophysics and biochemistry, Botany, Environmental Science, Forestry, Genetics, Horticulture, Husbandry, Neuroscience, Zoology, Computer science, Engineering, Robotics and Automation, Materials science, Mathematics, Mechanics, Statistics, Health Care & Public Health, Nutrition and Food Science, Pharmaceutical Sciences, and so on.

The journal is published both in print and online versions.

Given their ambitions (and their logo), I think the AIJCR publisher has been watching House of Cards

House_of_cards_logo

And a She-Wolf After the Misogynistic Rant

Bared_Teeth__Grey_Wolf

Beware of Misogynistic Psychologists

There’s a truly horrible 2,398 word screed about dangerous emasculating women at PsychCentral. It’s filled with stereotypes and self-contradictions, and the author freely admits that it’s anecdotal and non-scientific.

Why write such a piece?

Not getting enough retribution or decent incentives to keep me at it
I’m starting to feel just a little abused
Like a coffee machine in an office (aaa)

She Wolf
   ——Shakira

She Wolf (Shakira)

Oh, and you should know in advance that anyone (excuse me, any woman) who objects to the author’s position is “overreacting based on their own mistreatment and traumas.”

Beware of She-Wolves

By

A woman becomes a she-wolf out of necessity to survive in the relational jungle of life. She feels that there is no other way to make it through life successfully. These women are not born that way and may have once been among the kindest of women. It took one or more major wounds to make her vicious. Anyone who has dealt with a wounded, bitter, and angry woman knows quite well how much harm she can inflict, especially to men. This is a she-wolf. She is a woman who has become a reactionary predator, just like the animal itself. Women who have become she-wolves need to be understood and have compassion towards them, yet that does not mean they stop being dangerous. Just like a wolf in the wild, they will destroy their prey and devour them should the opportunity arise. They should be considered from a distance, but not ignored, and with minimal exposure, as you would in the presence of a real animal predator. There are similar abusive predatory men but that would be a topic of another article.

I can’t read www.DrSam.tv‘s essay without a number of different songs coming to mind… perhaps he could have one of them autoplay on his website.

(Oh-oh, here she comes)
Watch out boy
She’ll chew you up
(Oh-oh, here she comes)
She’s a maneater

Maneater
   ——Hall & Oates

Dr. Sam continues, in a most extraordinary vein. Makes you wonder why he is projecting all this venom onto this dangerous “creature”.  Oh wait, Mommy issues… [NOTE: emphasis below is mine.]

I have endeavored to uncover, in a non-scientific way, what I consider typical traits of she-wolves. I have based these traits on anecdotal experiences (mine, as a therapist, and other’s) encountering these and watching them from a distance. They can be found in families as a mother, aunt, sister, daughter, and even a grandmother. They can be married, single, divorced, or widowed, heterosexual, or homosexual. They are in the corporate world and in the creative arts. If one is married to one or works for one, there is much pain received and often unnecessary abuse received from them. They typically go after men… but especially after strong confident men. Their attacks on these men come in the form of disrespect, talking down at, mistreatment, downgrading of position, leaving these men feeling castrated socially and emotionally. They tend to attract only weak and soft men whom they can totally control yet disdain. They wonder why they cannot attract men that will courageously protect and defend them. Emasculated men who have them as mothers or are married to them, can easily and secretly hate and resent them. Experienced strong men will see these dangerous “creatures” from afar and will avoid them, seeing them as dangerous. They will conclude that the relationship is simply not worth the trouble. God have mercy if she has a son. She will end up emasculating him. If he is an emotionally sensitive boy, he might learn that her mistreatment is reduced if he simply surrenders his manhood and conforms. If he chooses to save his masculine spirit, he may have to choose to metaphorically “kick her in the face” [NOTE: never physically, eh?] to get away from her and protect himself. She, no doubt, wonders why he spurns her love. Her version of love can be asphyxiating, controlling, enmeshed, and an impediment to becoming a self-assured man. Many strong men can work interdependently with women but it is impossible to do so with a she-wolf since she is highly insecure and cannot share power. I have endeavored to come up with some characteristics that will help identify and understand this kind of troubled woman. Surely some women reading this might be tempted to brand me as a patriarchal and “Machista” male, but they would be misinterpreting my position and possibly overreacting based on their own mistreatment and traumas. In some women’s minds, it is totally impossible to be a strong and confident male and still be a mature, loving, kind, and interdependent mate/lover/friend. They would be blindly projecting their own anger and their own absence of positive experiences instead of understanding this phenomena that proliferates in society and promoted in the media about women.

He then goes on to list 17 (seventeen!) characteristics of the She-Wolf.  Key words here are wounded, emasculating, angry, and narcissistic. Each of these appears at least five times. What we never explicitly learn is the type of “mortal wound” or “boundary violation” that results in such vicious behavior. I wonder.

There’s a she wolf in your closet,
Open up and set it free [wolf sound]
There’s a she wolf in your closet,
Let it out so it can breathe (inhales, exhales)

She Wolf
   ——Shakira

The She-Wolf goes after and degrades strong confident men… disrespecting them, mistreating them, leaving them feeling castrated. Yet strong confident men can tell these “creatures” are dangerous and will avoid them at all costs. Which is it?

I’ll leave you with one last song about She-Wolves, this one very enigmatic. But it makes more sense to me than Dr. Sam’s long-winded post.

And a She-Wolf After the War
   ——Throwing Muses

so it’s cowboys in flying colors riding home

leave my tears alone it’s too funny

it’s me and she spilling jewels and collarbones gray
(waste of time now I don’t want cold, lonely)

side by side … down the road
and a she-wolf (my face one more square)
don’t be afraid, it’s my road once more alone

I can see them riding over the hills
cowboy hats are back in,
this is the future (and this is your future) after the war
and I don’t eat anymore

it’s me and she spilling jewels and collarbones gray
(Frank Lloyd Wright, try to sleep under a dome under the sky)

side by side down the road
it’s my road, once more alone

as a warm gun
thanking her (she makes me dangerous)
blood on our teeth

ready?