Think Like a Scientist: Overcoming y axes deceptions

I have been through a lot of schooling. Some of it was a complete waste of time and utter nonsense. Some of it was useful. Thankfully, I am intellectually generous enough to share the highlights of my education so you all can be PhD-level thinkers without all the poverty-level stipends, rat bites, and bi-monthly existential crises.

I decided to write a series of short posts covering some of the most generally useful tools I learned to see through the b.s. when marketing companies, pop-science articles, politicians, and other ruffians present data in order to convince you of something.

This episode of Think Like a Scientist, let’s talk about y axes.

Okay, let’s set the scene. I’m the writer of Galloblog. I want you to read more Galloblog. In order to convince you, I throw this figure in your face –

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Yowza! Pretty convincing, amiright?! Look how far apart those bars are! Reading Galloblog is equivalent to playing with puppies while eating peanut butter and listening to Tim Keller sermons!!

Or.. is it?!
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Let me give you a few things to consider when you look at that figure.

Note the y axes (in red) is zoomed in to show 0.7 to 0.8. The more zoomed in, the more dramatic any differences between bars will look.  Look at the figure below — far less impressive. Glancing at this figure, you may conclude that there are no differences at all, yes? But look! It’s the exact same data.

galloblogfigure2Now, “zooming” in on the differences between groups isn’t always a shady scientific practice, but when evaluating the quality / importance of the data presented it’s important to have an understanding of what the possible range of scores actually is.

Ooo! I threw this in at the last minute for free! Something that drives me *insane* that I have seen far too many times in peer-reviewed scientific articles is showing two figures side by side – as a way to say “the difference between these two groups in this condition  (in this example, reading Galloblog) is real and we want you to be impressed by this, but we don’t want you to be impressed by the difference between these two groups in this other condition (in this example, reading Matt Walsh’s blog)” – but with different y axes!

galloblogfiguremattwalshfigure

If you just glanced at the figures above, you would think – “Yowza! Galloblog readers are so much happier than Matt Walsh blog readers!”

galloblogfigure2mattwalshfigure3

But if you made the Matt Walsh blog y axis scale the same “zoom” as the y axis in the Galloblog figure, they look pretty similar. The only real difference here is in the overall happiness level of Galloblog and Matt Walsh blog readers – not the effect of reading the blog. Surprise, surprise! 😉

Finally, let’s talk very briefly about the label of the y axis. The y label is “Happiness Factor (AU).” What is a “happiness factor” – is it a legit scale that many other researchers have used to evaluate happiness, or did Galloblog researchers pull it out of their bootays?

AU usually means arbitrary units, which means this scale isn’t linked to an observable measurement per se (e.g. “number of times smiled”) but is a relative scale. This doesn’t mean it’s not worth noting, but it does mean you should be asking “what is this happiness relative to?”

Okay — that is all the lecturing either of us could handle for right now. Stay tuned for more opportunities to become a sophisticated critic of all data!

xoxoxo,

cgallo, PhD

— EDITORIAL NOTES —

No Galloblog readers were harmed in the writing of this article. 

Stuffz Gallo Likes: Kroger Woohoo! Deals

You are shuffling through the grocery store. Bodies surround you. You suspect these bodies must have faces with eyes, eyes that are human, but you don’t care to look.  At every turn, you are confronted with an abundance of meaningless choices, choices born of oppressive capitalism. Marketing ploys are yanking at your focus, doing everything possible to seduce you into whimsical purchases. Shriveling cabbage is being sold for a gut-wrenching price.

Darkness.

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Then, into that darkness, a peppy flash of yellow catches your eye. Your heart leaps and you find yourself pulled to the yellow before your consciousness has had time to process.

 

As you come closer, your tender bud of hope blooms into a mature bloom of joy –

It’s a Wohoo! Kroger deal!!! coleslaw

 

 

Like that – the bodies become friends, the choices become simple, the marketing becomes silly, the cabbage is $0.79.

Light.

Carlton Dance GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

 

What makes you “woohoo!”? 

 

I don’t care what you believe if I don’t like who you are

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why exactly I’m a Christian.* And I don’t mean I’ve been thinking about why “one” in the general sense would be a Christian, I mean why have the faith. So, I’m not going to present a hole-proof outline of all the philosophical or historical arguments for Christianity. Those are important,  but when it comes down to it… my reasons for believing are rather idiosyncratic, with a smidge of touchy-feely. But hey! I betcha if you had to break down specifically why you loved your bae specifically, you would get pretty touch-feely, too. So cool it!

Anyway, a large part of why I believe is the character of some of the people that I know who believe. Not all of them are perfect, and to be sure some of the people who I know are Christian – whether nominally or “for realz” is beyond me – are not particularly encouraging to my faith.

*But* there are some people who I just can’t not believe when I think about them.

Why?

1) They are smart. They can use logic. They aren’t overwhelmed by complexity. They can understand and consider the merits of opposing views even if they ultimately reject them.

2) They are wise. They use their resources appropriately, without crossing over into (paradoxically) self-aggrandizing asceticism. They frequently have and facilitate conversations that lead to reconciliation, instead of stubbornly and foolishly escalating every conflict that comes their way.

3) They are kind and joyful. When they smile at me, their eyes reflect the warmth straight from their lil’ cinnamon bun hearts. I always feel encouraged and more energetic after I talk to them.

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Bless their ooey-gooey, warm, sweet hearts! (pixabay free image)

 

4) They are good. I feel like “good” can be seen as a weak word, but it’s absolutely perfect for these people. It’s unassuming, yet solid.. and true. The output of their lives is just … good. Or put in negative terms, the output of their lives is NOT bad.

5) Their families thrive. I don’t know if I can emphasize this enough. There are so many people who are super impressive in various ways, yet the people who are closest to them – who are most affected by the day-to-day decisions of their lives – are miserable train wrecks.** But these people’s families are – although far from perfect – functional, balanced, healthy.

There’s probably more, but my attention span is wavering, and I’m the one writing all of this! My point is, all the 5 points above coalesce into a loveliness that makes me… long. Yes, long! I want to be like them. Not in a jealous, creeper way, but in a hopeful way. Seeing them live this way — inspite of our world being an absolute shoot-hole sometimes — is very bolstering. And lo and behold, what drives this sort of behavior? Well, they would say their faith in Jesus.

Now, I’m sure there are also some Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, etc. who are also admirable. So here we get into an phrase that is used ad nauseam in academic circles – neccesary but not sufficient. Good character is necessary, but not sufficient, for me to be open to hearing their world view. Does admiring someone’s character mean that I have to accept their entire worldview? No, I s’pose not. But it does mean that I will at least be open to listening to and considering their worldview, and find out what’s driving their amazingness. THEN I will also look into things like logical consistency, historicity, etc.

On the flip side, if someone is living a life that seems out of control, toxic, and damaging to the people around them, I don’t particularly care to hear their spiritual or theological musings. I may listen respectfully for a few minutes, but at the end of the day I’m kinda like, “It’s nice to know which underlying worldview makes you a jerk.” That may sound kinda harsh, but… amiright?!

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I’m going to wager a guess that this chic doesn’t have the character clout with these dudes to tell them nuffin’! (pixabay free image)

 

Why I wanted to write about this is two-fold. One, it’s convicting. Am I living a life that is attractive to people, that they would even want to hear what I believe? Or are they thinking, “Yah ok, let me know when your Jesus helps you not be a self-absorbed a-hole.” Two, it’s clarifying. With all the worldviews and opinions being thrown around, sometimes it’s easy to get overwhelmed with which one(s) is/are true. My advice is to “clear the field” of ideas*** by focusing on the beliefs and claims of people that you actually admire and want to emulate. TRUST ME, there are so few that this will free your time considerably.

Alrighty! Go find yourselves people worth ‘mirin’! And Holy Spirit, help us be people worth ‘mirin’!

 — EDITORIAL NOTES —

*It would be a lot easier for me if I wasn’t. Neuroscientists are not exactly impressed by Christianity. Also, dating would be much smoother.  #sacrifices

**Not that everyone should be held responsible for all the actions of their children, spouses, close family members, etc., but if  practically everyone close to you is in a state of chaotic self-destruction, that’s should be a huge, blinky-light sign that there is some sort of toxicity in your interactions. Conversely, if practically everyone close to you is flourishing like strong, well-nourished alabaster trees, it’s a perty good indication that you are creating environments that enable people to be their best.

***Remember I’m talking about general worldview / theological / spiritual beliefs and opinions. Obvs, someone with terrible character is quite capable of having brilliant insights into how brain networks interact to support memory, how isolationism affected the U.S. economy, etc., and their ideas on these sort of subjects may be worth considering.  even if you want to punch them in the face afterward.