Kahneman Scathes Social Psychologists

Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel laureate, recently wrote a scathing letter about experiments by social psychologists purporting to link social priming to associative memory (h/t reader Fred S). Kahneman described a “storm of doubts” about social priming results, inability to replicate claims and characterized the field as a “train wreck looming” and a “mess”. Kahneman’s letter was covered yesterday in Nature here.

A prominent academic in the field, one who has published both on priming and associative memory, is also well-known to Climate Audit readers. Continue reading

Will Stocker Retaliate against the U.S?

On August 3, I discussed the progress of David Holland’s efforts to overcome obstruction by the University of East Anglia and the IPCC to a request under UK Freedom of Information legislation for a secret letter from Thomas Stocker to, among others, lead authors of IPCC AR4. I observed that many of the recipients of the letter “worked for US, Canadian and Australian federal agencies and universities, offering other possible routes for obtaining the letter if IPCC wants to do things the hard way.”

Chris Horner noticed the post and promptly submitted an FOI request to NOAA for any such emails received by Thomas Peterson (a Climategate correspondent). Today, NOAA released the letter, together with a covering email.

CA readers will recall that Thomas Stocker issued dire threats to UK authorities that IPCC would retaliate against UK scientists if the UK released the IPCC letter.

The IPCC threat was subsequently cited in an ICO decision on a different matter, then in a submission by Universities UK to a Parliamentary Committee and then in the report of the Parliamentary Committee (see review here).

The next question: the IPCC said that it would “reconsider” relations with UK scientists if the secret letter were released. Will the IPCC now “reconsider” relations with US scientists now that NOAA has released the secret letter? Or was the threat limited to the UK where UEA employees had previously solicited Stocker’s assistance in obstructing UK FOI legislation? Is there any principle under which IPCC threatens UK scientists, but not US scientists?

The letter sets out IPCC position in the wake of Climategate, with Stocker reassuring AR4 authors that AR5 would be as “effective as possible while at the same time emphasizing the robustness of AR4 findings”. The letter itself does not justify the elaborate tactics that IPCC used to keep the letter secret. Someone should ask Stocker to explain his threats.

Update Oct 5. I sent the following letter to IPCC in light of the US decision:

Subject: IPCC Threats

Dear Ms Christ,

On several occasions, the co-chairs of IPCC Working Group I issued threats to institutions in the United Kingdom that disclosure of IPCC correspondence would “force [IPCC] to reconsider our working arrangements with those experts who have been selected for an active role in WGI AR5 from your institution and others in the UK”. The IPCC threat was recently cited in a report by the Parliamentary Justice Committee in the UK in hearings on the Freedom of Information Act. See http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmselect/cmjust/96/9610.htm#note369).

Recently, an agency of the US government released the same letter under U.S. Freedom of Information Act. Would you please advise me whether (and when) the IPCC plans to reconsider working arrangements with U.S. scientists because of the release of this letter? Or is the IPCC unwilling to apply the same sanctions to the U.S. that it threatened the U.K.? If so, is this on a principled basis?

Your previous threat letters were cited in an decision by the UK Information Commissioner. If, on reflection, IPCC has re-considered its previous threats and no longer contemplates retaliation, you should so notify the UK Information Commissioner, Universities UK, the Parliamentary Justice Committee and the University of East Anglia.

Stephen McIntyre
Climate Audit

More on the Iconography of IPCC 1990 Figure 7

As a mild break from Lewandowsky’s fake data and false results, I am going to revisit IPCC 1990 Figure 7, which I discussed in several Climate Audit posts from 2005-2008 – a topic that was raised at Lewandowsky’s blog by conspiracy theorist John Mashey, who, rather than confronting the problems of Lewandowsky’s use of fake data, recently went into paroxysms of ecstasy at the discovery of an incorrect citation in an early Climate Audit post. An incorrect citation in a Climate Audit post – it doesn’t get much better than that for Mashey. Mashey feverishly extrapolated a simple incorrect reference to belief in a flat world.

Normally, I’d just ignore this sort of deranged commentary, but the Climategate emails contained interesting context on IPCC 1990 Figure 7.1 that I’d noticed but not previously commented on. The emails also place the discussion in Jones et al 2009 in an interesting context. Today’s discussion will not be complete: there are interesting points in the Climategate emails about the understanding of the IPCC 1990 graphic that I’ll try to return to on another occasion.

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More Deception in the Lewandowsky Data

As CA readers are aware, the Lewandowsky survey was conducted at stridently anti-skeptic blogs (Deltoid, Tamino etc.) and numerous responses purporting to be from “skeptics” were actually from anti-skeptics fraudulently pretending to be skeptics. To date, most of the focus has been on the fake responses in which respondents, pretending to be “skeptics”, deceptively pretended to believe in conspiracies that they did not really believe in. In today’s post, I’ll discuss another style of (almost certain) deception in which Lewandowsky respondents gave fake/deceptive responses to the Free Market questions. Continue reading

Conspiracy-Theorist Lewandowsky Tries to Manufacture Doubt

As CA readers are aware, Stephan Lewandowsky of the University of Western Australia recently published an article relying on fraudulent responses at stridently anti-skeptic blogs to yield fake results.

In addition, it turns out that Lewandowsky misrepresented explained variances from principal components as explained variances from factor analysis, a very minor peccadillo in comparison. In a recent post, I observed inconsistencies resulting from this misdescription, but was then unable to diagnose precisely what Lewandowsky had done. In today’s post, I’ll establish this point.

Rather than conceding the problems of his reliance on fake/fraudulent data and thanking his critics for enabling him to withdraw the paper, Lewandowsky has instead doubled down by not merely pressing forward with publication of results relying on fake data, but attempting to “manufacture doubt” about the validity of criticisms, including his most recent diatribe – to which I respond today.
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Lewandowsky’s Fake Correlation

Lewandowsky’s most recent blog post really makes one wonder about the qualifications at the University of West Anglia Western Australia.

Lewandowsky commenced his post as follows:

The science of statistics is all about differentiating signal from noise. This exercise is far from trivial: Although there is enough computing power in today’s laptops to churn out very sophisticated analyses, it is easily overlooked that data analysis is also a cognitive activity.

Numerical skills alone are often insufficient to understand a data set—indeed, number-crunching ability that’s unaccompanied by informed judgment can often do more harm than good.

This fact frequently becomes apparent in the climate arena, where the ability to use pivot tables in Excel or to do a simple linear regressions is often over-interpreted as deep statistical competence.

I mostly agree with this part of Lewandowsky’s comment, though I would not characterize statistics as merely “differentiating signal from noise”. In respect to his comment about regarding the ability to do a linear regression as deep competence, I presume that he was thinking here of his cousin institute, the University of East Anglia (UEA), where, in a Climategate email, Phil Jones was baffled as to how to calculate a linear trend on his own – with or without Excel. At Phil Jones’ UEA, someone who could carry out a linear regression must have seemed like a deity. Perhaps the situation is similar at Lewandowsky’s UWA. However, this is obviously not the case at Climate Audit, where many readers are accomplished and professional statisticians.

Actually, I’d be inclined to take Lewandowsky’s comment even further – adding that the ability to insert data into canned factor analysis or SEM algorithms (without understanding the mathematics of the underlying programs) is often “over-interpreted as deep statistical competence” – here Lewandowsky should look in the mirror.

Lewandowsky continued:

Two related problems and misconceptions appear to be pervasive: first, blog analysts have failed to differentiate between signal and noise, and second, no one who has toyed with our data has thus far exhibited any knowledge of the crucial notion of a latent construct or latent variable.

In today’s post, I’m going to comment on Lewandowsky’s first claim, while disputing his second claim. (Principal components, a frequent topic at this blog, are a form of latent variable analysis. Factor analysis is somewhat different but related algorithm. Anyone familiar with principal components – as many CA readers are by now – can readily grasp the style of algorithm, though not necessarily sharing Lewandowsky’s apparent reification.)

In respect to “signal vs noise”, Lewandowsky continued:

We use the item in our title, viz. that NASA faked the moon landing, for illustration. Several commentators have argued that the title was misleading because if one only considers level X of climate “skepticism” and level Y of moon endorsement, then there were none or only very few data points in that cell in the Excel spreadsheet.


But that is drilling into the noise and ignoring the signal.

The signal turns out to be there and it is quite unambiguous: computing a Pearson correlation across all data points between the moon-landing item and HIV denial reveals a correlation of -.25. Likewise, for lung cancer, the correlation is -.23. Both are highly significant at p < .0000…0001 (the exact value is 10 -16, which is another way of saying that the probability of those correlations arising by chance is infinitesimally small).

These paragraphs are about as wrongheaded as anything you’ll ever read.

I agree that a simple “Pearson correlation” between CYMoon and CauseHIV in Lewandowsky’s dataset is -0.25. However, Lewandowsky is COMPLETELY wrong in his suggestion that this “signal” can be separated from outliers. In the Lewandowsky dataset, there were two respondents that purported to believe in CYMoon and disagree with CauseHIV (both were in Tom Curtis’ group of two super-scammers). I’ll show that these two superscammers make major contributions to the supposed “correlation”. Like Lewandowsky, I don’t believe that these two respondents are present “by chance”: I believe that they are present as intentionally fraudulent responses.

First, the correlation can be replicated trivially as follows:

cor(lew$CYMoon, lew$CauseHIV)
#[1] -0.2547965

Second, p~+ 10^-16 can be replicated by diagnostics from an OLS regression of CYMoon against CauseHIV (standardized) as shown below:

ols=lm(CYMoon~CauseHIV,data=data.frame(scale(lew[,c("CYMoon","CauseHIV")]) ))

              Estimate Std. Error t value Pr(>|t|)    
(Intercept)  2.574e-17  2.859e-02   9e-16        1    
CauseHIV    -2.548e-01  2.860e-02  -8.908   <2e-16 ***

However, Lewandowsky is absolutely off-base in his assertion that the examination of outliers is inappropriate statistical analysis. In fact, exactly the opposite is the case: proper statistical analysis REQUIRES the examination of outliers. Furthermore, in this case, the examination of a contingency table (pivot table) is not only relevant but essential to the examination of outliers.

Examination of diagnostics by a competent statistician requires more than looking at the p-value. Part of any such analysis is examination of the qqnorm-plot for the residuals: this is the second graphic in the standard plot in R. Here are the results for CYMoon~CauseHIV (standardized), a graphic that shows severe non-normality of the residuals. (The dashed blue line shows the pattern from normal distribution of residuals.)

Figure 1. QQnorm- plot for CYMoon~CauseHIV.

A second basic diagnostic is examination for outliers using Cook’s distance: this is the fourth graphic in the standard plot in R. This identifies two points (889,963) as very high leverage:

Figure 2. Cooks’ distance: CYMoon~CauseHIV.

Now, let’s do the contingency deprecated by Lewandowsky, a calculation which shows that there are only two respondents purporting to disagree on CauseHIV and to agree on CYMoon.

CYMoon   1   2   3   4
     1   8   5 116 938
     2   1   0  33  34
     3   1   0   2   1
     4   1   0   2   3

These two respondents are the two respondents identified as outliers from the standard diagnostic (889, 963). Both are already familiar to us as super-scammers who claimed to believe in every conspiracy.

To show just that a “significant” correlation can depend as few as two outliers, I’m now going to simplify the contingency table by considering only two classes: disagree – 0 and agree-1, yielding the contingency table below: two respondents in the extreme, with 14 respondents purporting to only dispute CauseHIV and 8 respondents purporting to endorse only CYMoon, as shown below:

CYMoon    0    1
     0   14 1121
     1    2    8

The (Pearson) correlation calculated in the same way as Lewandowsky is -0.1488. I’m now going to show that the two outliers dominate this calculation. (The calculation with a 4×4 matrix is structurally identical but adding up to -0.25.)

r=cor(Data$CYMoon,Data$CauseHIV); r
 # -0.1487561

There are only four unique points (0,0), (0,1), (1,0) and (1,1) in the contingency table. In the calculation below, I show the contribution of each point to the correlation coefficient. The column headed normdot is the product of (x-mean(x))*(y-mean(y)) divided by sd(x)* sd(y)* (N-1), where N is the number of respondents (1145).

Stat= data.frame(CYMoon=c(0,1,0,1),CauseHIV=c(0,0,1,1),count=c(  with(Data,table(CYMoon,CauseHIV)) ))
Stat$dot= (Stat$CYMoon-m[1])*(Stat$CauseHIV-m[2])
Stat$normdot= (Stat$CYMoon-m[1])*(Stat$CauseHIV-m[2])/(sd(Data$CYMoon)*sd(Data$CauseHIV))/(N-1)
Stat$normsum= Stat$normdot*Stat$count

The sum of the normsum column gives the correlation coefficient.

# -0.1487561

The table calculated above therefore shows the relative contribution of each point to the correlation coefficient as shown below.

  CYMoon CauseHIV count           dot      normsum
1      0        0    14  0.0086115825  0.009640767
2      1        0     2 -0.9774146183 -0.156318155
3      0        1  1121 -0.0001220419 -0.010939947
4      1        1     8  0.0138517572  0.008861259
Total                                 -0.1487561

One can readily see that the two super-scammers (889, 963) contribute essentially 100% (over 100%) actually of the negative correlation between CauseHIV and CYMoon in this calculation.

Next here is the result of applying the same methodology to the 4×4 contingency table in Lewandowsky’s analysis shown here in order of decreasing contribution to the negative correlation. As above, sum(Stat$normsum) is equal to the correlation.

About half of the negative correlation comes from the 33 respondents who disagree with the Moon conspiracy and agree with CauseHIV (without strongly agreeing).

The other half of the negative correlation comes from seven outliers which contribute -0.138 (about 50% of the correlation), with the two superscammers identified above being the largest contributors. (The other 5 outliers need to be examined individually.)

There is a negative contribution from the 938 respondents who strongly agreed with HIV and strongly disagreed with CYMoon: this seems puzzling at first. What happens is that the centroid is moved off dead center. This contribution is offset relatively by positive contributions from on-axis results (CYMoon – strongly disagree or CauseHIV – strongly agree) : this seems to be fairly characteristic in this sort of sparse contingency table heavily weighted on-axis.

   CYMoon CauseHIV count    dot normdot normsum
        2        3    33 -0.761  -0.004  -0.142

        4        1     1 -8.254  -0.047  -0.047
        3        1     1 -5.425  -0.031  -0.031
        4        3     2 -2.418  -0.014  -0.027
        3        3     2 -1.590  -0.009  -0.018
        2        1     1 -2.597  -0.015  -0.015

        1        4   938 -0.014   0.000  -0.075
        2        2     0 -1.679  -0.010   0.000
        3        2     0 -3.508  -0.020   0.000
        4        2     0 -5.336  -0.030   0.000
        3        4     1  0.328   0.002   0.002
        1        2     5  0.150   0.001   0.004
        4        4     3  0.499   0.003   0.009
        1        1     8  0.232   0.001   0.011
        2        4    34  0.157   0.001   0.030
        1        3   116  0.068   0.000   0.045

Thus the “unambiguous” negative correlation between CYMoon and CauseHIV arises from the following two phenomena: about half of the -.254 comes from only seven outliers, with the two superscammers contributing the most. The other half is contributed from people who neither endorse the CYMoon conspiracy or dispute CauseHIV.

The results for CauseSmoke are very similar. The negative correlation is -0.236. A little less than half is contributed by only four outliers, especially the two (fake) outliers who purport to both strongly believe in CYMoon and disbelieve CauseSmoke. The balance is contributed from those people who hold plausible views, but did not express that they did so strongly.

   CYMoon CauseSmoke count    dot normdot normsum
        2          3    33 -0.754  -0.005  -0.149

        4          1     2 -8.231  -0.049  -0.099
        4          3     1 -2.395  -0.014  -0.014
        3          3     1 -1.575  -0.009  -0.009

        1          4   916 -0.015   0.000  -0.081
        2          1     0 -2.589  -0.015   0.000
        3          1     0 -5.410  -0.032   0.000
        2          2     0 -1.671  -0.010   0.000
        3          2     0 -3.492  -0.021   0.000
        4          2     0 -5.313  -0.032   0.000
        1          2     5  0.149   0.001   0.004
        1          1     4  0.232   0.001   0.006
        3          4     3  0.343   0.002   0.006
        4          4     3  0.522   0.003   0.009
        2          4    35  0.164   0.001   0.034
        1          3   142  0.067   0.000   0.057

Far from the examination of contingency tables being irrelevant to the analysis, they are essential to it.

The “signal” from Lewandowsky’s analysis is also “unambiguous”: that, using his own words, “number-crunching ability that’s unaccompanied by informed judgment can often do more harm than good”. A thesis that his own work amply illustrates.

Update: Jeff Id asked about the effect of robust regression. I’m working on a longer post on robust regression, but will preview this with the result here. R has a very handy robust regression function rlm in the same style as lm, the default option is Huber’s robust regression. The “robust” correlation between CYMoon and CauseHIV is the robust regression coefficient between standardized versions of each series: the robust correlation is 0.000000 (not Lewandowsky’s -0.254). Lewandowsky’s “unambiguous” result is unambiguous dreck.

fm=rlm(CYMoon~CauseHIV,data=data.frame(scale(lew[,c("CYMoon","CauseHIV")]) ))
            Value         Std. Error    t value      
(Intercept) -2.433000e-01  0.000000e+00 -2.138241e+09
CauseHIV     0.000000e+00  0.000000e+00 -2.938290e+05

Residual standard error: 5.487e-09 on 1143 degrees of freedom

Trying (Unsuccessfully) to Replicate Lewandowsky

Is Lewandowsky et al 2012 (in press) replicable? Not easily and not so far. Both Roman M and I have been working on it without success so far. Here’s a progress report (on the first part only). Continue reading

Lewandowsky’s Cleansing Program

Conspiracy theorist Stephan Lewandowsky, in keeping with SkS style, has rewritten the history of his blog hosted by the University of Western Australia.

Tom Fuller, who does online commercial surveys for a living, has sharply criticized the Lewandowsky’s tainted methodology – a methodology that relied on fake data to yield fake results.

Over the past week or so, Fuller has commented frequently on Lewandowsky threads here, here, here and here.

Although Lewandowsky snipped some of Fuller’s comments, over the past week or so, all or part of about 50 comments were approved.

Today, Lewandowsky (who is being assisted by an SkS squadron) liquidated every single comment by Fuller on the entire blog, leaving rebuttals to Fuller in place without the protagonist. This is different from not approving the blog comments: it’s an after-the-fact cleansing of Fuller from the blog.

The University of Western Australia should hang its head in shame at Lewandowsky’s Gleickian antics.

Steve: According to a comment at Lewandowsky’s blog operated by the University of Western Australia, Lewandowsky’s moderation is being done by (presumably) members of the SkS squadron, who were merely trying to silence Fuller as a commenter on the blog, stating that their liquidation of the history of Fuller’s comments was an accidental by-product of silencing Fuller.

The Lewandowsky Census

Anthony has posted up an online census of participants in the Lewandowsky survey. I urge any readers who participated in the Lewandowsky survey to identify themselves as Anthony’s thread using their regular internet handle.

The SkS “Link” to the Lewandowsky Survey

Lewandowsky et al stated that “links were posted on 8 blogs (with a pro-science science stance but with a diverse audience”. Lewandowsky identified the eight blogs (in an email to Barry Woods) as: Skeptical Science, Tamino, Bickmore, the UU-UNO Clmate Change Task Force (trunity), Ill Considered, Mandia, Deltoid and Hot Topic.

The relevant posts at six of the blogs have been located, but the relevant post at SkS, either no longer exists or never existed. Today’s question: did John Cook destroy all evidence at the SkS site of the existence of his posting the Lewandowsky thread? if so, why? Or are the claims by Cook and Lewandowsky to have posted the link untrue?
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