Best reads of 2018

These are some of the most interesting article I’ve read in 2018. They don’t have to have been published this year (many aren’t), the only criteria is I came across them this year. Hopefully you find some of them interesting!


‘Why Women in Psychology Can’t Program’ by Olivia Guest. A take-down of the idea that psychology undergraduates aren’t able to learn how to code.

‘What are packages for?’ by Thomas Lumley. A short defense of writing statistical packages and how long they last.

‘Prime Hints For Running A Data Project In R’ by Kasia Kulma. Valuable tips for conducting a full research project in R.


‘The 100-year capitalist experiment that keeps Appalachia poor, sick, and stuck on coal’ by Gwynn Guildford. How economic policy undermined communities and the health of it’s inhabitants.

‘The global financial crisis of 1825 foreshadowed the problems of emerging markets today’ by Gwynn Guildford. An explanation of how and why the post-Napoleonic Wars economic crash occurred and how it informs our understanding of some of the current financial problems.


‘How the Startup Mentality Failed Kids in San Francisco’ by Daniel Duane. Why throwing lots of money and tech at a very complex problem like education won’t solve anything.

‘Exploring the relative lack of impact of research on ‘ability grouping’ in England: a discourse analytic account’ by Becky Francis, Louise Archer, Jeremy Hodgen, David Pepper, Becky Taylor, & Mary-Claire Travers. Whilst the topic of ability grouping of students is contentious, why is it so difficult for one side to persuade the other of the merits of their view?

‘Exploration of the developing role of the educational psychologist within the context of ‘traded’ psychological services’ by Katherine Lee & Kevin Woods. How Educational Psychologists see themselves and their work as it changes within the context of schools buying in their time.

‘Early childhood education yields big benefits — just not the ones you think’ by Kelsey Piper. There has been volatile debate around the benefits of prekindergarten education. Proponents for both sides can point to evidence supporting their claim. Piper clearly lays out the case for both sides and explains the seemingly contradictory results.

‘Meta-analysis of faculty’s teaching effectiveness: Student evaluation of teaching ratings and student learning are not related’ by Bob Uttl, Carmela White, Daniela Gonzalez. The gold-standard of research on student evaluation of teachers.

‘Open Education Science’ by Tim van der Zee and Justin Reich. How and why education science should be open. Essential reading for anyone vaguely related to education research.


‘The Ghost of King Leopold II Still Haunts Us’ by Lawrence Brown. A jaw-dropping account of Belgian colonialism and it’s devastating impact on not only the Congo but the whole world.

‘Origin of HIV Type 1 in Colonial French Equatorial Africa?’ by Amit Chitnis, Diana Rawls, & Jim Moore. How and why HIV Type 1 came and spread from central Africa.

Twitter thread on the Enlightenment by Pseudoerasmus. An antidote to the Pollyanna and over-simplified vision of the Enlightenment espoused by some scholars.


‘The Death of the Author’ by Roland Barthes. Is the Author of a piece of work important? Does it even make sense to talk of an “Author” when there are so many influences on the work and so many potential interpretations? Barthes argues no to both questions.

‘The Hedgehog and the Fox’ by Isaih Berlin. A mental game which serves as a wonderful metaphor to conceptualise different kinds of thinkers (though as Berlin cautions, this shouldn’t be applied too strictly or stretched too far).

‘Theoretical Amnesia’ by Denny Borsboom. How psychology would benefit from a better understanding of theory generation and testing.

‘What is this thing called Science?’ by Alan Chalmers. The best introduction to philosophy of science I’ve come across.

‘To read more papers or to read papers better? A crucial point for the reproducibility crisis’ by Thiago França & José Monserrat. Given the overwhelming number of papers, is it reasonable to expect researchers to keep up to date with the literature? França and Monserrat argue it would be better if scientists read these papers more critically, going for quality of reading rather than quantity.

‘Statistics as Rhetoric in Psychology’ by I. D. John. How psychologists use statistics as rhetorical devices to give credibility to their argument, rather than as they are intended to be used.

‘Theory Testing in Psychology and Physics: a Methodological Paradox’ by Paul Meehl. All of Meehl’s work is worth reading, but this paper explaining how the way statistical tests are currently used will lead to worse evidence as measurement accuracy increases is staggeringly good.

‘War and Peace’ by Leo Tolstoy. This is the greatest book I have ever read.


‘I Found the Best Burger Place in America. And Then I Killed It’ by Kevin Alexander. How our obsession with lists, and no. 1’s can ruin great businesses. But the article ‘Did a Rave Review Really Shut Down Portland Burger Bar Stanich’s? Maybe It Was the Owner’s Legal Troubles’ by Matthew Singer shows how we can be a sucker for a good story.

‘Big data meets Big Brother as China moves to rate its citizens’ by Rachel Botsman. Black Mirror comes to life as China moves forward with it’s citizen rating system.

‘Lessons From Posting A Fake Map’ by Brian Brettschneider. The unexpected persuasive power of maps.

‘How #MeToo revealed the central rift within feminism today’ by Moira Donegan. One of the central social issues of the year has also exposed a division between an individualised view of feminism and a collective view of feminism.

‘Louisiana School Made Headlines for Sending Black Kids to Elite Colleges. Here’s the Reality’ by Erica Green & Katie Benner. A shocking exposé of a school designed to help poor Black children reach college. But as is explained in ‘T.M. Landry and the Tragedy of Viral Success Stories’ by Casey Gerald, this story should be viewed within the larger context of racial problems in America.

‘How Stone Stacking Wreaks Havoc on National Parks’ by Sophie Haigney. How a simple and seemingly harmless bit of fun for tourists has relatively serious costs for the environment.

‘How Doctors Die’ by Ken Murray. Why the quality of life is more important than the quantity of it.

‘The problem with real news – and what we can do about it’ by Rob Wijnberg. Why the current practice of news coverage (sensational, negative, current) is so detrimental, and how we can fix it.


‘The Control Group is Out of Control’ by Scott Alexander. What parapsychology teaches us about science and how the picture is much bleaker than many realise.

‘The Lifespan of a Lie’ by Ben Blum. A summary of the long and twisting history of one of the most famous experiments in all of psychology; the Stanford Prison Experiment.

‘There Is No Such Thing As Unconscious Thought’ by Nick Chater. Dispelling a widely-held belief that most of your greatest insights come from “unconscious thought”.

‘When the self slips’ by Anna Ciaunica & Jane Charlton. What depersonalisation can teach us about how we understand our sense of self.

‘The fallacy of obviousness’ by Teppo Felin. A reinterpretation of the famous ‘Gorillas in our Midst’ (1999) experiment as not showing we are blind to the obvious, but that what is “obvious” depends on many different factors.

‘Is Bilingualism Associated with Enhanced Executive Functioning in Adults?
A Meta-Analytic Review’ by Minna Lehtonen, Anna Soveri, Aini Laine, Janica Järvenpää, Angela de Bruin, & Jan Antfolk. A thorough analysis of whether speaking two languages has been found to be associated with higher executive functioning, as well as exploring the difficulties in capturing and measuring publication bias.

‘Supporting children’s emotional wellbeing and mental health in England: A review’ by Claire Maxwell,
Peter Aggleton, Ian Warwick, Ekua Yankah, Vivian Hill, Dina Mehmedbegović. What interventions and measures taken by schools and relevant professionals help support the emotional wellbeing of young students?

‘Overstating the Role of Environmental Factors in Success: A Cautionary Note’ by David Moreau, Brooke Macnamara, & Zach Hambrick. What’s the harm in promoting positive ideas, even if the evidence doesn’t back it up? Not only is it disingenuous, it can have negative consequences.

‘The replication price-drop in social psychology’ by Sanjay Srivastava. The decrease in cost and increase in ease of conducting replications spurred the replication crisis in social psychology.

‘No, it’s not The Incentives, it’s you’ by Tal Yarkoni. A common rebuttal to calls for better practices are that the current incentive structure prevents people from behaving properly. Yarkoni isn’t convinced.


‘Redefining statistical significance: the statistical arguments’ by Richard Morey. A deconstruction of the arguments for redefining statistical significance from 0.05 to 0.005.

‘Ignoring measurement reliability is a real life horror story’ by Sam Parsons. Why the next major crisis in psychology will be around measurement.

‘Psychology, Neuroscience: Lacking in Individuality?’ by Neuroskeptic. How psychology and neuroscience’s obsession with group averages blinds us to the importance of within participant variability.

‘Three things that every medical writer should know about statistics’ by Stephen Senn. The 3 ideas in this paper shouldn’t just be known by medical writers, but by all scientists.

‘Cargo-cult statistics and scientific crisis’ by Philip Stark & Andrea Saltelli. The history of statistics, how poor practices got us into this crisis, and what can be done to get us out of it.

‘Statistical Inference as Severe Testing’ by Deborah Mayo. A detailed and accessible tour of philosophy of science and statistics. Essential reading for anyone who wants to develop their understanding of these important topics.

‘Inferential Statistics is not Inferential’ by Valentin Amrhein. Why we should use inferential statistics less and focus more on the data itself and the method used to collect it.

‘Analyzing ordinal data with metric models: What could possibly go wrong?’ by Torrin Liddell & John Kruschke. A cogent argument for why you should never analyse ordinal data using metric tests.

‘The Meaning of “Significance” for Different Types of Research’ by Adrianus de Groot. A short paper explaining the importance of differentiating between exploratory and confirmatory hypothesis testing.

‘A Poor Prognosis for the Diagnostic Screening Critique of Statistical Tests’ by Deborah Mayo & Richard Morey. The Positive Predictive Value and False Discovery Rate are popular measures of the health of a field and how likely a finding is to be true. But they are fundamentally flawed, as Mayo and Morey explain.

‘Double Misunderstandings About p-values’ by Larry Wasserman. Many have heard the most common misconception of p values[note]That it’s a statement about the likelihood of the hypothesis, when in fact it’s a statement about the data assuming the null hypothesis is true.[/note] but there is another, related, misconception.

2 responses to “Best reads of 2018”

  1. Any chance you could send me the pdf of “Statistics as rhetoric in psychology”? Sounds interesting, but I don’t have access to it though my university system or scihub


    1. Yes absolutely. I asked for it from someone else as I couldn’t access it either.


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