Best reads of 2019

This is a collection of some of the best things I’ve read this year. Organised alphabetically, they cover a wide range of topics. Hopefully you’ll find them as interesting as I did! Comment saying what you really enjoyed reading, I’ll check it out, and may even add it to my list.

Culture

‘Most Money Advice Is Worthless When You’re Poor’ by Talia Jane. What it is like for many to live in poverty.

‘Canon Is An Abyss’ by Mike Rugnetta. Why endlessly digging into the backstory and wider context of a well known and loved story can lead to madness.

Economics

‘The Real Adam Smith’ by Paul Sagar. Reading the original works of Adam Smith is important to understand what he actually believed as he explicitly cautioned against many of the ideas ascribed to him.

‘The Color of Money’ by Mehrsa Baradaran. A thorough historical documenting of how the financial sector has (not) worked for African Americans and how it can be fixed.

Education & Educational Psychology

‘Nobody knows which schools are good’ by Becky Allen. An eye-opening explanation of why current practices regarding school evaluation are fundamentally flawed.

‘Can Restorative Practices Improve School Climate and Curb Suspensions?’ by Catherine Augustine, John Engberg, Geoffrey Grimm, Emma Lee, Elaine Wang, Karen Christianson, & Andrea Joseph. An analysis of student and teacher outcomes after restorative practices were implemented in a Pennsylvanian school district.

‘Research scholars to air problems with using ‘grit’ at school’ by Jill Barshay. Why ‘grit’ as it is currently used and thought of isn’t meaningful.

‘Abraham Maslow and the pyramid that beguiled business’ by William Kremer & Claudia Hammond. The wildly popular ‘Hierarchy of Needs’ may not be as empirically grounded as many (including myself) believed.

‘Britain’s private school problem: it’s time to talk’ by David Kynaston & Francis Green. Why Britain’s highly exclusive private school system works to the detriment of society as a whole.

Twitter thread by Neil Lewis Jnr. The history and philosophy behind standardised tests in the US for entry to higher education.

‘Please don’t call me mum’ by Stephanie Nimmo. A simple but powerful call to professionals who work with children to respect the identity of the parents.

‘The association between adolescent well-being and digital technology use’ by Amy Orben & Andrew Przybylski. By using a specification curve analysis, the authors could see how much of an impact digital technology had on well-being as well as map out the multitude of ways a data set can be analysed.

‘Social media’s enduring effect on adolescent life satisfaction’ by Amy Orben, Tobias Dienlin, & Andrew Przybylski. How choices in analysing the data can lead to different conclusions about the effect of social media on young people.

Philosophy of Science and metascience

‘Does psychology have a conflict-of-interest problem?’ by Tom Chivers. Some researchers are paid large amounts of money to present their findings, yet it is rarely treated as a conflict of interest. Why?

‘Improving Your Statistical Questions’ by Daniel Lakens. How to think about the multitude of ways a statistical test can be performed and even whether you need to conduct a statistical test at all.

‘Practical Tips for Ethical Data Sharing’ by Michelle Meyer. How researchers can engage in open science by sharing data whilst protecting the identities of participants.

‘Paths in strange spaces, part I’ by Danielle Navarro. Why testing a narrow and specific hypothesis using a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ framework (Null Hypothesis Significance Testing) is almost a wasted exercise when there is no/very weak theory underlying it.

‘You can’t play 20 questions with nature and win: projective comments on the papers of this symposium’ by Allen Newell. The way that psychology is trying to answer scientific questions will almost certainly not lead to any meaningful scientific answers.

‘Strong Inference’ by John Platt. How to develop tests that give meaningful answers.

‘Social Psychology and Science: Some Lessons From Solomon Asch’ by Paul Rozin. A lot of social psychology would benefit more from describing the phenomenon in great detail, rather than test hypotheses, as we have taken the ‘human’ out of ‘human psychology’.

‘Bots started sabotaging my online research. I fought back’ by Melissa Simone. Malicious bots are a greater threat to research validity than many realise.

‘Arrested theory development: The misguided distinction between exploratory and confirmatory research’ by Aba Szollosi & Chris Donkin. There is no clear demarcation between exploratory and confirmatory research when the underlying theory is so weak it can include all potential findings, even contradictory results.

‘The Generalisability Crisis’ by Tal Yarkoni. The verbal claims psychologists make are often very different from the actual tests they are based on.

Politics

‘The deadly truth about a world built for men – from stab vests to car crashes’ by Caroline Criado-Perez. How treating men as the default has harmed women in a wide range of areas.

‘Gene editing like Crispr is too important to be left to scientists alone’ by Natalie Kofler. The importance of ethics in genetics.

‘The End of Babies’ by Anna Sussman. An exploration of why fewer babies are being born in the developed world.

Psychology

Social Inclusion from Below: The Perspectives of Street Gangs and Their Possible Effects on Declining Homicide Rates in Ecuador by David Brotherton & Rafael Gude. How prosocial interventions can support those in gangs.

‘Diversifying Psychological Science’ by Sarah Gaither. Balancing the demands of improved methodology with under-represented groups is difficult but important.

‘Matthew Walker’s “Why We Sleep” Is Riddled with Scientific and Factual Errors’ by Alexey Guzey. A detailed breakdown of the first chapter from the phenomenon ‘Why We Sleep’.

Statistics

‘The Attack of the Psychometricians’ by Denny Borsboom. On the importance of understanding measurement and your philosophy of science when you analyse a construct in psychology.

‘Common statistical tests are linear models (or: how to teach stats)’ by Jonas Lindeløv. A different (better?) way to think of and teach statistical tests.

‘Thinking Twice About Sum Scores’ by Daniel McNeish & Melissa Wolf. Summing scores on a behavioural checklist is a form of factor analysis, though this fact is often ignored.

‘Weapons of Math Destruction’ by Kathy O’Neil. How badly designed metrics and models affect our everyday life.

‘How to manage missing data, for data scientists’ by Eefje Poppelaars. Guidelines as to how you can deal with missing data and an analysis of their utility.

‘Longitudinal data don’t magically solve causal inference’ by Julia Rohrer. Why Granger causality is not the same as causality.

‘Thinking Clearly About Correlations and Causation: Graphical Causal Models for Observational Data’ by Julia Rohrer. How to visualise the relationships between constructs.

‘Barometric Pressure, a statistical myth: Why one common argument against IQ is flawed’ by Chris Stucchio. Just because a construct arises from the statistical procedures used to measure it doesn’t mean the construct has no utility.

‘The Black Swan’ by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. Unlikely events are more common than many think and their greater impact means you should think about them more than predictable events.

‘A reanalysis of Lord’s statistical treatment of football numbers’ by Annemarie Zand Scholten & Denny Borsboom. Why the famous paper claiming “The data don’t know where they came from” isn’t quite what it seems.

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