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I got published
Old 07-16-2013, 04:25 PM   #1
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I got published

Maybe this should be under "What do you do all day"...

Some of you may remember that just under two years ago, a few months before my decision to FIRE, I became a student of psychology.

To my surprise, at an early stage of my studies, I discovered something that was badly wrong and needed correcting. So I wrote it up (with a couple of co-authors, one of whom is more or less world-famous) and submitted it to American Psychologist, arguably the leading journal in the field.

Somewhat to my amazement, they have published it.

It's only available online today, but the print version will follow at some point (they have quite a backlog). The cute thing there is that whereas most journals in psychology have a print run of 800 or 1000, American Psychologist prints about 100,000 copies, because it's part of the membership benefits for members of the American Psychological Association. So my words of wisdom (and, most crucially, my sardonic jokes) are going to be in the office, or perhaps the bathroom, of most psychologists in the US!

If you want an idea of what it's about, check out Chapter 7 of this book (pages 120-138: you can see some of those in the Amazon preview and most of the rest at books.google.com). This is the "general audience" version of the work, which is simultaneously mathematical, psychological, and neither of those, that our paper criticises. We demonstrate that the math brought in by a guy from outside is, basically, utterly fraudulent (we weren't allowed to say that in so many words, but the reader is left in little doubt).

Of course, this hasn't stopped the author of that book, in her reply, from claiming that her work is wonderful anyway, even without those meddling kids. Welcome to academic psychology...
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Old 07-16-2013, 04:31 PM   #2
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Congratulations BigNick! That's quite an achievement, especially for a "retired" person. It appears to be a document that would be somewhat challenging for the average neophyte reader like me to understand. Is there anything that you write about that you could share with us in laymen's terms?
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Old 07-16-2013, 05:14 PM   #3
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Good for you. I have heard about this minimum positivity ratio in some of the reading I've done (I'm also a student of psychology ... a professional in the field, actually), and my immediate reaction was "hogwash." It always struck me as a fool's errand, to try to reduce positivity/negativity to an "optimal ratio." As if there is some type of formula for well-being, reducible to a number. Talk about reductionism. I have Fredrickson's book on my shelf but couldn't get through it. Some nice stuff in there (good corrective for my natural negativity, I suppose), but too tedious and long-winded.

I see that you and your colleagues have gone after their mathematical model, which is the underpinning of their inferences. That dismantles their work on that level, which should be sufficient. I think the whole "positivity ratio" idea is misguided, but you have helped to undermine the foundation of their approach. Good job. I'm no fan of superficial approaches to the subject, of which there are many. Anything you can do to poke a hole in that balloon is a good thing.

And it feels cool to be published, doesn't it? I'll look forward to seeing your article appearing in my mailbox at work soon.
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Old 07-16-2013, 06:01 PM   #4
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Wow. Congratulations!

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Old 07-16-2013, 07:21 PM   #5
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Congratulations BigNick! That's a major accomplishment.
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Old 07-16-2013, 07:39 PM   #6
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Congratulations! Been there, done that, done the multiple revisions to satisfy the reviewers' agendas, so if your article was published without all that nonsense, it must be obvious to all experts that it's good, damn good.
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Old 07-16-2013, 07:53 PM   #7
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Congratulations !
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Old 07-16-2013, 08:02 PM   #8
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Congratulations!.
Do you get any financial reward for being published?
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Old 07-16-2013, 08:09 PM   #9
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Am I the only one who sees the irony of all this "positive" feedback for squashing a book/theory on "positivity?"

However, getting published is POSITIVELY GREAT...uh, WONDERFUL... uh, very reinforcing for fluid dynamics!

Good on ya!
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Old 07-16-2013, 08:45 PM   #10
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Congratulations BigNick! That is just wonderful.
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Old 07-16-2013, 08:53 PM   #11
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Sincere congratulations. Great abstract!
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Old 07-16-2013, 10:31 PM   #12
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Congrats! From the abstract:

Quote:
Fredrickson and Losada's claim to have demonstrated the existence of a critical minimum positivity ratio of 2.9013 is entirely unfounded.
I'm guessing you won't be getting a Holiday card from either Fredrickson or Losada?

Well if 2.9013 isn't a valid positivity ratio, then I suppose 42 isn't the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything, either, huh? And no Easter Bunny? Way to spoil a guy's day!

Quote:
We find no theoretical or empirical justification for the use of differential equations drawn from fluid dynamics, a subfield of physics, to describe changes in human emotions over time; ...
Fluid Dynamics? Human Emotions? Whoah! Sounds like a conversation from a party in the 60's. Oh well, today my fluid dynamics consisted of an American Wheat while cooking dinner, and then dynamically shifting to an American Pale Ale with dinner. My emotional state is just fine, and probably augmented by those fluid dynamics.

But seriously, that is quite an achievement.

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Old 07-16-2013, 11:55 PM   #13
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BigNick, you pulled off something that's just amazing. Can you figure out the odds of someone whom is not a professional in a specific field, being published in the leading journal in that field?

Very nice job.
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Old 07-17-2013, 07:36 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by Ready View Post
It appears to be a document that would be somewhat challenging for the average neophyte reader like me to understand. Is there anything that you write about that you could share with us in laymen's terms?
It's quite nicely summarised here.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Meadbh View Post
Been there, done that, done the multiple revisions to satisfy the reviewers' agendas, so if your article was published without all that nonsense, it must be obvious to all experts that it's good, damn good.
Oh, it went through two full rounds of review, with four reviewers, all of whom recommended publication the first time, but two wanted some minor revisions. One reviewer called it a "perfect paper", which my second co-author - who has 100+ publications to his name - said "never happens".

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Originally Posted by KingB View Post
Do you get any financial reward for being published?
Only if I get invited onto talk shows.

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Can you figure out the odds of someone whom is not a professional in a specific field, being published in the leading journal in that field?
Well, I can work out the a posteriori odds. But yes, it's quite funny that the person who discovered this had, at the time, essentially no training in psychology and no math beyond first-year undergraduate engineering (which I nearly flunked). As of the date of publication, my highest degree obtained is a 32-year-old BA in Computer Science. Unlike my co-authors, who list two universities each, I actually claim no academic affiliation - the school where I'm studying doesn't let students put the school's name on free-time projects. I had to look up the obscure corner of the APA Publication Manual where it says what to do if you have no academic affiliation (answer: put your home town, so in my case, "Strasbourg, France").
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Old 07-17-2013, 09:10 PM   #15
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Congratulations - an impressive achievement!

(Dare I say, I missed a like button.)
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Old 07-17-2013, 09:22 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BigNick View Post
It's quite nicely summarised here ....
I've been thinking about this, it's really disconcerting that this 4 decimal place 'positivity' number that was supposedly related to well being and fluid dynamics could be taken seriously in modern psychology.

Dealing with something as complex as the mind requires even more rigorous methods than 'simple' physical processes. This seems like voodoo.

It reminds me of those practitioners of 'repressed memory', IIRC (no pun intended), they could use enough suggestive power to enable a troubled person to remember just about anything. Dangerous stuff.

Again, congrats on the debunking and publishing. Maybe MythBusters will pick up on it?

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Old 07-17-2013, 11:21 PM   #17
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Oh, psychology is full of poor research. Some of it is good, but a lot is very limited. One part of the problem is that the positive psychology field (of which happiness research is a part) is relatively new, so you've got a bunch of overly enthusiastic claims and people trying to make names for themselves... recipe for simplistic formulas like this one (an optimal positivity to negativity ratio, expressed in a single number? I'm surprised anyone bought into that at all.)

Another part is what you say -- that the human mind/life is a very complex thing, very slippery, not easy to get an objective, scientific handle on. We do try, and we're making progress, but it's slow, with lots of errors. So much of this area is not really amenable to scientific study. After all, we're talking about unobservable processes, for the most part. And then you've got all the variables, all the interactions, and the limitations of using human subjects for research. It can be tough to get anywhere.
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Old 07-18-2013, 09:17 AM   #18
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...

Another part is what you say -- that the human mind/life is a very complex thing, very slippery, not easy to get an objective, scientific handle on. We do try, and we're making progress, but it's slow, with lots of errors. So much of this area is not really amenable to scientific study. After all, we're talking about unobservable processes, for the most part. And then you've got all the variables, all the interactions, and the limitations of using human subjects for research. It can be tough to get anywhere.
A bit of a sidetrack here, but I'm reading "Thinking, Fast and Slow" by Daniel Kahneman. It's a bit dry in parts, IMO (the Freakonomics guys do a better job of making these studies 'fun' and accessible). But I'm impressed at how he structured some of these experiments to isolate some things that effect (or affect, right?) and bias our thinking. There are so many examples, one that stood out for me was the 'anchoring' effect:

A participant spins a big "Wheel of Fortune" that is rigged to randomly stop only on either 10 or 64. The participant is then asked a question that has no relevance at all to the spinning of the wheel. Something like, "Estimate what % of African Countries are members of the UN?". Participants strongly tended to give higher estimate #'s when they spun 64 versus spinning 10!

The book has reinforced to me that I approach things from the logical side. So many examples, they say - 'People automatically gravitate to answer #1' and I had immediately thought that there isn't enough info to decide, or that #2 was often the most correct choice.

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Old 07-18-2013, 10:09 AM   #19
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I think this accomplishment is great. Congratulations are well deserved.
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Old 08-05-2013, 12:27 PM   #20
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It got picked up by the Chronicle of Higher Education, which is kind of the house journal of academia. All slightly embarrassing for one or two of the big enchiladas of psychology.
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