Friday, 6 March 2015


This is not really news any more, but I still think it's an interesting story. 

Last week the journal Basic and Applied Social Psychology has published an editorial setting out their views (or rather prescriptions) for how statistical analyses should be conducted in papers that seek publication with them.

The editorial starts by effectively banning the use of p-values and null hypothesis significance testing, which "is invalid, and thus authors would be not required to perform it". Then it goes on to say that "Bayesian procedures are more interesting", but also suffer from issues with "Laplacian assumption" (non-informative priors) and therefore they "reserve the right to make case-by-case judgments, and thus Bayesian procedures are neither required nor banned from BASP.

The conclusion of the editorial is then that basically psychologists do not need to bother with any inferential procedure, "because the state of the art remains uncertain. However, BASP will require strong descriptive statistics, including effect sizes. We also encourage the presentation of frequency or distributional data when this is feasible".

This has caused quite a stir among many statisticians (and I think psychologists should join the protest!). Here's a series of responses by important statisticians. I personally think that some of the problem at least is the view that statistics is some sort of recipe-book: if you have such and such data collection, then do a t-test; if you have such and such a design, then do an ANOVA; or perhaps if you have this other data, then use meta-analysis and throw in some priors-kind of thing $-$ I'm no real expert here, but I think that psychology as a field suffers particularly from this problem (perhaps for historical reasons?).

Most importantly, this reminds me of my first ISBA conference, back in 2006 (I think that's the last time it was held in the Valencia area). The final night of the conference, some attendees prepare some entertainment and that year, together with a few (back then) young friends, we prepared a news broadcast $-$ we spent most of the last day of the conference doing this, rather than attending the talks, I'm half proud, half ashamed to confess.

Anyway, among the "serious" news we were reporting was a riot that had happened outside the conference hotel where frequentists had come in masses to protest, waiving placards reading "We value p-value!" (worryingly, we also reported that Alan Gelfand, then-President of ISBA, had to be transferred to a secure location). 

1 comment:

  1. I might go outside BASP's office with a placard reading "We prioritise priors!".