The Daily Parker

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Someone call lunch...

Two items about academic research

First, from the scientist behind Deeply Trivial, a Times report that giving people money to answer survey questions makes their answers more accurate:

[W]hen you ask people about the economy, the answers are less a statement of objectivity and more like what they’d say if you’d asked which pro football team was the best. That has important implications for democracy. How can people judge whether a party is effective if there is no sense of objective truth? And it could even have implications for the economy itself if, for example, conservative-leaning business executives freeze hiring or investment when the president doesn’t share their politics.

[W]hen money was added to the equation, questions about the economy became less like asking people which football team they thought was best, and more like asking them to place a wager. Even a little bit of cash gets people to think harder about the situation and answer more objectively.

“People are not telling you what they actually believe in ordinary surveys,” [researcher John G. Bullock at the University of Texas at Austin] said. “With a payment, we’re eliciting not necessarily thoughtful responses, but more sincere responses.”

In the same newspaper, Paul Krugman demonstrates that a right-wing trope about academia doesn't mean what they think it means:

Overall, the evidence looks a lot more consistent with a story that has academics rejecting a conservative party that has moved sharply right than it does with a story in which academics have moved left.

Now, you might argue that academics should reflect the political spectrum in the nation — that we need affirmative action for conservative professors, even in science. But do you really want to go there?

No, you really don't.

Hardware and software debugging

I'm working from home today because I had a cable guy here for two hours, and because winter has finally arrived. The rain and sleet is also a problem because my Fitbit numbers have been off for four straight days.

I did get a lot of sleep this past weekend—but that also could be a factor today, according to new research into weekend lie-ins. (tl;dr: sleeping in on Sunday makes it harder to wake up on Monday.)

I'll have more later today. Now I have to figure out how to get a custom Microsoft Dynamics instance to play well with my company's software. That will be just as fun as it sounds.

Do Fitbits make you sad?

Duke University business professor Jordan Etkin found evidence they might:

"In general, tracking activity can increase how much people do," Etkin said. "But at the same time, measurement has these pernicious effects. Enjoyable activities can became almost like a job, by focusing on the outcomes of things that used to be fun."

In another study, researchers had 310 participants read for eight minutes. One group read additional text that described reading as fun an enjoyable; for another group it was described as useful and educational — more like work. A third group received no additional information. In all three groups, some readers were told how many pages they had read as they went, others were not.

The readers who could see how many pages they had read reported that reading felt more like work and less enjoyable than those who could not — but not among participants who were told the project was more work-like at the start.

"This doesn't mean we should stop measuring our daily activity," she said, "but we need to balance that increased productivity against our underlying enjoyment. For activities people do for fun, it may be better not to know."

Finding out that my Fitbit might make me sad makes me sad.

Of course, this could just be a horrible example of bad science reporting, which Deeply Trivial just blogged about yesterday.