Seeing blue and feeling blue

Publishing a paper to critique a retracted paper might seem a strange thing to do. But that’s what we did. In a blog post featured on F1000Research, we explain why.

Feeling blue: addressing challenges in color perception research


Attention in time

We have a paper in the latest issue of Psychological Science, which we’ve called Reconsidering temporal attention in the attentional blink. Those with access can read the published version at the journal website, and anyone can download our preprint from the Open Science Framework (OSF). All of the data and materials are also available at the OSF site.

Earlier on, Alex also wrote a great blog post as an introduction to the paper.

Special thanks to Ed Vul for inspiring the analysis and providing his original data.

Goodbourn, P.T., Martini, P., Barnett-Cowan, M., Harris, I.M., Livesey, E.J., & Holcombe, A.O. (2016). Reconsidering temporal selection in the attentional blink. Psychological Science, 27(8), 1146–56. doi: 10.1177/0956797616654131

Science vs Science

Here’s Alex (and others) on the ABC podcast Science vs talking to Wendy Zukerman about reproducibility in science.

Some people have called our current situation a reproducibility crisis. It’s hard to know how to define, exactly, the word crisis. But what we do know is that, of the efforts to try to systematically reproduce findings, whether they be in cancer biology, whether they be in psychology, the success rate has not been impressive.

More on this subject from me, soon.

Bad science

Ben Goldacre has a new TED talk. It’s very good, and worth watching even if you’re already familiar with his work exposing bad, and often dangerous, science.

In fact, 76% of all of the trials that were done on [reboxetine] were withheld from doctors and patients. Now if you think about it, if I toss a coin a hundred times, and I’m allowed to withhold from you the answers half the time, then I can convince you that I have a coin with two heads.

His blog, Bad Science, is usually great read (as is his secondary blog).

Correlating angles (circular variables)

I’ve been trying to find a sensible correlation coefficient to assess the reliability of the cylindrical axis on an optometric prescription. Glasses can have spherical correction, which has equal refractive power in all axes; but they can also have cylindrical correction, which has power in a specific axis to correct for astigmatism. So a prescription might include one or more cylindrical lenses, which need to be set at a specific angle. In our PERGENIC work, we corrected participants’ vision when necessary, but we wanted to be sure that we were doing it reliably. We asked 10% of participants to return for a second session, and when they came back we performed a second refraction without referring to the results of the first one—that way, we could compare the two sets of data to make sure they were consistent.

So far, so good. But you run in to a problem if you try to calculate, say, a Pearson product-moment coefficient.1 Here’s the problem: an angle is modular. For a cylinder angle, 0° is exactly the same as 180°. So if the first time I prescribe correction at 179°, and the second time I prescribe correction at 1°, there’s only a 2° difference. But it looks like a 178° difference. Which is not very good.

Continue reading

(Yes)today’s TED talks

For today, a couple of old TED talks I’ve revisited recently.

Dan Dennett/On Our Consciousness
I often don’t agree Dan Dennett says, but I always love how he says it. Here’s an old talk in which he discusses the degree to which we (don’t) have insight into our own consciousness. He also seems to take credit for predicting change blindness.

Peter Donnelly/How Stats Fool Juries
Here, Donnelly puts across some excellent material on our perception of random sequences. Heads and tails; adenine, guanine, thymine and cytosine. He goes on to consider how our poor grasp of this sort of statistical reasoning can lead to genuinely terrible consequences.

I’m professionally indebted to Donnelly for his work on HapMap and with WTCCC. Interestingly, both Dennett and Donnelly open with jokes about being boring at parties.

Bobby McFerrin/The Pentatonic Scale
And finally, this wonderful piece from Bobby McFerrin.

Monkeys on typewriters

Plenty have blogged today about Jesse Anderson‘s virtual attempt to prove the infinite monkey theorem.



In amongst the discussion, I picked up reference to an Arts Council England project that placed a computer in the enclosure of six macaques at Paignton Zoo. These singes dactylographes appear to have been rather hung up on the S key, but I still think their manuscript is rather beautiful.

Notes towards the complete works of Shakespeare is available, free of charge, in PDF format. Perhaps what I find most interesting is that, just before the end, the writing takes on a completely different character. Why did it stop there, just as they started to get the hang of it?