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P-Hacker Confessions: Daryl Bem and Me

STUART VYSE

Stuart Vyse is a psychologist and author of Believing in Magic: The Psychology of Superstition, which won the William James Book Award of the American Psychological Association. He is a fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry.

Cornell University psychologist Daryl Bem and I have something in common. Yes, we are both research psychologists, but that’s not what I mean.

For me, it started when I was just a young graduate student. Statistics courses are a standard part of graduate training in psychology, because statistical methods are still the coin of the realm in psychological research. Most graduate students are required to conduct empirical research as part of their doctoral dissertations, and if they go on to academic positions, they often continue to do quantitative studies throughout their careers. Training in statistics is important because statistical number crunching techniques are the way we determine whether our results mean anything or not. Most of my graduate school cohort hated anything that looked like math, but—to my surprise—I discovered that I liked statistics courses. I took more of them than were required, and my relatively strong background in stats was an important factor in landing an academic position. (Let that be a lesson to any psychology students who might be reading this.) In graduate school, I coached my math-phobic friends on how to enter data into the computer and analyze it, and in my academic life, I did the same with students and colleagues.

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Skeptical Inquirer
September October 2017
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