R as a cure for ‘mindless statistics’?

August 5, 2011
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(This article was first published on Expansed » R, and kindly contributed to R-bloggers)

Several years ago Gerd Gigerenzer wrote:

“Statistical rituals largely eliminate statistical thinking in the social sciences. Rituals are indispensable for identification with social groups, but they should be the subject rather than the procedure of science. Statistical rituals largely eliminate statistical thinking in the social sciences. Rituals are indispensable for identification with social groups, but they should be the subject rather than the procedure of
science.” (Gigerenzer, 2004, p. 587)

He pointed out that psychology is largely relying on the “null ritual” describing the standard procedure or research in this field as”

“(1) set up a statistical null hypothesis, but do not specify your own hypothesis nor any alternative hypothesis,(2) use the 5% significance level for rejecting the null and accepting your hypothesis, and (3) always perform this procedure” (Gigerenzer, 2004, p. 587)

Did anything change since then? I feel that this kind of a ritual to large extent is an effect of relying on  software which is used to analyse experimental data. SPSS, for example, allows users to rely on a few canned functions which are regarded as “standard” without thinking about statistical concepts that underlie them.

Do you think that R can be a cure for “mindless statistics”?

For other reasons to learn R see here, here and here.

You may also want to watch this video:

References:
Gigerenzer, G. (2004). Mindless statistics. Journal of Socio-Economics, 33(5), 587–606.

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