I don’t want to learn R! SPSS is fine! (responses)

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I frequently find myself thinking of the best way to convince an SPSS user to make the switch to R. In the process, I came up with the three following most common objections by SPSS users and my responses.


Objection #1) I can’t use R because I don’t know how to program

Response: Of course you don’t, you haven’t learned yet. That’s like saying you can’t take a German class because you don’t know German (yes, I see the irony).

Objection #2) It will take too long for me to learn

Response: Want to do a t-test in R? – type t.test(x, y). Want to do linear regression? – type lm(y~x). Bayesian t-test? – type BESTmcmc(x,y). Create a scatterplot? – type plot(x,y). Congratulations! In 20 seconds you just learned in R what took you hours, if not days to learn in SPSS! Or imagine you had a friend with an alternative version of Microsoft Word where, instead of typing words letter by letter via the keyboard, she used her mouse to select each and every word she wanted via a series of confusing menus. What if she told you that it would take her too long to learn how to use a keyboard?

Objection #3) We have to teach students SPSS – they either won’t be able to learn R or they won’t want to

Response: I heard this objection from a psychology department head – but what I really think he meant was “I don’t want to learn R!” Trust me, students will thank you later for teaching them how to use software that saves them an incredible amount of time and money. Plus, which of these instructions is easier to follow:

  • “To do a t-test, click the button X on the upper part of the screen, then click X. Scroll down and put X in the left column and X in the right column. Make sure to check the box X. If you need more help, here are a few pages of screenshots from a previous version of SPSS with different menus that will confuse the hell out of you.”
  • “To do a t-test, type – t.test(x,y)”

Objection #4) If we stop paying for the SPSS license we’ll have extra money left over that we won’t know what to do with.

Response: Buy me the new iPhone.


And now to reduce cognitive dissonance, I’ll definitely have to switch from Word to Latex…

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