Even a genius has to work hard

23 Nov, 2018 at 17:39 | Posted in Education & School | 1 Comment

Several years later I developed a broader theory of what separates the two general classes of learners—helpless versus mastery-oriented. I realized that these different types of students not only explain their failures differently, but they also hold different “theories” of intelligence. The helpless ones believe that intelligence is a fixed trait: you have only a certain amount, and that’s that. I call this a “fixed mind-set.” Mistakes crack their self-confidence because they attribute errors to a lack of ability, which they feel powerless to change. They avoid challenges because challenges make mistakes more likely and looking smart less so … Such children shun effort in the belief that having to work hard means they are dumb.

Your-Inner-GeniusThe mastery-oriented children, on the other hand, think intelligence is malleable and can be developed through education and hard work. They want to learn above all else. After all, if you believe that you can expand your intellectual skills, you want to do just that …

We validated these expectations in a study published in early 2007 … As we had predicted, the students with a growth mind-set felt that learning was a more important goal in school than getting good grades. In addition, they held hard work in high regard, believing that the more you labored at something, the better you would become at it. They understood that even geniuses have to work hard for their great accomplishments. Confronted by a setback such as a disappointing test grade, students with a growth mind-set said they would study harder or try a different strategy for mastering the material.

The students who held a fixed mind-set, however, were concerned about looking smart with less regard for learning. They had negative views of effort, believing that having to work hard at something was a sign of low ability …

EinstinePeople may well differ in intelligence, talent and ability. And yet research is converging on the conclusion that great accomplishment, and even what we call genius, is typically the result of years of passion and dedication and not something that flows naturally from a gift. Mozart, Edison, Curie, Darwin and Cézanne were not simply born with talent; they cultivated it through tremendous and sustained effort. Similarly, hard work and discipline contribute more to school achievement than IQ does.

Carol S. Dweck

Extremely important and far-reaching research indeed.

Being diagnosed as​ a ‘gifted child’ sure is a confidence boost. But it’s not always the blessing people so often assume. It can also blind you to the fact that even if you’re smart, there are other people who are also smart. People you can learn from. Learning that makes brain neurons grow new connections. For some of us that insight — unfortunately — comes late in life.

Hannah Arendt im Gespräch

23 Nov, 2018 at 13:19 | Posted in Politics & Society | Comments Off on Hannah Arendt im Gespräch


Ten theory of science books that should be on every economist’s reading​ list

22 Nov, 2018 at 17:28 | Posted in Theory of Science & Methodology | Comments Off on Ten theory of science books that should be on every economist’s reading​ list


• Archer, Margaret (1995). Realist social theory: the morphogenetic approach. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

• Bhaskar, Roy (1978). A realist theory of science. Hassocks: Harvester

• Cartwright, Nancy (2007). Hunting causes and using them. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

• Chalmers, Alan  (2013). What is this thing called science?. 4th. ed. Buckingham: Open University Press

• Garfinkel, Alan (1981). Forms of explanation: rethinking the questions in social theory. New Haven: Yale U.P.

• Harré, Rom (1960). An introduction to the logic of the sciences. London: Macmillan

• Lawson, Tony (1997). Economics and reality. London: Routledge

• Lieberson, Stanley (1987). Making it count: the improvement of social research and theory. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press

• Lipton, Peter (2004). Inference to the best explanation. 2. ed. London: Routledge

• Miller, Richard (1987). Fact and method: explanation, confirmation and reality in the natural and the social sciences. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton Univ. Press

Superficial ‘precision’

22 Nov, 2018 at 17:12 | Posted in Theory of Science & Methodology | Comments Off on Superficial ‘precision’

lieberOne problem among social researchers is the tendency to view specificity and concreteness as equal to Science and Rigorous Thinking … But this ‘precision’ is often achieved only by analyzing​ surface causes because some of them are readily measured and operationalized. This​ is hardly sufficient reason for turning away from broad generalizations and causal principles.

Existentiell mystik (personal)

22 Nov, 2018 at 15:14 | Posted in Varia | 1 Comment

När jag ser de sista skälvande solstrålarna kasta sitt förföriska ljus och lysa upp mitt hem tycker jag mig ana det rofyllda gulaktiga nordiska skymningsljusets förmåga att försänka oss i en vag och obestämt transcendental känsla av existentiell mystik …

Krugman on math and economics

22 Nov, 2018 at 00:26 | Posted in Economics | 3 Comments

Yours truly have no problem with Krugman’s views on the use of math in this video in his recent tweet. I have said similar things myself for decades.

But there is a BUT here …

At other times Krugman — although admitting that economists have a tendency to use ”excessive math” and “equate hard math with quality” — has however vehemently defended the mathematization of economics:

I’ve seen quite a lot of what economics without math and models looks like — and it’s not good.

And when it comes to modeling philosophy, Krugman has more than once defended a ‘the model is the message’ position (my italics):

I don’t mean that setting up and working out microfounded models is a waste of time. On the contrary, trying to embed your ideas in a microfounded model can be a very useful exercise — not because the microfounded model is right, or even better than an ad hoc model, but because it forces you to think harder about your assumptions, and sometimes leads to clearer thinking. In fact, I’ve had that experience several times.

For years Krugman has in more than one article criticized mainstream economics for using too much (bad) mathematics and axiomatics in their model-building endeavours. But when it comes to defending his own position on various issues he usually himself ultimately falls back on the same kind of models. In his End This Depression Now — just to take one example — Krugman maintains that although he doesn’t buy “the assumptions about rationality and markets that are embodied in many modern theoretical models, my own included,” he still find them useful “as a way of thinking through some issues carefully.” When it comes to methodology and assumptions, Krugman obviously has a lot in common with the kind of model-building he otherwise — sometimes — criticizes.

My advice to Krugman: stick with Marshall and ‘burn the math’!

Die erschöpfte Gesellschaft

21 Nov, 2018 at 23:34 | Posted in Politics & Society | Comments Off on Die erschöpfte Gesellschaft


P-values are no substitute for thinking

21 Nov, 2018 at 22:18 | Posted in Statistics & Econometrics | Comments Off on P-values are no substitute for thinking


A non-trivial part of statistics education is made up of teaching students to perform significance testing. A problem I have noticed repeatedly over the years, however, is that no matter how careful you try to be in explicating what the probabilities generated by these statistical tests really are, still most students misinterpret them.

This is not to blame on students’ ignorance, but rather on significance testing not being particularly transparent (conditional probability inference is difficult even to those of us who teach and practice it). A lot of researchers fall prey​ to the same mistakes.

If anything, the above video underlines how important it is not to equate science with statistical calculation. All science entail human judgement, and using statistical models doesn’t relieve us of that necessity. Working with misspecified models, the scientific value of significance testing is actually zero —  even though you’re making valid statistical inferences! Statistical models and concomitant significance tests are no substitutes for doing real science.

In its standard form, a significance test is not the kind of ‘severe test’ that we are looking for in our search for being able to confirm or disconfirm empirical scientific hypotheses. This is problematic for many reasons, one being that there is a strong tendency to accept the null hypothesis since they can’t be rejected at the standard 5% significance level. In their standard form, significance tests bias against new hypotheses by making it hard to disconfirm the null hypothesis.

And as shown over and over again when it is applied, people have a tendency to read “not disconfirmed” as “probably confirmed.” Standard scientific methodology tells us that when there is only say a 10 % probability that pure sampling error could account for the observed difference between the data and the null hypothesis, it would be more “reasonable” to conclude that we have a case of disconfirmation. Especially if we perform many independent tests of our hypothesis and they all give ​the same 10% result as our reported one, I guess most researchers would count the hypothesis as even more disconfirmed.

Most importantly — we should never forget that the underlying parameters we use when performing significance tests are model constructions. Our p-values mean next to nothing if the model is wrong. Statistical​ significance tests DO NOT validate models!

statistical-models-theory-and-practice-2-e-original-imaeahk3hfzrmxz9In journal articles a typical regression equation will have an intercept and several explanatory variables. The regression output will usually include an F-test, with p-1 degrees of freedom in the numerator and n-p in the denominator. The null hypothesis will not be stated. The missing null hypothesis is that all the coefficients vanish, except the intercept.

If F is significant, that is often thought to validate the model. Mistake. The F-test takes the model as given. Significance only means this: if the model is right and the coefficients are 0, it is very unlikely to get such a big F-statistic. Logically, there are three possibilities on the table:
i) An unlikely event occurred.
ii) Or the model is right and some of the coefficients differ from 0.
iii) Or the model is wrong.

Why Minsky matters

21 Nov, 2018 at 14:04 | Posted in Economics | Comments Off on Why Minsky matters

skmbt_c45213091916091Listen to BBC 4 where Duncan Weldon tries to explain in what way Hyman Minsky’s thoughts on banking and finance offer a radical challenge to mainstream economic theory.

As a young research stipendiate in the U.S. yours truly had the great pleasure and privelege of having Hyman Minsky as teacher. He was a great inspiration at the time. He still is.

Gender pay gap and transparency

20 Nov, 2018 at 12:42 | Posted in Economics | Comments Off on Gender pay gap and transparency

GENDEREs wird oft vermutet, dass mehr Transparenz hier Abhilfe schaffen könnte: Wenn alle wüssten, was alle verdienen – dann wären diese Unterschiede nicht länger haltbar. Die zu kurz Gekommenen würden protestieren, mehr fordern und so für mehr Gleichheit und Gerechtigkeit sorgen. Seit dem 6. Januar dieses Jahres haben Beschäftigte ein Recht darauf zu erfahren, wie viel Kollegen beziehungsweise Kolleginnen des jeweils anderen Geschlechts verdienen. (Vorausgesetzt, der Betrieb hat mindestens 200 Angestellte und es gibt sechs oder mehr Personen, die einen gleichwertigen Job ausüben.) Dieses Lohntransparenzgesetz soll dafür sorgen, dass Gehaltsunterschiede zwischen Männern und Frauen schrumpfen.

Ganz so einfach scheint es allerdings nicht zu sein. In zwei Studien ist die Betriebswirtschaftsprofessorin Zoe Cullen von der Universität Harvard jetzt zu dem Ergebnis gekommen, dass mehr Einkommenstransparenz nicht automatisch hilft. Nicht nur, dass sie keineswegs zu einer Angleichung der Gehälter führt. Sie hatte sogar in der Gesamtheit niedrigere Löhne zur Folge, und zwar in einem erheblichen Ausmaß von sieben bis 25 Prozent.

Wie kann das sein? Der Hauptgrund dafür ist, dass es bei transparenten Verhältnissen weniger Ausreißer nach oben gibt: Wenn niemand weiß, wer wie viel verdient, zögern Arbeitgeber nicht lange, um Mitarbeitern, die sie unbedingt halten möchten, mehr zu zahlen als anderen. Würde das jedoch allgemein bekannt werden, könnte das zu Unmut in der Belegschaft führen. Also verzichten die Unternehmen auf die besonders hohen Gehälter. Dieser Effekt macht offenbar eventuelle Lohnsteigerungen zur Angleichung von Gehältern mehr als wett.

Die Zeit

Johan Asplund

19 Nov, 2018 at 23:22 | Posted in Politics & Society | Comments Off on Johan Asplund

En av Sveriges främsta och mest uppslagsrika sociologer — Johan Asplund (1937-2018) har gått ur tiden.

När yours truly som ung student på 1970-talet läste några betyg i sociologi, var en av mina stora inspirationskällor Johan Asplunds underbara lilla klassiker Om mättnadsprocesser (Argos 1967).

Jag tror den känsla många av oss har inför samhällsutvecklingens “kvalitetsförbättringar” är inte så lite av “rulla ut röda mattan och rulla in den bakom oss.” Asplunds funderingar kring mättnadsprocesser ger också ett intressant perspektiv:

Så länge ett mode är fräscht, hävdar man sig på det hela taget bäst genom att ansluta sig till det. Först när det undergått en mättnadsprocess lönar det sig att träda fram med ett nytt program … Beatles förlorade i vissa grupper sin popularitet på just det sätt som all härlighet i regel förgår: genom mättnadsprocesser … [F]orskarleda är samma fenomen som mättnadsprocesser – hos råttor … [D]en extremt specialiserade vetenskapsmannen har endast en verksamhetsform, och mättnadsprocessen bör sålunda bli snabb. Han har också försatt sig i en situation, där han inte kan alternera sitt beteende … Ett samhälle utan mättnadsprocesser vore ett öde land, stelnat i en evig förnöjelse med sakernas nuvarande tillstånd. Det vore ett tusenårsrike.

Inte minst lärde mig Asplund hur nödvändig tidsdimensionen borde vara i ekonomisk teori, en lärdom jag tog med mig som ekonom och ekonomihistoriker. Det finns inga tidsoberoende preferenser.

On health and inequality

19 Nov, 2018 at 16:26 | Posted in Economics, Politics & Society | Comments Off on On health and inequality


Mainstream economics and the We-Have-To-Do-Something fallacy

17 Nov, 2018 at 15:49 | Posted in Economics | 5 Comments

mirowski_200_170_s_c1Twenty-five years ago Phil Mirowski was invited to give a speech on themes from his book More Heat than Light at my old economics department in Lund, Sweden. All the mainstream professors were there. Their theories were totally mangled and no one — absolutely no one — had anything to say even remotely reminiscent of a defence. Being at a nonplus, one of them, in total desperation, finally asked: “But what shall we do then?”

Yes indeed — what shall they do? Because, sure, they have to do something. Or?

briggsNot all fallacies are what they seem … To avoid fallacy, we always must take the information or evidence supplied as given and concrete, as sacrosanct, even, just as we do in any mathematical problem … Perhaps the worst fallacy is the We-Have-To-Do-Something fallacy. Interest centers around some proposition Y, about which little is known. The suggestion will arise that some inferior, or itself fallacious, method be used to judge Y because action on Y must take place. The inferiority of fallaciousness of the method used to judge Y will then be forgotten. You may think that is rare. It isn’t.

Blacklisted economics professor found dead

17 Nov, 2018 at 14:13 | Posted in Economics | 3 Comments

dumstrutProfessor Outis Philalithopoulos was found dead in his home three days ago; the coroner’s report cited natural causes that were left unspecified. Unfortunately, all of the professor’s academic work has disappeared; the only trace left appears to be the following letter, which he sent to an admirer shortly before his death. The understandably concerned recipient of the letter has shared its contents with Naked Capitalism, and has insisted that her identity be protected.

Dear * * *,

Reading your generous letter was an unexpectedly encouraging experience. I rarely feel that others truly understand the purport of my theories, but when I see a high school student such as yourself navigate her way through the vilifications that surrounds my work, it makes me want to redouble my efforts to explain my ideas to a larger audience.

How did you become the most courageous economics professor of our time?
Really, you are far too kind. I never thought of myself as anyone out of the ordinary while working as a young PhD on technical questions in Public Choice theory. As you probably know, Public Choice is the pathbreaking theory that demystified the decisions of politicians, showing that they act rationally in order to maximize their own economic benefits.

Soon after receiving tenure, it occurred to me that we were being profoundly inconsistent. While we had correctly criticized the previous mainstream view that politics involved benevolent efforts to serve the common good, we had failed to apply the same rigor to the community of academic economists. As a result, we were modeling both economic and political actors as self-interested utility-maximizing agents, while continuing to see economics professors as idealistic pursuers of truth. I decided to correct this oversight by developing my theory of Academic Choice, in which economists are theorized as rational agents who continually seek to maximize their future earnings potential.

The way I would describe Academic Choice theory is that it is “the sociology of economists, without romance.” Is this right? What an insightful comment. As you say, Academic Choice theory is a descriptive project, with no normative orientation. We apply a critical approach in order to counterbalance pervasive earlier notions of economists as scientific heroes struggling against popular ignorance in order to serve the common good …

Isn’t it offensive to assume that economists, for motives of personal gain, shade their theoretical allegiances in the directions preferred by powerful interest groups? How could it ever be offensive to assume that a person acts rationally in pursuit of maximizing his or her own utility? I’m afraid I don’t understand this question.

Is there a “behavioral” version of Academic Choice theory, in which the basic premises are enriched by the possibility that economists sometimes act irrationally? Great question. One of my students developed just such a theory – he postulated that economists sometimes do act benevolently, but they have access to limited information and are subject to cognitive biases …

However, while his dissertation was unquestionably a valuable contribution to the literature, I am personally convinced that the original Academic Choice theory is more empirically realistic. Studies have shown that many people do act irrationally, but not economists …

Yves Smith/Naked Capitalism

Was heißt es in einem reichen Land arm zu sein?

17 Nov, 2018 at 13:46 | Posted in Politics & Society | Comments Off on Was heißt es in einem reichen Land arm zu sein?

armut #Unten illustriert, was die versammelte deutsche Bildungsforschung seit Jahren stets aufs Neue nachgewiesen hat. Die Herkunft bestimmt, insbesondere in Deutschland, den Lebensweg, wer unten geboren wird, der bleibt in der Regel dort. Der soziale Aufstieg wird zum unerreichbaren Ziel. Doch sind es in den sozialen Netzwerken vor allem die Aufsteiger, die unter dem Hashtag von ihren Erfahrungen berichten. Jene, die sich auszudrücken wissen, nicht selten akademisch gebildet, die also die Ausnahme sind und nicht die Regel. Gerade gegen sie richtet sich nun die Kritik. “Was wollt ihr denn eigentlich?”, heißt es dann. “Ihr habt es doch geschafft. Stellt euch nicht so an.”

Dabei ist es gerade bemerkenswert, dass nun die Aufsteiger ihre Erfahrungen öffentlich zum Thema machen. Schließlich sagte man ihnen stets nach, sich nach dem Aufstieg schleunigst von ihrer Herkunft distanziert zu haben. Sie trainierten sich den Dialekt ab und sprachen wenig über ihre Kindheit. Bei #unten weicht diese “Herkunftsscham” (Didier Eribon) nun einem selbstbewussten Sprechen über die Erfahrungen von Abwertung und Diskriminierung. Und wo die Demütigen zu Anklägern werden, da beginnt die Emanzipation.

Robert Pausch/Die Zeit

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