Mind Hacks uncovers a pre-print (PDF) by Vul, Harris, Winkielman, and Pashler entitled "Voodoo Correlations in Social Neuroscience". It's a "bombshell of a paper" that questions the implausibly high correlations observed in some fMRI studies in the field of Social Neuroscience. Vul et al. surveyed the authors of 54 papers to determine the analytic methods used. All but three of the authors responded to the survey, and 54% admitted to using faulty methods to obtain their results:
More than half acknowledged using a strategy that computes separate correlations for individual voxels, and reports means of just the subset of voxels exceeding chosen thresholds. We show how this non-independent analysis grossly inflates correlations, while yielding reassuring-looking scattergrams. This analysis technique was used to obtain the vast majority of the implausibly high correlations in our survey sample. In addition, we argue that other analysis problems likely created entirely spurious correlations in some cases.A few of The Neurocritic's targets were on the hit list, so stay tuned.... there's more to come in 2009.
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