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05 Dec 00:52

I met someone and they make me happy

by Geoffrey K. Pullum

When the delightfully cute UK Olympic diving star Tom Daley decided to come out as bisexual, he made a statement (see this news report) with a charmingly clever use of singular they:

"In spring this year my life changed massively when I met someone, and they make me feel so happy, so safe and everything just feels great," Daley said. "That someone is a guy."

His use of "they" for the first reference to his new romantic interest has "someone" as its antecedent, and rather than being a bound variable semantically (as in Everyone should look after their own gear), it's just a free pronoun meaning "he or she, as the context may dictate". He could have used he, as typical conservative usage advice books would have insisted. Except that it would have utterly ruined his rhetorical design.

That design (as pointed out by Ben Zimmer) was that he wanted the "big reveal" about dating a male to come at the end of the of the two-sentence paragraph, rather than be revealed by a pronoun choice early on.

His intuition was perfect: given modern usage (as exemplified here and here, for example), this was just the way to present his news.

P.S. Naturally, Daley's charming and praiseworthy openness about his love life prompted hundreds of fat, ugly, bitter, twisted, repressed, inadequate people to attack him in abusive fag-hating tweets. Thank you, homophobes everywhere, for continuing to come up with brand new ways to persuade me that my policy of not opening comments is a winner! Please use Twitter for your attacks; Language Log chooses not to be available to you right now.

04 Dec 10:29

In Australia, what may be a 'new' indigenous language has been recorded

by Xeni Jardin
US-based Australian linguist Carmel O'Shannessy has documented what she believes are "the beginnings of what's been described as the world's newest known spoken language." Light Walpiri is described as a blend of one small indigenous Australian town's traditional Aboriginal language, Warlpiri, plus English and a form of Aboriginal English known as Kriol. Read more about Light Walpiri, and O'Shannessy's work, at the professor's academic website. And below, videos of an Aboriginal child reading a monster story in Walpiri, and in Light Walpiri. []


04 Dec 10:27

annfriedman: golis: America is drowning in the opinions of old...

by joberholtzer



America is drowning in the opinions of old dudes.

(via Gawker)

There’s more than one reason why it’s called “old media.”

02 Dec 11:25

Why Competing For Tenure Is Like Trying To Become a Drug Lord

by samzenpus

Já entrei com o meu pedido de seguro-desemprego (aka submissão de projeto de pós-doc)

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Scott Jaschik writes in Inside Higher Education that the academic job market is structured in many respects like a drug gang, with an expanding mass of outsiders and a shrinking core of insiders and with income distribution within gangs extremely skewed in favor of those at the top, while the rank-and-file street sellers earned even less than employees in legitimate low-skilled activities. According to Alexandre Afonso, academic systems rely at least to some extent on the existence of a supply of 'outsiders' ready to forgo wages and employment security in exchange for the prospect of prestige, freedom and reasonably high salaries that tenured positions entail. 'What you have is an increasing number of brilliant PhD graduates arriving every year into the market hoping to secure a permanent position as a professor and enjoying freedom and high salaries, a bit like the rank-and-file drug dealer hoping to become a drug lord,' says Afonso. 'To achieve that, they are ready to forgo the income and security that they could have in other areas of employment by accepting insecure working conditions in the hope of securing jobs that are not expanding at the same rate.' The Chronicle of Higher Education recently reported on adjunct lecturers who rely on food stamps to make ends meet. Afonso adds that he is not trying to discourage everyone from pursuing Ph.D.s but that prospective graduate students need to go in with a full awareness of the job market."
02 Dec 11:20

neuromorphogenesis: Your brain sees things you don’t A doctoral...

by joberholtzer


Your brain sees things you don’t

A doctoral candidate in the UA’s Department of Psychology in the College of Science, Sanguinetti showed study participants a series of black silhouettes, some of which contained meaningful, real-world objects hidden in the white spaces on the outsides. Saguinetti worked with his adviser Mary Peterson, a professor of psychology and director of the UA’s Cognitive Science Program, and with John Allen, a UA Distinguished Professor of psychology, cognitive science and neuroscience, to monitor subjects’ brainwaves with an electroencephalogram, or EEG, while they viewed the objects.

"We were asking the question of whether the brain was processing the meaning of the objects that are on the outside of these silhouettes," Sanguinetti said. "The specific question was, ‘Does the brain process those hidden shapes to the level of meaning, even when the subject doesn’t consciously see them?"

The answer, Sanguinetti’s data indicates, is yes.

Study participants’ brainwaves indicated that even if a person never consciously recognized the shapes on the outside of the image, their brains still processed those shapes to the level of understanding their meaning.

"There’s a brain signature for meaningful processing," Sanguinetti said. A peak in the averaged brainwaves called N400 indicates that the brain has recognized an object and associated it with a particular meaning.

"It happens about 400 milliseconds after the image is shown, less than a half a second," said Peterson. "As one looks at brainwaves, they’re undulating above a baseline axis and below that axis. The negative ones below the axis are called N and positive ones above the axis are called P, so N400 means it’s a negative waveform that happens approximately 400 milliseconds after the image is shown."

The presence of the N400 peak indicates that subjects’ brains recognize the meaning of the shapes on the outside of the figure.

"The participants in our experiments don’t see those shapes on the outside; nonetheless, the brain signature tells us that they have processed the meaning of those shapes," said Peterson. "But the brain rejects them as interpretations, and if it rejects the shapes from conscious perception, then you won’t have any awareness of them."

"We also have novel silhouettes as experimental controls," Sanguinetti said. "These are novel black shapes in the middle and nothing meaningful on the outside."

The N400 waveform does not appear on the EEG of subjects when they are seeing truly novel silhouettes, without images of any real-world objects, indicating that the brain does not recognize a meaningful object in the image.

"This is huge," Peterson said. "We have neural evidence that the brain is processing the shape and its meaning of the hidden images in the silhouettes we showed to participants in our study."

The finding leads to the question of why the brain would process the meaning of a shape when a person is ultimately not going to perceive it, Sanguinetti said.

"The traditional opinion in vision research is that this would be wasteful in terms of resources," he explained. "If you’re not going to ultimately see the object on the outside why would the brain waste all these processing resources and process that image up to the level of meaning?"

"Many, many theorists assume that because it takes a lot of energy for brain processing, that the brain is only going to spend time processing what you’re ultimately going to perceive," added Peterson. "But in fact the brain is deciding what you’re going to perceive, and it’s processing all of the information and then it’s determining what’s the best interpretation."

"This is a window into what the brain is doing all the time," Peterson said. "It’s always sifting through a variety of possibilities and finding the best interpretation for what’s out there. And the best interpretation may vary with the situation."

Our brains may have evolved to sift through the barrage of visual input in our eyes and identify those things that are most important for us to consciously perceive, such as a threat or resources such as food, Peterson suggested.

In the future, Peterson and Sanguinetti plan to look for the specific regions in the brain where the processing of meaning occurs.

"We’re trying to look at exactly what brain regions are involved," said Peterson. "The EEG tells us this processing is happening and it tells us when it’s happening, but it doesn’t tell us where it’s occurring in the brain."

"We want to look inside the brain to understand where and how this meaning is processed," said Peterson.

Images were shown to Sanguinetti’s study participants for only 170 milliseconds, yet their brains were able to complete the complex processes necessary to interpret the meaning of the hidden objects.

"There are a lot of processes that happen in the brain to help us interpret all the complexity that hits our eyeballs," Sanguinetti said. "The brain is able to process and interpret this information very quickly."

Sanguinetti’s study indicates that in our everyday life, as we walk down the street, for example, our brains may recognize many meaningful objects in the visual scene, but ultimately we are aware of only a handful of those objects. The brain is working to provide us with the best, most useful possible interpretation of the visual world, Sanguinetti said, an interpretation that does not necessarily include all the information in the visual input.

30 Nov 18:25

Read Rejection Letters Sent to Three Famous Artists: Sylvia Plath, Kurt Vonnegut & Andy Warhol

by Josh Jones

Ajudei a organizar uma palestra ano passado e chamamos uns pica grossa da área. Gente que publicou uns artigos há dez anos que mudaram substancialmente o tipo de pesquisa que se faz hoje em psicolinguística.

Uma das convidadas, talvez a speaker mais importante, começou a sessão dela apresentando os pareceres de rejeição que ela recebeu qdo tentou publicar um dos artigos mais importantes da carreira dela. Todo mundo ali se sentiu meio aliviado.


Every successful artist must master the art of accepting rejection. “Fail better,” said Beckett in his grim euphemism for perseverance. “I love my rejection slips,” wrote Sylvia Plath in every hopeful poet’s favorite quote. “They show me I try.” Plath—who also wrote “I am made, crudely, for success”—collected scores of rejection letters, receiving them even after the considerable success of 1960’s The Colossus and Other Poems. The 1962 letter above (click here to view in a larger format), from The New Yorker, doesn’t exactly reject a Plath submission, but it does recommend cutting the entire first section of “Amnesiac” and resubmitting “the second section alone under that title.” “Perhaps we’re being dense,” demurs editor Howard Moss.

The rejection must have been all the more painful since Plath was under a contract with the magazine, which entitled her to “an annual sum for the privilege of having a ‘first reading’ plus subsequent publishing rights to her new poetry,” Plath scholars tell us. And yet “much to her distress she mainly received rejections during November and December 1962.” The poem was eventually broken in two, with the first half published as “Lyonnesse,” but not by Plath herself but by publishers after her death. Hear Plath read the full poem as she intended it in her edition of Ariel, above.


Kurt Vonnegut received an impersonal, and it would seem, long-overdue rejection letter from editor of The Atlantic Edward Weeks in 1949. Weeks writes breezily that he found Vonnegut’s “samples” during the “usual summer house-cleaning,” announcing its slush-pile status. Weeks does at least give the impression that someone, if not him, had read Vonnegut’s submissions. The aspiring writer was 27 years old, striking out “just a few years after surviving the bombing of Dresden as a POW,” Letters of Note informs us, and still twenty years away from publishing his groundbreaking novel Slaughterhouse Five. Letters of Note also provides us with the transcript below for the badly faded typescript.

The Atlantic Monthly

August 29, 1949

Dear Mr. Vonnegut:

We have been carrying out our usual summer house-cleaning of the manuscripts on our anxious bench and in the file, and among them I find the three papers which you have shown me as samples of your work. I am sincerely sorry that no one of them seems to us well adapted to for our purpose. Both the account of the bombing of Dresden and your article, “What’s a Fair Price for Golden Eggs?” have drawn commendation although neither one is quite compelling enough for final acceptance.

Our staff continues fully manned so I cannot hold out the hope of an editorial assignment, but I shall be glad to know that you have found a promising opening elsewhere.

Faithfully yours,

(Signed, ‘Edward Weeks’)


Of course visual artists are not immune. Andy Warhol received the above rejection letter from New York’s Museum of Modern Art when he attempted to donate a drawing in 1956. To its later chagrin, the museum wouldn’t let him give his work away:

Last week our Committee on the Museum Collections held its first meeting of the fall season and had a chance to study your drawing entitled Shoe which you so generously offered as a gift to the Museum.

I regret that I must report to you that the Committee decided, after careful consideration, that they ought not to accept it for our Collection.

The Warhol rejection circulated a few years ago after the MoMA tweeted Letters of Note’s post on it (read the full transcript there). Its most galling feature: a postscript that reads, with dismissive courtesy, “The drawing may be picked up from the museum at your convenience.”

Related Content:

Gertrude Stein Gets a Snarky Rejection Letter from Publisher (1912)

No Women Need Apply: A Disheartening 1938 Rejection Letter from Disney Animation

New Yorker Cartoon Editor Bob Mankoff Reveals the Secret of a Successful New Yorker Cartoon

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Read Rejection Letters Sent to Three Famous Artists: Sylvia Plath, Kurt Vonnegut & Andy Warhol is a post from: Open Culture. You can follow Open Culture on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and by Email.

26 Nov 16:40

Aggressive periods and the popularity of linguistics

by Mark Liberman

Ben Crair, "The Period Is Pissed: When did our plainest punctuation mark become so aggressive?", TNR 11/25/2013:

The period was always the humblest of punctuation marks. Recently, however, it’s started getting angry. I’ve noticed it in my text messages and online chats, where people use the period not simply to conclude a sentence, but to announce “I am not happy about the sentence I just concluded.” [...]

This is an unlikely heel turn in linguistics. In most written language, the period is a neutral way to mark a pause or complete a thought; but digital communications are turning it into something more aggressive. “Not long ago, my 17-year-old son noted that many of my texts to him seemed excessively assertive or even harsh, because I routinely used a period at the end,” Mark Liberman, a professor of linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania, told me by email. How and why did the period get so pissed off? [...]

“In the world of texting and IMing … the default is to end just by stopping, with no punctuation mark at all,” Liberman wrote me. “In that situation, choosing to add a period also adds meaning because the reader(s) need to figure out why you did it. And what they infer, plausibly enough, is something like ‘This is final, this is the end of the discussion or at least the end of what I have to contribute to it.’”

For me, the most interesting thing about this article is the comments section. And I don't mean the occasional displays of entertainingly clueless bile:

No. This is not even remotely true. At least, it shouldn't be. People should spelled properly, punctuate properly, use proper grammar, no matter the medium. Not to mention that people should say what they mean, and mean what they say.

A period does not indicate tone or emphasis. A period indicates the end of a sentence.

This below is the proper way to use punctuation, as well as the proper way to express oneself:

Ben Crair, you are an idiot.

Nor do I mean the occasional flashes of insight, or even the reference to an insightful discussion of the same phenomenon from 2009:

Love this article because it TOTALLY VINDICATES ME!  My friends and family have thought I was crazy for years now, but I knew I was right!  I wrote this back in 2009 after years of voicing my opinion ( about adding a period)!

I mean the sheer number of comments. Compare this article to those that preceded and followed it in TNR's Culture section, in chronological order:


A Heartbreaking Contemporary Account of America's Grief for Kennedy 0
Dear FCC, Please Don't Let Me Use My Phone on Airplanes 6
Yes, Japanese People Have Sex. But Do They Have Menopause? 1
Amazing Sculptures of Insects Made from Old Mechanical Parts 0
On Our Cover: Hate-Watching Washington 2
Viral video philosopher Jason Silva: "We're going to cure aging" 2
What Makes Us Human? Doing Pointless Things for Fun 2
What Happens When a Professor Tries To Use Philosophy to Prevent Suicide? 3
Do Readers Give Infographics a Free Pass? 0
Why Didn't an American Make '12 Years a Slave'? 14
Is Paolo Sorrentino Like Fellini? Even Better. 0
The Period is Pissed 125
How San Francisco's Latest Gold Rush Has Transformed the City 4
Meet the Man Who Wrote a 260-Page Biography on His BlackBerry 0
Hollywood's Animal-Cruelty Problem Must Look Familiar to the NFL and U.S. Military 0
The Most Blatant Ways Homeland Gets Washington Wrong 0
America's Least-Favorite City Has Become Television's Favorite Subject 0
What 'Scandal' Gets Right About Washington 0
My Holiday Plea: Stop Complaining About the Holidays 0

I've noted the popularity of peeving several times over the years, e.g. "The social psychology of lingusistic naming and shaming", 2/27/2007; "Angry linguistic mobs with torches", 4/16/2008.

But maybe I should write "the popularity of linguistics", because only about two thirds of the comments are peeves or rebuttals of peeves. Even if we eliminate the peeves and counter-peeves, there are still about three times as many comments as there are for any of the other articles over the past few days.


22 Nov 21:39

Per Capita Healthcare Spending vs Average Life Expectancy

by joberholtzer
20 Nov 04:31

Ainda há muito o que fazer

by Lady's Comics

Claro que ia ter um ANIMAL zoando o Laerte no FIQ.

(e cosplay tem mais é que ser zoado mesmo - sem apelar pro sexismo, claro)

Ontem, depois de termos mostrado no site o quanto curtimos o FIQ e de termos dito o quanto sentimos as coisas estão melhores, vemos essa mensagem no twitter:


No instagram da pessoa havia uma foto da parte intima de uma cosplayer, fazendo uma associação ao formato de sua vagina. Além de outras fotos de meninas com insinuações machistas. Essas garotas estavam sendo assediadas em um evento público e tiveram suas fotos compartilhadas por aí sem saber.

Após a divulgação dessas fotos e das reações contra este ato ridículo, claro que o cara apagou as postagens.

Mas além disso dois fatos já tinham nos incomodado durante o FIQ: O primeiro foi quando colocaram em um mural de divulgação uma capa de um quadrinho, nitidamente machista, que copiava o mesmo esteriótipo feminino produzidos lá fora. Não se contentaram em mostrar isso em um lugar público, colocaram também no banheiro feminino. A reação foi essa:


Foto de Ana Luiza Koehler

- Lembrando que não fomos nós que fizemos este rabisco (apesar de querermos) e que, portanto, não foi apenas a nós que incomodou.

O segundo fato foi quando Laerte chegou ao FIQ e, enquanto passava pelo corredor, um rapaz gritou “Gostoso!” seguido de risadas. Demostrando nitidamente que aquele momento foi de agressão – assim como sofrem muitas mulheres que não acham isso um elogio. Caramba! O evento tinha o próprio Laerte como homenageado, um grande artista e uma pessoa que está na pele lutando contra a discriminação e essas situações aconteceram.

Assim sendo, é preciso lembrar que não estamos aqui pra nada. O Lady’s além de fazer um resgate histórico de quadrinistas mulheres que desenharam no Brasil e no exterior, para a consolidação da memória e reconhecimento delas, também atua divulgado o trabalho de inúmeras mulheres que estão por aí ralando para terem seus trabalhos reconhecidos. O machismo está em toda parte e está também dentro de eventos de quadrinhos. Muitas mulheres que fazem cosplay sofrem com esse tipo de assédio. Nós repudiamos essas atitudes, sobretudo em um evento que nos proporciona tantas coisas boas como o FIQ.

18 Nov 17:53

11/08/13 PHD comic: 'Spousal Ignorance'

Piled Higher & Deeper by Jorge Cham
Click on the title below to read the comic
title: "Spousal Ignorance" - originally published 11/8/2013

Get the new Thesis Fuel Mug, only at the PHD Store

09 Nov 20:05

Bilingualism delays dementia in India, too

by Mark Liberman

Suvarna Alladi et al., "Bilingualism delays age at onset of dementia, independent of education and immigration status", Neurology 2013:

Objectives: The purpose of the study was to determine the association between bilingualism and age at onset of dementia and its subtypes, taking into account potential confounding factors.

Methods: Case records of 648 patients with dementia (391 of them bilingual) diagnosed in a specialist clinic were reviewed. The age at onset of first symptoms was compared between monolingual and bilingual groups. The influence of number of languages spoken, education, occupation, and other potentially interacting variables was examined.

Results: Overall, bilingual patients developed dementia 4.5 years later than the monolingual ones. A significant difference in age at onset was found across Alzheimer disease dementia as well as frontotemporal dementia and vascular dementia, and was also observed in illiterate patients. There was no additional benefit to speaking more than 2 languages. The bilingual effect on age at dementia onset was shown independently of other potential confounding factors such as education, sex, occupation, and urban vs rural dwelling of subjects.

Conclusions: This is the largest study so far documenting a delayed onset of dementia in bilingual patients and the first one to show it separately in different dementia subtypes. It is the first study reporting a bilingual advantage in those who are illiterate, suggesting that education is not a sufficient explanation for the observed difference. The findings are interpreted in the context of the bilingual advantages in attention and executive functions.

The basic finding has been Out There for several years, e.g. Elen Bialystok et al., "Bilingualism, Aging, and Cognitive Control: Evidence From the Simon Task", Psychology and Aging 2004; Ellen Bialystok et al., "Bilingualism as a protection against the onset of symptoms of dementia", Neuropsychologia 2007. Previous LL coverage includes "What bilinguals tell us about mind and brain", 2/19/2011; "The bilingual advantage",  6/1/2011.

This new study is especially important for the reasons explained in this passage:

These questions can be addressed by studying populations in which bilingualism forms part of everyday life of the autochthonous population. Such a situation exists in India, a country characterized by an exceptional linguistic diversity. Several aspects of Indian bilingualism are important in the context of this study. First, bilingualism does not tend to be associated with immigration. Languages are usually acquired simultaneously and used in parallel and language switching is very common. Furthermore, bilingualism in India is contact-based and motivated by socialization processes and is therefore found even among those who are illiterate. Based on this unique social and linguistic setting, we aimed to study the association between bilingualism and age at dementia and its subtypes, taking into account potential confounding factors.

In the subject population for previous studies, bilingualism has been associated with immigration, so that bilinguals and monolinguals generally have different life histories, cultural backgrounds, and even genetics. This raises the concern that effects attributed to bilingualism might actually be the result of a correlated factor, such as childhood diet or whatever.

In the Indian study, bilingualism has quite different (and rather varied) socio-cultural associations:

In Hyderabad, the majority of the population can be considered as bilingual and many speak 3 or even more languages. Telugu is spoken by the majority group who are primarily Hindus, whereas the language of a minority group of Muslims is Dakkhini. English is gradually acquiring more functional roles in education, administration, and media. In addition, Hindi is spoken as the official national language and is taught at school level. Thus, most people in Hyderabad are exposed to Telugu and Dakkhini in informal contexts and Hindi and English in formal contexts. The patterns of language use in Hyderabad have been systematically studied and are well documented.

It's reassuring to see that the apparent delay in symptom onset due to bilingualism is essentially identical to those found in Bialystok et al. 2007:

On comparing bilingual with monolingual cohorts,bilinguals were found to be 4.5 older at the time ofoccurrence of the first symptoms of dementia: 65.6 years in bilinguals as opposed to 61.1 years in monolinguals.




09 Nov 19:19


by Mark Liberman

Mark Dingemanse,  Francisco Torreira, and N.J. Enfield, “Is ‘Huh?’ a universal word? Conversational infrastructure and the convergent evolution of linguistic items", PLOS ONE 2013:

A word like Huh?–used as a repair initiator when, for example, one has not clearly heard what someone just said– is found in roughly the same form and function in spoken languages across the globe. We investigate it in naturally occurring conversations in ten languages and present evidence and arguments for two distinct claims: that Huh? is universal, and that it is a word. In support of the first, we show that the similarities in form and function of this interjection across languages are much greater than expected by chance. In support of the second claim we show that it is a lexical, conventionalised form that has to be learnt, unlike grunts or emotional cries. We discuss possible reasons for the cross-linguistic similarity and propose an account in terms of convergent evolution. Huh? is a universal word not because it is innate but because it is shaped by selective pressures in an interactional environment that all languages share: that of other-initiated repair. Our proposal enhances evolutionary models of language change by suggesting that conversational infrastructure can drive the convergent cultural evolution of linguistic items.

The paper is quite accessible, but there's also a web site ("Is 'Huh?' a universal word?") and a YouTube video:

08 Nov 16:43

O fim da era dos supertécnicos?

by Maurício Gaia

Que este Campeonato Brasileiro é esquisitão, ninguém tem dúvida. Se eu entrasse numas de apostar o toba sobre quem seria o campeão nessa temporada, eu acabaria revivendo involuntariamente a saga do nobre rapaz abaixo, porque NUNCA eu apostaria que o Cruzeiro sequer seria time para disputar vaga na Libertacinha.


(jogar truco bêbado é perigoso, já dizem)

Mas tão impressionante quanto a campanha do time celeste das Minas Gerais , é digno de nota observar o fracasso de times comandados por técnicos de grife. Luxemburgo, maior campeão brasileiro da história, teve que passar no RH do Grêmio e está tendo que rebolar pra evitar que o Guarani das Laranjeiras seja o primeiro time a ser rebaixado no ano seguinte após ser campeão brasileiro. Não está fácil a vida do senhor Vanderlei.

Assim, como o técnico do Fluminense, Tite também está sofrendo críticas de imprensa, torcida, se bobear até da mulher dele, porque a campanha do Corinthians é decepcionante, para se dizer o mínimo.

Aí, resolvi dar uma olhada no aproveitamento dos técnicos – os 10 com melhor aproveitamento são:

Técnico Jogos PTS AP
Marcelo Oliveira 32 68 70,8%
Vágner Mancini 25 49 65,3%
Muricy Ramalho 15 29 64,4%
Jayme Almeida 11 21 63,6%
Renato Gaúcho 27 47 58,0%
Ney Franco 20 34 56,7%
Oswaldo de Oliveira 32 53 55,2%
Enderson Moreira 32 52 54,2%
Cuca 32 48 50,0%
Claudinei 30 43 47,8%


Como se vê, tirando Muricy e Cuca, nenhum deles  são considerados pela galera nomes de “primeira linha”. O técnico do São Paulo ainda poderia figurar em primeiro lugar, se não fossem os dois primeiros jogos enquanto treinador do Santos (descartando estas partidas, seu aproveitamento por pontos seria superior ao de Marcelo Oliveira).

O ponto é simples: em algum ponto, a partir da década de 90, o Brasil viu o surgimento dos supertécnicos: caras acima de todos os mortais, que tinham como superpoder fazer um bando de jogadores incultos, baladeiros e pouco comprometidos com o futebol jogar o fino da bola. Como grande recompensa, salários nababescos e mais poder. O próprio Luxemburgo é o exemplo mais acabado: técnico, manager, gerente de futebol, todos personificados na mesma pessoa (e projeto). Para coroar este status, até programa de televisão foi criado para estes caras: Supertécnicos, apresentado pelo Milton Neves.

Programa de futebol com pessoal de terno e gravata: não dá.

Programa de futebol com pessoal de terno e gravata: não dá.


Ao Luxa, outros nomes foram se juntando e todos eles com seus salários inflados, atravessaram os anos, às vezes com ótimos resultados, outras tantas com verdadeiras lambanças.

O fato é que, em 2013, os atuais “supertécnicos”: Luxa, Mano Menezes, Dunga, Dorival Jr. (este menos pelos resultados no CV, mais pelo salário que tinha no Flamengo), Tite, todos eles colecionaram resultados, no mínimo, medíocres. A exceção, é Muricy, talvez o mais avesso à badalação de todos eles (será isto coincidência?).

Eu não sei bem o que significa, se isto é apenas uma tendência passageira, mas que eu gostaria que os dirigentes de clubes olhassem com mais atenção a esta tabela e, na hora de contratar seus técnicos, considerem a hipótese de não pagar salário obsceno a um profissional que, no final, não é quem chuta, não é quem defende, não é quem dá carrinho em campo.

07 Nov 20:53


by joberholtzer

20 Oct 19:45

Linguistic change on a short time scale

by Mark Liberman

From Reuben Fischer-Baum, "Six Decades of the Most Popular Names for Girls, State-by-State", Jezebel 10/19/2013:

Someone should take a fuller slice of the historical data and calculate the latent regional affinities that this dataset implies. Or maybe someone has already done that?

19 Oct 16:50

Bad Science

by Mark Liberman

There's an article in the current issue of The Economist that you should read carefully: "Trouble at the lab", 10/19/2013.  If you're a regular reader of Language Log, you'll be familiar with the issues that it raises — lack of replication, inappropriate use of "statistical significance" testing, data dredging, the "file drawer effect", inadequate documentation of experimental methods and data-analysis procedures, failure to publish raw data, the role of ambition and ideology, and so on.

But all the same, I'm going to push back. The problems in science, though serious, are nothing new. And the alternative approaches to understanding and changing the world, including journalism, are much worse. In fact, some of the worst problems in science are the direct result, in my opinion, of the poor quality of science journalism. One of the key reasons that leading scientific journals publish bad papers is that both the authors and the editors are looking for media buzz, and can usually count on the media to oblige.

The article leads with a quote from Daniel Kahneman's open letter on problems with replication in social priming research –"I see a train wreck looming" — and generalizes his apprehension to the scientific enterprise as a whole, especially to the biomedical area.  There's a beautifully clear explanation of John Ioannidis's statistical argument that a large proportion of published research findings are likely to be false, summarized in this graphic (or see this animation):

The article goes on to discuss inadequate "blinding" and the problem of confirmation bias in dataset creation, and the many opportunities that "Big Data" offers for researchers to fool themselves as well as others. There's an excellent discussion of the nature and status of replication in various sciences. And the article omits a few criticisms that cut even deeper, such as the demonstration that replicability is inversely correlated with impact factor.

Hanging over everything else in the article, there's an implicit threat of financial retaliation:

The governments of the OECD, a club of mostly rich countries, spent $59 billion on biomedical research in 2012, nearly double the figure in 2000. One of the justifications for this is that basic-science results provided by governments form the basis for private drug-development work. If companies cannot rely on academic research, that reasoning breaks down. When an official at America’s National Institutes of Health (NIH) reckons, despairingly, that researchers would find it hard to reproduce at least three-quarters of all published biomedical findings, the public part of the process seems to have failed.

But the private-sector part of the biomedical research enterprise suffers from all the same problems as the "public part of the process", perhaps to an even greater extent. And surely the appropriate way to evaluate public funding of research, biomedical and otherwise, is to look at its overall impact on a time scale of decades, not at the quality of individual research reports.

In the biomedical area specifically, $59 billion is  only about 0.1% of the OECD's total 2012 GDP, whereas health care costs are running between 7% and 17% of OECD countires' GDP.  The right question to ask about this research investment is not what proportion of published results can be replicated, but how much solid understanding and effective intervention emerges from the overall process. I'll leave it to others to make this judgment about biomedical research — but I'm confident that the much smaller public investment in areas that I know more about has been repaid many times over.

On the other hand, I agree that the poor quality of much published research is a problem worth trying to fix. My own opinion is that trying to tighten up on pre-publication review will make the problems worse, not better, and that the key to improvement is to focus on the things that happen after publication.

These include (informed) discussion, open examination of (obligatorily published) data and analysis code, attention paid to (non) replication efforts, and so on. All of this happens to some extent now — but it's comparatively starved of resources and attention.  Most published studies now don't publish their experimental materials or or their raw data or the computer scripts that generate their cited numbers and tables and graphs, even when there's no serious impediment to doing so. Many important journals will not publish failures to replicate, apparently as a matter of principle, and give little or no serious attention to serious and expert objections to problematic published papers.

And researchers need to be reminded, early and often, of Feynman's observation that "The first principle is that you must not fool yourself", and of Hamming's warning that you should "beware of finding what you're looking for".

For those readers who would like to prolong their mood of righteous indignation, here's a small sample of previous LL posts on related topics:

"The secret sins of academics", 9/16/2004
"The apotheosis of bad science at the BBC", 5/27/2007
"Listening to Prozac, hearing effect sizes", 3/1/2008
"Winner's curse", 10/15/2008
"The business of newspapers is news", 9/10/2009
"The Happiness Gap is back is back is back is back", 9/20/2009
"We Need More Bad Science Writers", 6/7/2010
"'Vampirical' hypotheses", 4/28/2011
"Why most science news is false", 9/21/2012
"The open access hoax and other failures of peer review",  10/5/2013
"Annals of overgeneralization", 10/8/2013

Or see Geoff Pullum, "The Bad Science Reporting Effect",  The Chronicle of Higher Education 3/15/2012.


18 Oct 23:06

Somos invisíveis?

by Lady's Comics


Em Frankfurt, público reclamou da falta de quadrinistas mulheres. Maurício de Sousa respondeu: “A mulher ainda não tem essa liberdade sem vergonha que homem tem, de trabalhar sem horários, voltar para casa tarde. Tem outras obrigações além do trabalho, tem que cuidar da casa, dos filhos. Quadrinho exige muito tempo de dedicação.” (Fonte: Malaguetas)

Não tem como o site Lady’s Comics não se pronunciar diante da fala de um dos mais renomados quadrinistas do Brasil. Ainda mais quando o tema trata justamente de mulheres e quadrinhos. Muitos compartilharam a notícia, e muitos tentaram entender e justificar o que aconteceu. Alguns dizem que foi piada, outros que a fala não está contextualizada. Descontextualizada ou não as palavras não foram bem escolhidas. Não estamos mais no séc XVIII. Não temos obrigações de cuidar da casa ou dos filhos.

Fica claro cada vez mais que já passou da hora de se discutir a invisibilidade das quadrinistas no Brasil. Sem vitimismo, o fato é: temos muitas quadrinistas produzindo. Temos autoras, roteiristas, coloristas, arte-finalistas e todas as “istas” que envolvem os quadrinhos brasileiros. E elas dão duro (assim como todos da área) para terem seus trabalhos reconhecidos, divulgados e vistos. Ainda assim, insistem em dizer que somos poucas, que não nos  interessamos ou que não somos competentes para isso. Estamos cansadas de sermos ignoradas.

Mas o que será que acontece? Vamos fazer um pequeno exercício de memória já proposto por Aline Valek. Marque um minuto no relógio e tente lembrar mulheres que trabalham com quadrinhos. Podem ser só 10. Marcou? E aí? Lembrou de alguém? Não??? Por que será?

É isso que buscamos descobrir. Sabemos que ainda vivemos em uma sociedade machista e há muita coisa a se fazer. Ainda vamos ouvir que quadrinhos não é coisa de mulher; que a produção delas ainda é muito pequena; que existem poucas leitoras.

Mas preferimos ficar com a fala esperançosa do Laerte:

“Há tantas mulheres com talento quanto homens. O que acontece é que esse campo (humor gráfico, quadrinhos etc.) é mais um dos muitos onde a cultura machista se arvorou a competência exclusiva. Na história humana, até áreas como a cozinha e a costura foram invadidas e colonizadas pela dominação de uma cultura que só admite homens no comando. Até na hora do parto, através da medicalização desse ato. Mas tudo isso está – ainda bem! – mudando.”

Enquanto isso vamos ao ponto da reflexão. Nos grupos espalhados pela internet, nos movimentos fora do país, nas premiações e publicações sobre o tema.

Para quem, no exercício acima, não conseguiu se lembrar de algum nome, vamos dar algumas sugestões, quem quiser pode acrescentar nos comentários.

Adriana Melo
Amanda Grazini
Ana Luiza Koehler
Ana Recalde
Aline Daka
Aline Lemos
Ana Santos
Ana Rocha
Anita Chang
Bianca Pinheiro
Bilquis Evely
Bruna Morgan
Cátia Ana
Catia Silva
Carol Martins
Cibele Santos
Clara Gomes
Cris Peter
Cristina Eiko
Cynthia Bonacossa
Daniela Karasawa
Diana Helene
Débora Mini
Edna Lopes
Erica Awano
Erica R.
Fabiane – Chiquinha
Fernanda Nia
Fernanda Torquato
Fernanda Fonseca
Fernanda Fuscaldo
Giovana Medeiros
Hêvilla Costa
Irena Freitas
Ivana (Tiras da Ivana)
Isabella Amaral
Julia Balthazar
Julia Bax
Juliana Dalla
Jéssica Guedes
Jonia Caon
Kiara Domit
Kellen Carvalho
Laura Lannes

Lila Cruz

Lívia Carvalho
Lorena Kaz
Lu Caffagi
Mariana Waechter
Mariana Cagnin
Mariá Raposa Branca
Marilia Bruno
Marina Pechlivanis
Milena Azevedo
Mika Takahashi
Morgana Mastrianni
Natalia Matos
Neide Harue
Nicole Kouts
Paula Mastroberti
Pri de Paula
Petra Leão
Pryscila Vieira
Priscila Tramontano
Rafaella Ryon
Rafaella Milani
Renata Rinaldi
Rose Araújo
Samanta Floor
Studio Seasons (Montserrat Montse, Sylvia Feer e Simone Beatriz)
Thais dos Anjos
Thaïs Gualberto
Valéria Paes
Viviane Yamabushi

 E fora do Brasil para quem se interessar:

Alex de Campi
Alex Hallatt
Aline Kominsky-Crumb
Alison Bechdel
Amanda Conner
Amber Benson
Amy Kim Ganter
Amy Reeder Hadley
Ann Nocenti
Annette Kawecki
Ariel Schrag
Ashly Raiti
Barbara Kesel
Becky Cloonan
Bertha Corbett
Beth Sotelo
Bettina Kurkoski
Bobbie Chase
Bunny Hoest
Caitlin R. Kiernan
Carla Speed McNeil
Carol Lay
Carol Tyler
Catherine yronwode
Cathy Guisewite
Christina Strain
Christina Weir
Christine Norrie
Christy Lijewski
Chynna Clugston
Colleen Coover
Colleen Doran
Daisy Swayze
Dale Connor
Dale Messick
Dame Darcy
Danielle Corsetto
Denise Mina
Devin Grayson
Diana Schutz
Diane DiMassa
Diane Noomin
Donna Barr
Dori Seda
Dorothy Woolfolk
Edwina Dumm – “Edwina”
Elaine Lee
Elizabeth (Sadie) Holloway Marston
Elizabeth Holloway Marston
Ellen Forney
Erica Reis
Fanny Corry
Federica Manfredi
Fiona Avery
Fran Hopper
Faith erin Hicks
Gabrielle Bell
G.B. Jones
Gail Simone
Geneviève Castrée
Gladys Parker
Glynis Oliver
Grace Dayton
Hilary Price
Hilda Terry
Holly Golightly
Hope Larson
Ippongi Bang
Irene Flores
Jan Eliot
Jean Simek
Jen Lee Quick
Jen Wang
Jenette Kahn
Jennie Breeden
Jennifer Camper
Jessi Nelson
Jessica Abel
Jill Thompson
Jinky Coronado
Jo Chen
Jo Duffy
Joanna Davidovich
Joanna Estep
Jodi Picoult
Joyce Brabner
Julie Doucet
Julie Negron
June Brigman
Karen Berger
Karen Moy
Kate Carew
Kate Murtah
Kate Osann
Kate Worley
Kate Leth
Katherine Kim
Kim Casali
Kim Yale
Laura Allred
Laura Martin
Laura Martin
Lauren Weinstein
Lea Hernandez
Leah Moore
Leanne Franson
Lee Marrs
Lily Renée
Linda Fite
Linda Sutter
Lindsay Cibos
Lisa Patrick
Lisa Trusiani
Liz Prince
Louise Simonson
Lola Lorente
Lynda Barry
Lynn Johnston
M. Alice LeGrow
M.K. Brown
Mabel Burvick
Maddie Blaustein
Maggie Thompson
Marcia Snyder
Margaret Shulocki
Marie Severin
Marion McDermott
Marjane Satrapi
Marjorie Henderson Buell
Martha Orr
Marty Links
Mary Fleener
Mary Gauerke
Mary Mitchell
Mary Schmich
Mary Skrenes
Megan Kelso
Melinda Gebbie
Melissa DeJesu
Meloney Crawford Chadwick
Mindy Newell
Nancy A. Collins
Natalie d’Arbeloff
Nicola Scott
Nicole Hollander
Paige Braddock
Patricia Highsmith
Patty LaBan
Pauline Loth
Penny Van Horn
Power Paola
Posy Simmonds
Phoebe Gloeckner
Pia Guerra
Queenie Chan
Rachel Dodson
Rachel Pollack
Rachelle Menashe
Raina Telgemeier
Ramona Fradon
Ramona Patenaude
Ray Herman
Rina Piccolo
Roberta Gregory
Rosario Dawson
Rosie O’Neill
Roz Chast
Ruth Atkinson
Ruth Carroll
Ruth McCully
Ruth Roche
Samm Barnes
Sandra Bell-Lundy
Sara Ryan
Sarah Byam
Sarah Dyer
Selby Kelly
Serena Valentino
Shaenon Garrity
Shannon Chenoweth
Shary Flenniken
Sheila Keenan
Sophie Crumb
Stephanie Lesniak
Susana Romero
Svetlana Chmakova
Tamora Pierce
Tania del Rio
Tara McPherson
Tarpe Mills
Tatjana Wood
Tavisha Simons
Terri Libenson
Terrie Smith
Tina Anderson
Toni Blum
Trina Robbins
Ulli Lust
Valerie D’Orazio
Vanesa Littlecrow
Vera Brosgol
Violet Barclay
Virginia Clark
Virginia Huget
Wendy Pini
Yoko Molotov


17 Oct 16:58

Something in the water?

by Mark Liberman

During last night's vote on reopening the government and raising the debt ceiling, the official House Stenographer apparently decided to make a speech about Freemasons and had to be escorted out:

In any other context, this would just be sad and distressing. Against the backdrop of recent events in the capitol building, it's an occasion for dark political humor.

A week ago, xkcd was there first:

17 Oct 10:50

Stupid police investigation of racist language

by Geoffrey K. Pullum

As I have frequently pointed out here on Language Log before, the contrast between the constitutionally protected free speech of the USA and the many legal restraints on speech in the UK is really striking. In the latest incident, a British lord posted a tweet with a photo of three Chinese toddlers dressed in watermelon-rind costumes. Two of the kids look delighted, but the one in the center is crying. To accompany the picture the noble lord tweeted a remark that I will position below the jump, because I don't want those of a nervous disposition to see it. His remark was the subject of a police investigation. The question was whether it was so racist that it should be regarded as violating the criminal law. If you think you can bear it, take a deep breath and read on.

Here is the exact wording of the allegedly racist tweet:

The kid in the middle is upset because he was told off for leaving the production line of the iPhone 5

That's all of it. That's what the police spent several days investigating for racism.

The tweeter was a successful businessman and TV personality: Lord Sugar, who is well known in Britain as the central figure in a show called Apprentice, where he tests aspirant young businesspeople to see which of them comes up to his standards and then offers the winner a high-paid job. He was making a distinctly feeble joke about Apple using toddlers on the production line to put together its smartphone products. (Note for the humor-challenged: To the best of my knowledge, toddlers are not employed in Chinese factories making Apple products.)

His jokey tweet was noticed by one Nichola Szeto, who said it was racist and she was enormously offended. Her family and her husband's family are ethnically Chinese residents of Liverpool. She complained in a message to the Merseyside police Twitter account: "I thought racism was illegal."

The police duly got in touch and asked her to make a statement on the record. She didn't, so they called her again, and this time she agreed. She turned up at a police station and took up an hour of police time giving a sworn statement.

The police investigated for several days, eventually deciding that the tweet had constituted "a hate incident", but not an actual "hate crime", so they announced that it would be kept on file but no action would be taken at this time.

I struggle to decide where to begin when listing the different ways in which such depressingly silly incidents do harm. Here are some of the first few points that occurred to me:

  1. Ms Szeto actually seems to believe that racism is illegal. It isn't, of course. Even the British are entitled to maintain and discuss their beliefs about inherent racial inferiority, or any other kind of stupid pseudo-scientific garbage.
  2. People are so ignorant about what racism actually is these days that they can mistake a satirical remark about child labor policies in the People's Republic of China for a racist taunt. Could the government not issue these people with dictionaries?
  3. The police, long the subject of richly deserved allegations of institutional racism, are now so terrified of seeming inactive on chasing down hate crimes that they don't know how to say "Don't be silly, that's an obviously absurd exaggeration aimed at satirizing child labor policies, and doesn't mention or even allude to race. Stop wasting our time."
  4. Stories like this bring into disrepute not only the validity of hate crime legislation (which is supposed to be targeting things like violent and threatening verbal attacks on black and Asian UK residents, not labor legislation jokes about the UK's industrial rivals), but the whole idea that racism should be discouraged.

The Daily Mail, probably the most disgusting of Britain's trashier newspapers — famous for indulging the tastes of racists, sexists, xenophobes, and the poor — absolutely loved this incident, printing virtually the whole story in its headline ("Lord Sugar faced police racism probe after joking on Twitter that crying Chinese boy was upset 'because he was told off for leaving the production line of the iPhone 5'"), together with a picture of Lord Sugar, and a picture of Nichola Szeto looking glamorous and coquettish, and a screen shot of the tweet with the photo of the Chinese babies, and a quote from the chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance to the effect that "officers should not waste their time chasing every ill-thought-out tweet."

All in all, a case study on how well-meaning legislation against racially-targeted threatening behavior has ended up encouraging absurd complaints from ethnic minorities and tarnishing the very important idea that on moral grounds we should resist and oppose racism.

15 Oct 11:50

Goodbye to All That E-Mail

by Lucy Ferriss

Email-MarketingRemember the good old days, when we complained about students e-mailing us all the time?  Like back in 2006, when The New York Times ran an article on students’ pestering of their professors with e-mail:

At colleges and universities nationwide, e-mail has made professors much more approachable. But many say it has made them too accessible, erasing boundaries that traditionally kept students at a healthy distance.

Professors way back then complained that students sent e-mail “with a familiarity that bordered on the imperative”; that junior faculty “struggle with how to respond [because] their tenure prospects may rest in part on student evaluations of their accessibility”; that e-mail made them feel “as if I ought to be on call all the time.”

In that golden era, before we got used to being “another service that students, as consumers, are buying,” we had the impression that e-mail was a sort of high-priority alert, a miraculous tool reserved for urgent messages, and students were abusing it. We were like Wordsworth and his buddies, eager to ascend the final, glorious peak of the Alps, only to lose their way a bit and learn from a peasant “that our future course, all plain to sight, /Was downwards … that we had crossed the Alps.”

And here, in the vale of the other side, we find Courtney Rubin’s report in The New York Times that students find e-mail “a boring thing” and would prefer, please, that their professors text them or friend them on Facebook. An experiment performed by Reynol Junco at Purdue found that students spent an average of six minutes a day on e-mail, less than a fifth of the time they were spending on social networking.

It’s easy enough to blame students for this latest demand that we conform to their expectations rather than the other way around. They all have smartphones, we observe; they can get e-mail anywhere, at any time, as easily as they can receive a text message or check Facebook. But in many ways, we have only ourselves to blame. By “ourselves,” I mean those individuals, entities, and mechanisms for which I, personally, take no responsibility:

  • The widespread belief that it is better to cover your bases by “replying all” in all circumstances, so that announcements of a colleague’s grant award are followed by a series of “Congrats!” like so many neighborhood dogs baying at the mail carrier.
  • The twice-daily announcement of all campus events by e-mail.
  • The campuswide announcements of everything from a robbery a block off-campus to upbeat updates from (among others): Writing Centers; Community Learning Centers; Offices of Study Abroad, Lifelong Learning, Advancement, Academic Calendar, Community Relations, Financial Aid, Information Technology, Residential Life, Student Government, Special Events, and various Deans and Presidents; GLBT gatherings; sports departments, activities, and fund raisers; and religious services.
  • The habit of many faculty members to make themselves available during office hours in the virtual form of receiving and sending e-mail from a remote location.
  • And finally—to this I plead guilty—the reliance on e-mail to correct or append assignments, make last-minute changes in appointments, and otherwise allow ourselves to be less prepared, organized, and communicative ahead of time not only for the classes we teach but also for the projects with which we want students to engage.

In other words, we (the collective we) have become the pestering voices that we accused our students of being, a mere seven years ago. No wonder our students tune us out on that channel. According to the Times article, some professors have taken to including in their syllabi the requirement that students check e-mail at least once a day. Now, can we refrain from writing them more than once a day? If not, be prepared to cross the next mountain range—they’re on the other side already.


11 Oct 20:21

Argentine gauchos race across a lake near Beron de Astrada,...


share pelo ~argentine gauchos~

Argentine gauchos race across a lake near Beron de Astrada, November 1980.Photograph by O. Louis Mazzatenta, National Geographic

11 Oct 19:07

crescendudes: this is basically all you  need to know about the...


this is basically all you  need to know about the government shut down. 

09 Oct 20:27

What Can a Ball and a Bucket Teach Us About Why Women Earn Less Than Men?

by John List and Uri Gneezy

WhyAxisJohn List and Uri Gneezy have appeared on our blog many times. Now they have written a book, The Why Axis: Hidden Motives and the Undiscovered Economics of Everyday Life. (The title, by the way, was crowdsourced on this blog). Below is the first in a series of guest posts adapted from the book; Gneezy spoke about this research in our podcast “Women Are Not Men.”

What can a Ball and Bucket Teach Us About Why Women Earn Less than Men?
By Uri Gneezy and John List

The sign on the road leading to the city of Shilong in the Khasi hills of northeast India had a puzzling message: “Equitable distribution of self-acquired property rights.” Later we’d find out that the sign was part of a nascent men’s movement, as the men in the Khasi society were not allowed to own property. We’d traveled across the world in search of such a parallel universe—one where men felt like “breeding bulls and babysitters”—because evidence in the U.S. was starting to point to a massive gap in preferences towards competition between the genders and we wanted to understand the reason why.

Our plan was to take a simple game to a matrilineal society (the Khasi) and patrilineal society (the Masai in Tanzania) and give participants just one choice: Earn a small certain payment for their performance in the game or earn a much bigger payment for their performance, but only if they also bested a randomly chosen competitor. The game we settled on? Tossing tennis balls into a bucket 3 meters away.  The experiment was conducted with Kenneth Leonard as a coauthor.

First, though, we headed to the plains below Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain in Africa, where the proud Masai tribesman lived. The Masai, dressed in brightly colored robes and carrying their spears, follow the calling of their cattle-hearing ancestors. The more cattle a man has there, the more wealth he possesses. A man’s cows are more important to a Masai man than his wives and a cattle-wealthy Masai man can have as many as ten wives.

Screen Shot 2013-10-08 at 3.15.11 PMWhen we pulled up to the Masai village armed with cans of tennis balls, small toy buckets, and lots of money we found the villagers waiting for us. We told those that wanted to participate that they had the option of earning $1.50 (a full day’s earnings there) each time they successfully tossed the ball in the bucket after 10 tries versus $4.50 for each successful toss if they beat their randomly selected opponent.

What did we find? The Masai women had little interest in competing, with only 26% choosing that option. The Masai men? Fifty percent chose the competitive option. This was in line with rates in the U.S. (Before we went to Tanzania we ran a similar experiment and found that 69% of men wanted to compete versus just 30% of women.)

When we went to India and had the Khasi play the exact same ball-and-bucket game we found that the Khasi women were just like men in the Masai: 54% of women wanted to compete versus 39% of men. The results, summarized in the figure above, showed that culture was capable of turning the world on its head, gender-wise. In fact, the Khasi women were more competitive than the Masai men.  Indeed, the Khasi women were like U.S. men, and the Khasi men were like U.S. women!

Our study suggests that given the right culture, women are as competitively inclined as men, and even more so in many situations. Competitiveness, then, is not only set by evolutionary forces that dictate that men are naturally more inclined than women (nature). The average woman will compete more than the average man if the right cultural incentives are in place (nurture).

Clearly, there was more to explore, we thought, and our book The Why Axis: Hidden Motives and the Undiscovered Economics of Everyday Life details our adventures in learning about what motivates humans. We go to the ends of the earth to figure out the invaluable whys we face as a society. 

Stay tuned for more Why Axis blog posts. And if you want to explore our world further, take the Why Axis Challenge: visit, post a photo of your copy of the book, and be entered to win prizes, including a meeting with Uri, John and Steve Levitt!

01 Oct 18:01

These GOP shitbags are fucking evil.

These GOP shitbags are fucking evil.

30 Sep 13:09

Is the Cognitive Revolution Here Yet?

by Geoffrey Pullum

Noam Chomsky

Strand Palace Hotel, London, England — I’m in the heart of London for a few days attending a British Academy conference headlined “The Cognitive Revolution 60 Years On.” The cognitive revolution we are supposed to be reflecting on was not specified, but no linguist would be in any doubt about it: They mean the one that Noam Chomsky is commonly held to have started by introducing bold claims about psychology and philosophy into American linguistics.

The profession was at the time rather small and cliquish. There were few full departments of linguistics; many American linguists worked in departments of anthropology or English or German or classics. They were much interested in the rigorous statement of approved methods of analysis. They did not usually engage in speculation about the human mind and its cognitive and reflective powers, let alone the 17th-century notion that much of our infrastructure for language and thinking is inborn.

The phrase “60 years on” in the conference title implies a focus on 1953. Was that the year of the revolution? Hardly. Chomsky was a junior member of the Society of Fellows at Harvard at the time, and published his first journal article in that year in The Journal of Symbolic Logic. It attempted to axiomatize certain procedures of structural analysis that the linguists of the time took for granted. It was much closer to logic and mathematics than was customary then, but it was certainly a contribution to the mainstream. The revolution had not yet begun.

Between 1951 and 1955 Chomsky worked on syntactic theory, composing a long typescript entitled The Logical Structure of Linguistic Theory (one chapter of it sufficed to earn him his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1955). But its abstract quasi-algebraic notation was attractive to only a very few linguists, and it mentioned virtually no psychological topics, and Chomsky didn’t even publish any of it until 20 years later. That was not the revolution.

After the award of his Ph.D., Chomsky got a teaching job at MIT, where his friend Morris Halle suggested he teach a course on his view of syntactic theory. The lectures he gave were published in February 1957 by a small Dutch publishing company, Mouton, as a book called Syntactic Structures. It did make a splash. But it is bare of references to cognitive psychology, or the failings of behaviorism, or the powers of the human mind, or the species-limited nature of linguistic abilities, or the difficulty faced by an infant attempting to acquire such abilities, or the limited information the infant has about what to acquire, or a rich genetically transmitted intellectual endowment that does most of the work in advance.

Moreover, wider reading in the linguistics of the 1940s reveals that those topics were sometimes touched on by other linguists. Charles Hockett explicitly discussed such matters, for example, as early as 1948 (in a short note on structure in the International Journal of American Linguistics). No, Syntactic Structures was not the cognitive revolution.

When was it, then? It’s not easy to say. Perhaps it only really started with Aspects of the Theory of Syntax in 1965, the book in which Chomsky first made clear the depth of his commitment to mental phenomena and innate ideas. Perhaps it didn’t begin until the 1970s, as psycholinguistics proper got under way, or the 1980s, as cognitive science started to become a field in its own right. But some people at this conference think it hasn’t actually happened yet.

Maybe revolution is not quite the right metaphor. I know Thomas Kuhn taught us that science develops through revolutions, the detailed work being done under the assumptions of the last one during periods of “normal science.” And it’s an exciting thought, the idea of an annus mirabilis when the whole conceptual world turns upside down, and what was formerly nonsense becomes accepted science (and vice versa), and old guys who don’t get with the program are left to face an embittered retirement. But I’m inclined to think it isn’t quite like that in this case.

The 1950s must have been an extraordinarily exciting time to be in Cambridge, Mass., where so many developments were beginning to come together, and Chomsky was at the heart of it, an intellectual mover and shaker. But I doubt that there was ever a watershed year when the whole applecart of assumptions was overturned and linguistic and psychological science was born anew. From inside the discipline it always feels more gradual, a matter of gradual evolution rather than violent revolution.

So what the heck: Perhaps 2013 is as good as any other year to celebrate the past 60 years of progress on understanding language and thought.

28 Sep 18:24

Naughty meanings and naughty words

by Geoffrey K. Pullum

Piraro makes the point that he is allowed to publish a cartoon showing a street prostitute holding up a sign saying "GLUTEN FREE" (see it here), but he was censored when he came out with a cartoon showing a deadbeat vampire loiterer holding up a sign saying "WILL SUCK FOR BLOOD". Both clearly suggest the possibilty that oral sex is being referred to, if you have a dirty mind, but the second explicitly contains a word (suck) commonly recognized by the relevant prudish authorities as colloquial sex talk, wheras the first doesn't. The prostitute cartoon would doubtless also have been banned if it had incorporated the word eat, instead of just implying it through the reference to a potentially allergenic food ingredient. Piraro's comment on the situation is: "Americans (and maybe all humans, I'm not sure) are more obsessed with words than with their meanings."

He goes on:

I will never understand this as long as I live. Under FCC rules, in broadcast TV you can talk about any kind of depraved sex act you wish, as long as you do not use the word "fuck." And the word itself is so mysteriously magical that it cannot be used in any way whether the topic is sex or not. "What the fuck?" is a crime that carries a stiff fine — "I'm going to rape your 8-year-old daughter with a trained monkey," is completely legal. In my opinion, today's "gluten-free" cartoon is far more suggestive in an unsavory way than the vampire cartoon, but it doesn't have a "naughty" word so it’s okay.

Are we a nation permanently locked in preschool? The answer, in the case of language, is yes.

He makes a very good point, IMHO.

28 Sep 18:23

Research expedition members celebrate crossing the Equator on...



Os cara tudo no grau da saquerinha de morango com vodca natasha.

Research expedition members celebrate crossing the Equator on the Indian Ocean, July 1989.Photograph by Emory Kristof, National Geographic

28 Sep 17:15

notational: (via How to Cite Social Media in Scholarly Writing...

by joberholtzer
25 Sep 15:22



Estou hipnotizada

21 Sep 15:34

Is Twitter Making Kids Smarter?

by Freakonomics

(Photo: Jemimus)

(Photo: Jemimus)

In the Globe and Mail, Clive Thomas argues that all the time kids spend on Facebook, Twitter, and blogs may be making them better writers and thinkers.  Thomas cites the work of Andrea Lunsford, an English professor at Stanford, who recently compared freshman composition papers from 1917, 1930, 1986, and 2006 and found that, while the average rate of errors hasn’t changed much since 1917, students today write longer, more intellectually complex papers:

In 1917, a freshman paper was on average only 162 words long and the majority were simple “personal narratives.” By 1986, the length of papers more than doubled, averaging 422 words. By 2006, they were more than six times longer, clocking in at 1,038 words – and they were substantially more complex, with the majority consisting of a “researched argument or report,” with the student taking a point of view and marshalling evidence to support it.

“Student writers today are tackling the kinds of issues that require inquiry and investigation as well as reflection,” Prof. Lunsford concluded.

Lunsford believes the shift is partially driven by all the “life writing” (long emails, posts on TV discussion boards, blog posts, etc.) students now do outside the classroom.  “They’re writing more than any generation before,” she says.

Of course it is also possible that there is no causal relationship whatsoever between all that “life writing” and those freshman comp essays, as approximately 1 billion other factors (including, as Thomas points out, higher educational standards and better information availability) may also have contributed …

(HT: The Daily Dish)