Category Archives: Social Science

Psychology and Math

I think it’s interesting how if I were to tell a grade 9 class (14-year-olds) that girls outperform boys in math until age 15, that the girls probably would outperform the boys, but if I said instead that boys surpass girls at age 13, the boys would outperform.

If I say, “This course is challenging,” does that mean that students will do poorly compared to if I had said “This course is easy”?  I would say it’s challenging in order to emphasize the importance of practice (i.e. homework) and studying, but could I instill the work ethic and create a better psychological effect with a different phrase?  “This course is easy for those who keep up with homework and studying”?  Or possibly even better, a single word, “This course is ___”

I would probably do well to learn more about this, so I can figure out how to have positive effects, but even more importantly, to avoid creating negative ones.

Anyone know of any resources?


Is there a correlation with going clubbing and cheating on sexual partners?

I guess I’m thinking of this like a scientific study.  What I’d like to investigate is the strength of the correlation between people who go clubbing and cheating in current and/or future relationships.
My instinct says that people who currently go clubbing are more likely to cheat than those who don’t, and even that people who used to go clubbing are more likely to cheat than those who never did.
The premise is that the atmosphere of a nightclub is that of sexual attention.  Well-dressed people, dancing intimately, with low lights, alcohol, and sometimes drugs.  Even if you’re not trying to pick up, you’re bound to get some sexual attention (flirting, dancing, people looking at you).  Many people like sexual attention, and strut and flirt in order to get more.  I think these people would be much more likely cheat.
If you’re not getting that attention from your partner (or even if you are but one person isnt enough attention) then you might seek it out.  And naturally if you’re a current or former clubber, you’ll know a good place to get it.
Back to the focus: What’s the correlation for current clubbers, and does it change if you stop going to the club, or does that need for sexual attention persist?
If you wanted to be more specific, you could analyze what happens if one vs both partners are or were regular clubbers, or if they met at a club, and so on.
This seems like it would be impossible to do a proper double-blind study, and I wonder what would be the best way of figuring this out.  I wish I remembered more of this stuff from uni.  I also wonder if the effect is biological (neurological, brain chemicals), or psychological (not sure which subcategory), or if those are both true here and I should get out now before I say something idiotic.

The all-star lineup

After 15 years of having the Yankees (and to a smaller degree, the Red Sox) as the MLB team with the killer roster, it took me longer than it should have to realize that it’s now the Phillies who have that role – and in the NL, to boot, for ages considered the weaker league.  Rollins, Utley, Pence, Howard, Victorino, Ibanez.  6 quality hitters that can generate runs any inning.  Compares well to Jeter, Damon, Teixeira, Rodriguez, Matsui, Posada, Cano (2009 Yankees), or even to Henderson, White, Alomar, Carter, Olerud, Molitor.  Not only that, but they have one of the best pitching rotations I’ve ever known.  Halladay, Lee, Hamels, Oswalt, and young Vance Worley?  Scary.   Their fourth starter was the ace of his previous team.

I tend to cheer for the underdog in sports. (I wonder what that means psychologically…)  When the Phillies were coming together, I was enjoying their pursuit of a championship.  I’m still not tired of them, because this group has only won one Series.  And I really want Doc to win a ring, because we in Toronto still have a collective major crush on the best player ever to wear a Jays uniform.  It’s sad for us that he’ll probably enter the Hall of Fame as a Phillie.

Not to say it always happens.  I booed the Yanks even when they started winning in ’96.  But the rising of the Red Sox and Rays earlier this decade was enjoyable, despite them also being division rivals.


I think that the all-star lineup is far more common in baseball, with it not having a salary cap, meaning a team with a lot of money can go out and buy a good team.  The NFL seems to have the most different playoff-bound teams and champions.  The NHL might be the biggest test of good management, with a tight salary cap forcing good drafting and development, and scouting projection as necessary in order to build a winning team.  (Detroit Red Wings, I tip my cap to you.)

The NBA has a few all-star rosters, and is far more disparate than MLB.  I hate how a few teams absolutely dominate the league, and that’s pretty much always the case.  I don’t have the stats, but I’d bet that the NBA has the fewest playoff upsets of all major leagues.

Also why I don’t pick up dimes off the ground

xkcd comic 951

This reminded me of this earlier post, being another way how people think they’re saving money when they’re not. (from


Ever wondered what your time is worth?  If you’re shopping for a product online, and you spend 3 hours online and save $20, was that really worth all that effort?  I’m not even 100% sure it’s worth it (from an economics standpoint) if the item is relatively cheap (it seems less useful if you’re buying a car*, but is it?)

Anyhow, it makes more sense to think of your time as valued at your salary.  If you make $20/hr, and you have work to do, any time spent saving money had better save you money at a higher rate.  Taking three hours for $20 just wouldn’t be worth it.

If you’re just a busy person (with activities & tasks other than work), and free time is hard to come by, then it makes sense to value your time similarly.  Think of it from this perspective: If you have work, taking your kids to soccer practice, your own social life, and necessary time to eat and relax, then if you can save yourself 3 hours of free time for only $20, wouldn’t you take that deal?

This doesn’t mean I’m advocating buying from the first place you find something, but if it doesn’t look promising after half an hour, the possible savings had better be worth it.

* we’re assuming identical products, so this isn’t the best example.  Just saying I’m aware.