Information and Error: An Introduction to Statistical Analysis

Information and Error: An Introduction to Statistical Analysis

Information and Error: An Introduction to Statistical Analysis

Information and Error: An Introduction to Statistical Analysis

Excerpt

Whoever wishes to explore the mysteries of modern psychology must carry with him an equipment of statistical techniques that were esoteric novelties twenty years ago. At that time, a student armed with the critical ratio in one hand and the product moment correlation in the other could wander freely through the contemporary literature and fear no dragons. Occasionally the shadow of factor analysis would fall across his path, but he could quiet any feeling of apprehension by incanting the pronouncements of eminent authorities that this particular young phantom would never have teeth or claws. Thus carefree might he roam through many fertile fields of discussion where only an occasional statistic marred the otherwise serene landscape of rhetoric.

The student today faces a very different situation. Turn any page, and he may find himself face to face with a variance ratio, a chi-square, or even a set of oblique axes erected in hyperspace. These disconcerting experiences inhibit adventure beyond the safe confines of textbooks, and they also encourage a dangerous kind of sectarianism which looks upon "statistical psychologists" as a breed of invaders who threaten to subvert our interest in "the individual" with their interest in "the mass." The reverse is true. The newer techniques of statistical analysis are instruments of exploration which are opening new frontiers to psychological conquest. Today there are important areas of clinical psychology and the theory of personality, for example, which must remain out-of-bounds to those whose statistical preparation does not go beyond what was considered quite adequate not many years ago.

This situation calls for a new approach to the teaching of statistics. It does not do to teach the older methods as a beginning, and to leave the newer ones to be learned in advanced courses, almost as a separate subject. Pedagogic efficiency requires that the viewpoint which is fundamental to the newer techniques, which may be called an analytic as opposed to a . . .

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