Monday Miscellany: Baddies, Bems, Broken Windows

1. The Open Philanthropy Project talks with Melanie Smith about current theories and directions in Alzheimer’s treatment [pdf]. It’s a field of personal interest to me, and relevant to the most recent controversy about a link between anticholinergic drugs and dementias.

2. Also on the topic of Alzheimer’s…I’ve written about members of the Bem family before, but this article on the death of Sandy Bem is especially haunting.

Emily was angry at her father for speaking so pragmatically about her mother’s death. She was angry too at her mother for choosing a date that was so soon, and at her mother’s inner circle for allowing all of it to happen. That night, she sat with her parents and Robyn while they discussed the situation. Emily felt as though she was defending her mother’s life against everyone who wanted her to end it.

“You’re just doing the math,” she told Daryl. “It’s like you’re just calculating: Judging by the rate of decline of X amount, you can predict that by time Y this will be the case. But you can’t!”

“O.K., so maybe not June,” Daryl said, backing off. He had spent his life avoiding conflict. “We just thought that with your mother turning 70 on June 22, that might be a good time.”

“Well, that’s nuts,” Emily said. “How can you just pick a month like that?”

“What month did we say, again?” Sandy asked.

“June,” Daryl said.

“Why don’t you just say August?” Emily said. “It could just as easily be August as June.”

“What month did we say, again?” Sandy asked.

“June,” Daryl said.

“August, June — you can’t just draw an equation,” Emily said.

“What month did we say, again?” Sandy asked.

3. Taylor & Francis made all (??) of their research on HIV/AIDS free online. If you’ve ever tried to wrest a journal article free from the jaws of T&F without turning over your firstborn child, you know how significant this is.

4. “I think one of the most important rules of ethics is that you might be the baddies.

5. Access times for eating disorder treatment are loooong. Like, four years long.

6. Testing the ‘broken windows’ theory.

The most fun, and incredible, set of experiments I’ve learned about are the ones run by Siegwart Lindenberg and Linda Steg and colleagues at Groningen University. Despite having an unusually high prior*, I’m honestly stunned by their results, both in terms of the sheer size of the effects they’re finding, and the stability of those large effects across a great number of slightly different situations.

They’re studying, essentially, the broken windows theory. This theory hypothesizes that if there is evidence of some law/norm breaking behavior, that will cause people to break other laws/norms at a higher rate.** This is not due to inferences about levels of enforcement, because the findings are just as strong in purely normative (prescriptive, in addition to proscriptive) settings. In a world of marginally statistically significant results, it’s a thrill to see such a long list of replications with huge and extremely statistically significant findings.


Things I read this week:

The Paying Guests, Sara Waters
EXCELLENT queer fiction that wasn’t written to be an Issues Story.

Thirteen Days in September, Lawrence Wright

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