Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Predicting Violent Behavior

From the "Background and Context" section:
Following the tragic mass shooting at the Fort Hood Soldier Readiness Center on 5 November 2009, then-Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates established the Department of Defense Independent Review Related to Fort Hood, led by Admiral Vern Clark, U.S. Navy (Ret), and the Honorable Togo West. Two months after an attack that claimed thirteen lives and wounded forty-three others, the Independent Review Panel issued its report, Protecting the Force: Lessons from Fort Hood.1 

The findings and recommendations of the Independent Review Panel addressed four key issue areas relevant to preventing future mass-casualty attacks within the DoD community, including personnel policies, force protection procedures, emergency response plans, and mental health care support. Significantly, the panel’s findings provided an overarching framework to guide numerous follow-on studies, reviews, and assessments conducted in the wake of the Fort Hood tragedy.
Source: Defense Science Board, United States Department of Defense
Download pdf publication:  Predicting Violent Behavior

Understanding Peer Effects in Financial Decisions


Using a high-stakes field experiment conducted in partnership with a large financial brokerage in Brazil, we attempt to disentangle channels through which a person's financial decisions affect his peers'. When someone purchases an asset, his peers may want to purchase it as well, both because they learn from his choice (“social learning") and because his possession of the asset affects others' utility of owning the same asset (“social utility"). We randomize whether one member of a peer pair is allowed to possess an asset that he chose to purchase. Then, we randomize whether the second member of the pair 1) receives no information about the first member, or 2) is informed of the first member's desire to own the assetandthe result of the randomization that determined possession. This allows us to estimate the effects of (a) learning plus possession, and (b) learning alone, relative to a control group, allowing us to separately identify effects of the “social learning" and “social utility" channels. In the control (no information) group, 42% of individuals purchased the asset; this increases to 71% in the “social learning only" group; and, it increases to 93% in the “social learning and social utility" group. We find thatboth“social learning" and “social utility" channels are quantitatively important, and have independent, statistically significant effects on the decision to purchase the asset.
Source: CEGA Working Papers, Center for Effective Global Action, UC Berkeley [via eScholarship repository]

Download pdf of Understanding Peer Effects in Financial Decisions

CRS Report: Government Transparency and Secrecy: An Examination of Meaning and Its Use in the Executive Branch

From the Summary:
This report subsequently examines the statutes, initiatives, requirements, and other actions that make information more available to the public or protect it from public release. It also examines transparency and secrecy from the standpoint of how the public accesses government information, and whether the release of government data and information may make operation of the federal government more or, counter-intuitively, less transparent. Finally, this report analyzes whether existing transparency initiatives are effective in reaching their stated goals. 

 Source: Congressional Research Service, via FAS Secrecy Blog

Download pdf report: CRS Report: Government Transparency and Secrecy: An Examination of Meaning and Its Use in the Executive Branch

Thursday, November 08, 2012

2012 Election Data and Stats

If the Five-Thirty-Eight Blog wasn't enough for you, here are a couple more resources for 2012 election statistics:

Wolfram Alpha's blog post shows a bunch of ways to crunch their data

Pew Research for People and the Press has a election section with their reports, and you can view the actual questionnaires if you want a closer look.

No doubt Latino voters were a very important segment of the population: Pew Hispanic Center has a new report on the Latino Voters in the 2012 election. The appendix includes selected state results.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

The Transformation of Mortgage Finance and the Industrial Roots of the Mortgage Meltdown


The 2007-2009 financial crisis was centered on the mortgage industry. This paper develops a distinctly sociological explanation of that crisis based on Fligstein’s (1996) markets as politics approach and the sociology of finance. We use archival and secondary sources to show that the industry became dominated by an “industrial” conception of control whereby financial firms vertically integrated in order to capture profits in all phases of the mortgage industry including the production of financial products. The results of multivariate regression analyses show that the “industrial” model drove the deterioration in the quality of securities that firms issued and significantly contributed to the eventual failure of the firms that pursued the strategy. We show that large global banks which were more involved in the industrial production of U.S. mortgage securities also experienced greater investment losses. The findings challenge existing conventional accounts of the crisis and provide important theoretical linkages to the sociology of finance.

Fligstein, Neil (CASBS Fellow 1995); & Goldstein, Adam. (2012). The Transformation of Mortgage Finance and the Industrial Roots of the Mortgage Meltdown. UC Berkeley: Institute for Research on Labor and Employment. Retrieved from:

Download full pdf publication: The Transformation of Mortgage Finance and the Industrial Roots of the Mortgage Meltdown

Friday, November 02, 2012

FBI Report: Crime in the United States, 2011

...the estimated number of violent crimes reported to law enforcement (1,203,564) decreased for the fifth year in a row, while the estimated number of property crimes reported to law enforcement (9,063,173) decreased for the ninth year in a row.
The full report is available in multiple formats:

Download Crime in the United States, 2011 in a zipped file of pdf documents.
View various sections online and download individually

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Using Science as Evidence in Public Policy

From The National Academies Press:

Using Science as Evidence in Public Policy encourages scientists to think differently about the use of scientific evidence in policy making. This report investigates why scientific evidence is important to policy making and argues that an extensive body of research on knowledge utilization has not led to any widely accepted explanation of what it means to use science in public policy. Using Science as Evidence in Public Policy identifies the gaps in our understanding and develops a framework for a new field of research to fill those gaps.

For social scientists in a number of specialized fields, whether established scholars or Ph.D. students, Using Science as Evidence in Public Policy shows how to bring their expertise to bear on the study of using science to inform public policy. More generally, this report will be of special interest to scientists who want to see their research used in policy making, offering guidance on what is required beyond producing quality research, beyond translating results into more understandable terms, and beyond brokering the results through intermediaries, such as think tanks, lobbyists, and advocacy groups. For administrators and faculty in public policy programs and schools, Using Science as Evidence in Public Policy identifies critical elements of instruction that will better equip graduates to promote the use of science in policy making.

Full eBook available online:  Using Science as Evidence in Public Policy

Trickle-Down Anxiety: Study Examines Parental Behaviors that Create Anxious Children

Parents with social anxiety disorder are more likely than parents with other forms of anxiety to engage in behaviors that put their children at high risk for developing angst of their own, according to a small study of parent-child pairs conducted at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center. 


Specifically, the Johns Hopkins researchers identified a subset of behaviors in parents with social anxiety disorder — the most prevalent type of anxiety — and in doing so clarified some of the confusion that has shrouded the trickle-down anxiety often seen in parent-child pairs.

Source: Johns Hopkins Children's Center

Read entire article online:  Trickle-Down Anxiety: Study Examines Parental Behaviors that Create Anxious Children

How Teens Do Research in the Digital World


The teachers who instruct the most advanced American secondary school students render mixed verdicts about students’ research habits and the impact of technology on their studies.
Some 77% of advanced placement (AP) and National Writing Project (NWP) teachers surveyed say that the internet and digital search tools have had a “mostly positive” impact on their students’ research work. But 87% say these technologies are creating an “easily distracted generation with short attention spans” and 64% say today’s digital technologies “do more to distract students than to help them academically.”

According to this survey of teachers, conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project in collaboration with the College Board and the National Writing Project, the internet has opened up a vast world of information for today’s students, yet students’ digital literacy skills have yet to catch up...
Source: Pew Internet and American Life Project

Read Full PDF Report:  How Teens Do Research in the Digital World
Read Survey Questions (PDF)

Mind over chatter: Brainwave training boosts network for cognitive control and affects mind-wandering

From the Press Release:

A breakthrough study conducted in Canada has found that training of the well-known brainwave in humans, the alpha rhythm, enhances a brain network responsible for cognitive-control. The training technique, termed neurofeedback, is being considered as a promising new method for restoring brain function in mental disorders. Using several neuroimaging methods, a team of researchers at the Western University and the Lawson Health Research Institute have now uncovered that functional changes within a key brain network occur directly after a 30-minute session of noninvasive, neural-based training. Dysfunction of this cognitive-control network has previously been implicated in a range of brain disorders including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, schizophrenia, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

During neurofeedback, users learn to control their own brain activity with the help of a brain-computer interface. In the simplest case, this consists of a computer that records brainwaves through surface sensors on the scalp, known as an EEG (electroencephalogram). The system is then able to process and simultaneously represent a user's real-time brain activity, displayed from moment-to-moment during a training game on a computer. This setup is known as a neurofeedback loop, because information of brain activity is continually fed-back to a user reflecting their level of control. Such real-time feedback allows users to reproduce distinct brain states under physiologically-normal conditions, promising to be an innovative way to foster brain changes without adverse effects. This is possible because of neuroplasticity, a natural property of the brain that enables it to reorganise after continual training, resulting from adjustments to its own activity.

The research study, Mind over chatter: Plastic up-regulation of the fMRI salience network directly after EEG neurofeedback, has been published in the online issue of Neuroimage and is freely available through open access.