Studying speech, music, and development


I explore the mysteries of the mind/brain and how it records perceptual information from the world, especially information contained in language and in music. How do different perceptual (and cognitive) histories shift your current perceptual experiences? What kinds of learning facilitate other kinds of learning? Does learning have a qualitatively different impact when it is early in development, rather than later in life?

On flashy research

I’d love to have research that is flashy to more people than a grouchy set of reviewers at Journal X. That said, I do spend time wondering if this is true (the page’s author quotes an email from Dan Kahan):

“…another problem is the “wtf?!!!!!!” conception of psychology.  Its distinguishing feature is its supposed discovery of phenomena that are shocking bizarre & lack any coherent theory.

The alternative conception of psychology is the “everything is obvious — once you know the answer.”  The main point of empirical research isn’t to shock people. It’s to adjudicate disputes between competing plausible conjectures about what causes what we see.  More accounts of what is going are plausible than are true (emphasis SCC); without valid inference from observation, we will never separate the former from the sea of the latter & will drown in a sea of “just so” story telling.

I often get a little grouchy when I talk about my research and people say, “Well…that seems obvious.” Of course it does, now that I told you about it.

Bonus–Kahan, the commenter who said this is a dead ringer for Dwight Schrute.

Peer review

Writing good, constructive reviews is hard–almost as hard as reading them. Here are some tips for writing reviews well.

  • One piece of advice that I really liked was to write the review as though you’re writing it for a colleague or your own student. This forces you (one hopes) to be honest yet constructive.
  • Ten tips on review writing from Brian Lucey
  • And if ten isn’t enough, twelve tips from Henry Roediger III

Maybe later I’ll post some egregious reviewer comments that I’ve collected over the years. Three common themes:

  • Insulting the author’s level of experience by implying that some senior person should rewrite the paper, or saying that a paper is a “nice student paper.” It’s either a nice paper or it’s not a nice paper.
  • Not liking the theoretical implications of the results, so stating that said results are either so obvious as to be uninteresting, or the outcome of an extremely flawed paradigm (sometimes both).
  • Suggesting a different analytic technique. While this is sometimes licensed, it often (to me) feels like blind adherence to statistics fads–analyses that people try out that may offer improvements over other more standard techniques, yet introduce coding and interpretation problems of their own (including how to get the reader to interpret the results accurately).