Measuring trends in narcissism using song lyrics, again

April 26, 2011

John Tierney wrote an article in the New York Times about research I previously discussed.   The short story is that there are problems with the data analysis, demonstrated by Mark Liberman’s post.  I showed that books don’t show the same pattern published in the original research.


Eigenvector Measures of Centrality

April 25, 2011

I’m working with the social networks in the Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health.  Students are asked to name their five best male friends and five best female friends.  I’m interested in something like a measure of popularity.  In-degree, the number of times others nominate you as their friend, is a simple measure, but I think I can do a bit better if I can capture the intuition that people with popular friends are themselves more popular.  This is one potential use of eigenvector measures of centrality.  In working with such measures, I’m learning a thing or two.  For example, the weight parameter can matter a lot.

I used the igraph package (see p. 8), in R to calculate Bonacich’s alpha measure of centrality for directed networks.  The default weight (variable: acent) is 1.  I compared this measure to in-degree (idgx2) and out-degree (odgx2) with a matrix of scatterplots and was a bit surprised not to see a clear positive relationship with in-degree.

When I tried alpha weights of 0.2 and 0.4  I found fairly strong non-linear relationships due to a handful of outliers.  While I think different alpha weights are worth exploring empirically, I’m inclined to emphasize ones which a positive monotonic relationship with in-degree.  The reason is that, to me, in-degree itself seems like a fairly good measure of popularity or social prominence.  I feel that moving to a measure quite different from in-degree requires justification in the form of strong theory or empirics.  I lack both.

In other contexts though, higher or lower (including negative) alpha weights might be justified.  For more on applying these measures to social networks, I recommend the work of Phillip Bonacich.

Latecomers to discussion of ASA dues increase

April 15, 2011

See Jenn Lena’s summary of recent discussions.

One result of these discussions is a petition opposing the dues increase, in the absence of much more transparency about ASA finances and decision-making.

Find the petition here:

RStudio Improves

April 12, 2011

RStudio, an open-source IDE for R, was first introduced about 6 weeks ago.  I wasn’t tempted, because you couldn’t place your code and its output side-by-side.  They fixed that, so now I’m excitedly giving it a spin.

RStudio Beta 2 (v0.93) is available for download today. We’ve gotten incredibly helpful input from the R community and this release reflects a lot of that feedback.

The release notes have the full details on what’s new. Some of the highlights include:

Source Editor Enhancements

  • Highlight all instances of selected text
  • Insert spaces for tabs (soft-tabs)
  • Customizable print margin line
  • Selected line highlight
  • Toggle line numbers on/off
  • Optional soft-wrapping for R source files

Customizable Layout and Appearance

  • The layout of panes and tabs is now configurable (enabling side-by-side source and console view, among others).
  • Support for a variety of editing themes, including TextMate, Eclipse, and others.

Interactive Plotting

This release features manipulate, a new interactive plotting feature that enables you to create plots with inputs bound to custom controls (e.g. slider, picker, etc.) rather than hard-coded to a single value. For example:

  # plot expression
  plot(cars, xlim = c(0, x.max), type = type, ann = label),
  # controls
  x.max = slider(10, 25, step = 5, initial = 25),
  type = picker("Points" = "p", "Line" = "l", "Step" = "s"),
  label = checkbox(TRUE, "Draw Labels")


  • RStudio now works with versions of R installed from source (either via make install or packaged by MacPorts, Homebrew, etc.).
  • Enhanced support for Unicode and non-ASCII character encodings.
  • Improved working directory management including new options for default behavior, support for shell “open with” context menus, and optional file assocations for common R file types (.RData, .R, .Rnw).
  • Many other small enhancements and bug fixes (see the release notes for full details).

We hope you try out the new release and keep talking to us on our support forum about what works, what doesn’t, and what else you’d like RStudio to do.

Content Analysis of Pop Lyrics for Cultural Narcissism

April 9, 2011

Mark Liberman, over at Language Log, is discussing a content analysis of pop lyrics. Are trends in cultural narcissism picked up by the changing frequency of first-person pronouns? It seems like an interesting idea, but Liberman shows that their data analysis and interpretation is lacking. The original study claims to find a steady increase in the use of first-person pronouns since 1980, but, as Mark shows, their own data points to a decline in recent years.

I’ll add data on published books from google ngrams to the discussion.

The graph above would suggest the trend in cultural narcissism is flat until the late nineties, and only then starts increasing. But maybe books are merely a lagging indicator relative to pop lyrics?

No, I’m afraid that can’t save the thesis either. Look what happens when I plot other pronouns:

Looks like a general increase in the use of pronouns in the late 1990s.

Play with the google ngrams for “me”, “mine”, “my”, “I” yourself.
Capitalizations are less common so I put them on a separate graph:“Me”, “My”, “Mine”.

“myself”, “yourself”, “yourselves”

Transparency from the ASA and US Government

April 1, 2011

Intuition suggests that transparency shouldn’t cost that much money, but has the potential to be a powerful force for improving institutional incentives.

Recently, the sociology blogosphere has been discussing the ASA’s proposed dues increase (See here, here, here, and here). Many are skeptical that the dues increase is in the best interest of the members. But even those who might support the increase can get behind the call for more transparency from the ASA.

In a related story, The Sunlight Foundation reports:

Some of the most important technology programs that keep Washington accountable are in danger of being eliminated.,, the IT Dashboard and other federal data transparency and government accountability programs are facing a massive budget cut, despite only being a tiny fraction of the national budget. Help save the data and make sure that Congress doesn’t leave the American people in the dark.