9  The warning label

Powerful things usually come with warning labels. Examples include pain medication, chemical drain clog removers, construction equipment, and electrical extension cables.

Much of what we’ve seen in this course serves as a metaphorical warning label for data analysis tools. These tools are powerful; they are used for tasks like guiding public policy, conducting scientific research, adjudicating legal disputes, and directing corporate spending. In this final chapter, we make the warning label less metaphorical and more explicit.

9.1 Chapter 9 readings

Discrimination in online ad delivery (Sweeney 2013)

An Excess of Positive Results: Comparing the Standard Psychology Literature With Registered Reports (Scheel, Schijen, and Lakens 2021)

9.2 Warning: data analysis tools can be harmful to individuals

9.3 Warning: data analysis tools can be harmful in public policy

9.4 Warning: data analysis tools can harm scientific research

9.5 Warning: data analysis tools can foster both excessive cynicism and excessive credulity

  • “You can make the data say anything”

  • “The numbers don’t lie”

  • Constructive criticism