Colin Loftin

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Colin Loftin - Colin Loftin vita cloftin@albany.edu

http://www.albany.edu/scj/files/LoftinVitaJun10.pdf

Loftin, Colin. 1972. Galton's problem as spatial autocorrelation: Comments on Ember's empirical test. Ethnology 11:425–35. searchable pdf

Abstract: In a recent paper in this journal Melvin Ember (1971) dismisses Galton's problem (the problem of interdependent observations in cross-cultural research) as a serious methodological problem and suggests (Ember 1971: 106) "... that cross-cultural researchers can safely ignore this problem so long as their samples are selected in some random fashion." His argument rests primarily on empirical research that shows that historically independent samples do not produce consistently higher estimates of the strength of relationship between variables than do samples that are relatively independent." ... According to this view while it is true that many of the cases in the sample will not be historically independent, this will not be an error since interdependence is indeed a characteristic of the population. Accordingly, the usual procedures for computing standard errors with simple...


Since most of the literature on Galton's problem leads one to assume that the very essence of the problem is the "artificiai inflation of correlations, Ember's discovery that interdependent samples do not necessarily lead to spuriously high correlation is an important contribution to the literature. Unfortunately, however, this conclusion that Galton's problem can safely be ignored is quite misleading and should not be allowed to stand without correction. Ember's own data clearly show that Galton's problem is a very serious one that cannot be solved simply by random sampling.

Ember, Melvin. 1971. An Empirical Test of Galton’s problem. Ethnology 10: 98-106.
Loftin, Colin, and Sally K. Ward. 1981. Spatial autocorrelation models for Galton's problem. Cross-Cultural Research 16:105–28.
Ying, Sam. Colin Loftin and Sally K. Ward: Application of Spatial Autocorrelation in Sociology http://www.csiss.org/classics/content/61

Erickson, Edwin E. 1974. Galton's Worst: A Note on Ember's Reflection. Pp 62-83. In, James Schaefer. Studies in Cultural Diffusion: Galton's Problem, New Haven, HRAFlex Books, W6-002. Last half of p. 1

Loftin, Colin, and Robert H. Hill. A Comparison of Alignment Procedures for Tests of Galton's Problem. Cross-Cultural Research 1974 9: 4-6.

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