Sunday, April 12, 2015

Power is of two kinds (or: Gandhi, power, fear, love, and statistics)

In the chapter of DBDA2E on Goals, Power, and Sample Size (p. 384), I quoted the Mahatma Gandhi:
"Power is of two kinds. One is obtained by the fear of punishment and the other by arts of love. Power based on love is a thousand times more effective and permanent than the one derived from fear of punishment."
But I was not able to find an original source for that quote, and I said so in a footnote.

Now the original source has been revealed to me by reader Atul Sharma. (Thank you, Atul!) He even pointed me to an online archive of image scans of the original documents. Here is the relevant page; the passage starts at the bottom of the left column:
The image comes from the Gandhi Heritage Portal. The full reference is Gandhi, M. K. (1925, 08 January). Young India, p. 15.

What did that quote have to do with statistical goals and power? 

Well, I was being playful with the word "power" but there also was a deeper relationship. In classical statistics, "power" refers to the goal of rejecting the null hypothesis. But that goal has problems, and a better goal is seeking precision (and accuracy) of parameter estimation. On p. 384 of DBDA2E I said "The goal of achieving precision thereby seems to be motivated by a desire to learn the true value, or, more poetically, by love of the truth, regardless of what it says about the null value. The goal of rejecting a null value, on the other hand, seems too often to be motivated by fear: fear of not being published or not being approved if the null fails to be rejected. The two goals for statistical power might be aligned with different core motivations, love or fear." Then came the quote from Gandhi.

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