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Conservatives Ironically Get Angry At Science (That Isn't Really) Suggesting Conservatives Are Angry

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There's a thing that's pissing Conservatives off today from the University of Cincinnati:  an article entitled "People Become More Economically Conservative When Angered".

Let's just examine the irony here for a moment before moving on:  These conservative folks are getting more angry because of the results of a research study, and thus are bitching on Twitter to remove funding (e.g. become more "economically conservative"1) because they're angry.

Oh, damn, that's some delicious irony.

So let's move on to the thing itself:

(Note: I used a similar mechanism as this study in my own research for my Master's degree.)

This is a research study that involves over a thousand participants.  (That's good.)  It contained control groups (also good) and examined an apparent opposite effect while refining and duplicating the study (very good!).  And both the study and the author of the article were careful to note (including in the headline) that they were talking about economic conservatism, which is a very specific thing.

The reactions (see this Cincinnati.com article) are very disturbing, for one big shiny reason:

They're reacting to a tweet of a headline, but condemning the study and the article

Not enough?  How about this to send chills down your spine:

They're upset because the findings of a scientific study weren't pleasing for their ideology.

That should scare the ever-loving crap out of you.

Because if you actually read the article, there's several places where the reporting on this study leaves questions:

  • How big of a shift in attitudes was measured?  
  • Did the degree of the shift (or how statistically significant the shift was) change depending upon the person's baseline value?  
  • How did they test for, or control for, the participant's initial value for "economic conservatism"?   
  • Was that statistically significant shift meaningful in real life?

That's four big questions right off the top of my head.  It's quite possible - I haven't had a chance to read the study itself yet - that the study answers none of these questions.  It's even possible that the study has other issues, like the "hungry judges" study that I've been mentioning all week to people has some statistical problems I wasn't aware of.

Those are questions that need to be asked.  It's important that they're asked, and meaningfully answered.

That's questioning scientific methodology to ensure you get accurate results.

But instead, these "capital C" Conservatives1 would rather condemn science based on the (summary of a summary) of the results... simply because they don't like the results.

That's bloody terrifying.


1 The study isn't even about political Conservatives: UC Director of Public Relations M.B. Reilly said: "The item is using the word conservative with a lower-case 'c' so to speak, in other words in the classic meaning or sense of 'cautious,' 'orthodox' or 'marked by moderation.' (In fact, if you look at the body of the text, you will indeed find that the word conservative is lower cased in the second and tenth paragraphs.)

"It would seem that some are perhaps perceiving the term as a capital 'c,' in other words as signifying and/or limited in meaning to a specific political party vs. the term's broader definition and connotation.

"I hope this is helpful context to have."

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