Opinion: Here’s a good one: Berkeley study blames readers for political bias

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Some new research just out from Berkeley asserts that when people read research results that conflict with their own existing opinions, they not only doubt the conclusions’ truth but they question the researchers’ objectivity.

So, for instance, if you think Barack Obama is a post-partisan, bipartisan wunderkind change agent and you read something somewhere that suggests otherwise, you’ll be incapable of reconsidering your viewpoint and will instead perceive bias in the messenger. Or vice versa about George W. Bush.

Have you ever heard of anything so ridiculous?

In other words, researchers have somehow hocus-pocus magically determined that when they scientifically do a study as professionals, using standard protocols and long-accepted procedures of social science research, and highly intelligent readers discover the findings conflict with their existing beliefs, the readers refuse to objectively re-examine their own beliefs.

That would somehow be too scary or threatening or something.

Instead, the readers proceed to question the research findings. And then they question the finders’ objectivity. Because the readers couldn’t possibly be wrong or unobjective.


Here’s a cockamamie quote from one of the study’s co-authors:

‘Findings that support our political beliefs are seen as objective facts about the world,’ said Robert MacCoun, a UC Berkeley professor of public policy, law and psychology. ‘But study outcomes that conflict with our views are more likely to be seen as expressions of an ideological bias by the researcher.’

MacCoun suggests the results of their random telephone survey of 1,050 adults in California (well, there’s some bias right there) raise implications for modern-day social science researchers whose stupid findings like this may not be taken seriously because of a built-in public bias to stick with our rigid existing beliefs about how smart we each already are even without any new information.

MacCoun was assisted by an equally silly co-author, Susannah Paletz. They’ll publish their findings any day now in the journal Political Psychology.

Next thing you know, these Bay Area wonders will try to convince us that this applies to people who write and read politics blogs, that somehow writers and readers tend to see in blog items what they want to see and believe and that confirms their own thoughts, and they then reject the rest as hokum inserted by biased bloggers or university researchers.

What a load! Everybody with any intelligence knows those Berkeley researchers with their goatees (not Susannah) and turtleneck sweaters and liberal lattes are obviously the biased ones. They couldn’t find an objective fact if FedEx delivered it overnight.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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