Today’s article is brought to you by “researchers” at NYU and UCLA. In a recent study, designed to troll the heck out of the entire American populace, neuro-science researchers “proved” that the brains of liberals and conservatives are wired differently. Among their list of conclusions were:

  • “conservatives tend to be more structured and persistent in their judgments”
  • conservatives tend to ignore information
  • “liberals are more open to new experiences”
  • liberals can be expected to accept new scientific and social ideals faster
  • the results “provided an elegant demonstration that individual differences on a conservative-liberal dimension are strongly related to brain activity.”

Now I don’t know about the rest of you, but I find this fascinating! These conclusions are revolutionary, and best of all have been made using Science ™! One imagines that there are several deep experiments correlating data from MRI observations with behavioral experiments, and well designed procedures meant to isolate variables and ensure the proper statistical power to draw these conclusions. One would imagine these things… and be horribly and utterly wrong.

No, it turns out the only experiment conducted was asking subjects if they were liberal or conservative, presenting them with a series of “M”‘s and “W”‘s on the screen, and asking them to hit a button when they saw an “M”. They then recorded correctness, brain activity from a broad region of the brain and from this data drew their specious conclusions.

This is one of my biggest beef’s with modern research, especially from Biologists and Psychologists. People love to draw broad conclusions from results that are utterly unable to support them. Due to media buzz, increasing popular influence, and just plain old bad science, this has become an increasing problem. Whats worse is that it detracts from the credibility of scientists everywhere, and public understanding of what science is. While the research conducted by the scientists at NYU and UCLA was doubtless important, like many researchers in the field, their results are utterly bogus. There is no way they can draw the broad behavioral conclusions that they draw based on people pressing buttons when seeing a given letter.

Not that this stops them from getting the headlines and fame, however. Not until the press hires competent science writers who can see these sorts of sham conclusions for what they are.

-Angry Midwesterner