In DepthSocial Science

Ironic coda to fraudulent study of bias

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Science  08 Apr 2016:
Vol. 352, Issue 6282, pp. 131-132
DOI: 10.1126/science.352.6282.131

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Last summer, while media clamored for him to comment on a scientific scandal he had helped reveal, David Broockman was keeping an explosive secret of his own. Just months earlier, he and Joshua Kalla, political scientists now at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, and the University of California (UC), Berkeley, respectively, had exposed a study published by Science in 2014 as likely resting completely on fake data. Now, however, Broockman's own work was confirming that the effect claimed by the fraudulent study was real after all. The original study asserted that a short interview by a gay canvasser, if done right, can powerfully reduce people's prejudices, specifically about same-sex marriage, a "finding" that stunned social scientists. In the new work, Broockman and Kalla evaluated the same canvassing technique with another hot-button topic: transgender people. In one of the strangest twists in social science history, their results show that the canvassing strategy really can influence biases. "The data are solid and the analysis convincing," says Gabriel Lenz, a political scientist at UC Berkeley who was asked by the funders of the study to verify that the data for this new study were truly collected.