Scholar shrugs off research mistake linking conservatives with psychoticism, calls it ‘minor error’
That’s essentially the response Virginia Commonwealth University researchers Brad Verhulst gave to the Washington Free Beacon when it asked him about the recent revelation that his research linking conservatives with psychoticism was wrong — and in fact it’s liberals, not conservatives, that express more psychoticism:
“The correction to the original manuscript was quite minor, and consisted of an error in the descriptives,” Verhulst said. “None of the primary conclusions were affected by the error.”
Verhulst said the paper was not about conservatives being more authoritarian, but about the relationship between personality traits and political beliefs.
“The reason that the correction is quite minor is because we were looking at whether personality traits caused people to develop political attitudes,” he said. “We found that personality traits and political attitudes were correlated, but that there was no evidence that there was a causal relationship.”
“Accordingly, this is a minor error because the fact that the correlation is ‘exactly reversed’ does not change the fact that personality traits do not cause political attitudes,” Verhulst added. “Thus, while the descriptive statistics were incorrect, the conclusions based on the analyses do not change.”
The correction was first reported by Power Line Blog’s Professor Steven Hayward, who noted:
If you continue with the explanation in the correction it would seem to suggest that someone simply transposed the data somewhere along the line during the coding steps. Or maybe the authors were hoping for a job with Dan Rather or Katie Couric if tenure didn’t come through? They are defending themselves by saying that the main point of the paper was to demonstrate the magnitude of correlations between personality traits and sociopolitical attitudes, and hence that the ideological direction of the correlation doesn’t matter.
The research had been published in 2012 by the American Journal of Political Science.
The New York Post reports that the original report had been cited 45 times, according to Thomson Reuters Web of Science.