Tuesday, November 29, 2016

More media literacy resources

In an earlier blog post, I introduced you to the work of Melissa Zimdars, who created some tips for analyzing news sources, and in the process, I advocated keeping some fact checking websites bookmarked for those occasions where a story seemed too sensational to be true. Since then, Zimdars has been updating her tips and her list. I thought a couple of the links she suggests visiting are well worth your while:

Truth, truthiness, triangulation: A news literacy toolkit for a “post-truth” world by Joyce Valenza for School Library Journal.

Digital Resource Center

I wish that we could count on our news sources to be accurate, but we can't. We have to put in a bit of legwork when we see a story that looks interesting. Of the various pieces of advice, triangulating (looking for multiple sources for a story rather than relying on a single source) and reading the "about us" link when looking at a new website (or new to you website) are invaluable. We should also remember that in a 24/7 news cycle world, "breaking news" should be treated with caution. Early breaking information is often inaccurate, so make sure to check back later as journalists do their job. Also a good idea to be aware of your own biases and open yourself up to reputable sources that might go outside your own comfort zone. The reason for that last bit of advice is simply to avoid ending up in an echo chamber. Confirmation bias is tempting, as it "feels good" to read or listen to information that essentially confirms your own pre-set beliefs. However, those who might approach a story from a different angle may provide useful information that will empower you to question your beliefs and modify as needed. Often, the interesting stories - especially during an election cycle - are enormously complex and can be examined from any of a number of angles. Although the facts (the data in a news story) might constrain conclusions that may be drawn, examining how others draw somewhat different conclusions from the same story can be informative. I would also be wary of making too much from photos or video clips, as they may only tell part of a story if accurate, and with the advent of guerrilla journalism and photo-editing software those photos or video clips may be entirely worthless. Reliable sources may be less prone to circulating inaccurate information, but can still get facets of a story wrong. So again, triangulate.

I am sure that I will want to share more with you as we go forward. But for now, we have a working set of resources that will suffice.

The future of this blog

When I first started this blog, my intention was fairly modest: namely share a bit of my expertise in my areas of research and to perhaps do a bit to promote recently published and presented work that I have authored or coauthored with students or colleagues. I still intend to do so as I have in the past.

However, if this last year (and really the last several years) has taught me anything, it is that there is a considerable lack of both media literacy and science literacy in the US in particular, but probably to a degree elsewhere as well. As it turns out, my background uniquely positions me to address both concerns. I primarily teach methodology courses at my current university, and much of what I do is provide hands on training in conducting proper scientific research - beginning with learning the basics of descriptive and inferential statistics and creating research prospectuses, and culminating with completed research that can be presented at our Psychology Symposium each fall semester. I also am an aggression researcher who primarily is concerned with the influence of media violence on all facets of our cognitive, affective, and behavioral outcomes. Although my own focus has been on aggressive cognitive and behavioral outcomes, I do have some published work that address how certain forms of media manipulation can lead individuals to accept human rights violations that they otherwise might not accept. Given the exaggeration of violence in all facets of our mass media (including news reporting as it appears in traditional mass media as well as social media), I can take some inspiration from the work begun by George Gerbner and apply that work to our current situation.

I have been more keen to address science literacy in a number of ways, including examining the benefits and pitfalls of the path advocated by such organizations as the Open Science Foundation (with the caveat that I am generally supportive of OSF's general intentions), and have done so over the last year or so. I would love to devote some posts to how to make our work more available to the public, and how we can devote more classroom time from K-12 onward to providing better science training, including in the behavioral and social sciences. Although the scientific method is not perfect, its insistence on valid research design, well-reasoned conclusions based upon the available data, and independent verifiability and replication has been crucial to our civilization's development, and will continue to be crucial as we face this century's challenges. So, there is an area where I think we should spend some time in the months to years to come.

We clearly as a society need a crash course in media literacy. One of the hard lessons learned from this electoral cycle was just how little critical examination of news stories actually occurred. The proliferation of clickbait and fake news sites led to outrageous half-truths and often outright falsehoods going viral on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. I have been trying to provide a few posts as of late to highlight efforts to combat these particular fake news and clickbait sites. I may have a few more posts in me as new resources spring up. My general advice will be pretty straightforward: keep fact check sites bookmarked (Snopes, for example is well worth visiting), make certain that a story is appearing in more than one source (or related set of sources), and avoid echo chambers in order to prevent confirmation bias (a phenomenon I noticed way too often even among my own personal circle of friends - many of whom I expected to know better). In essence I am and will continue to advocate for being a good critical thinker when consuming news. My own morning go-to news sites span a number of ideological perspectives and are ones that are generally reputable. I actually rarely watch cable news outlets, preferring to read articles published on their sites instead if possible. My primary rationale started mainly from my media violence background and my understanding of Gerbner's cultivation theory: that overexposure to media, and especially portrayals of violence, have a number of unwanted outcomes on human behavior, and many of those outcomes are ones that are not healthy for any democratic society. So expect more of a conversation along those lines.

So, a fair amount of what you've read from me this year is likely a foreshadowing of what is to come. As always, my intention is to be evidence-based in my presentation to you. I may post a few other items that I think might be interesting as well, either because they provide some interesting historical context, or provide examples of internet memes that can be used to counter the prevailing tendency to fall for confirmation biases of one sort or another.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Think Before You Share

As part of my commitment to promoting media literacy, this video is worth sharing. As others have undoubtedly mentioned elsewhere (and as I have tried to highlight), if a news item appears on your social media feeds that seems too sensational to be true, it probably is. Do some basic fact checking before you contribute to making a misleading or fake story go viral. The fabric of our entire set of democratic institutions in the US and abroad are dependent upon us sharing accurate information rather than spreading falsehoods.

Please note that this video appears to be most compatible with Google Chrome (at least on the computers accessible to me).

Monday, November 21, 2016

The social psychology of prejudice in the Trump era

This column by social psychologist Chris Crandall should be on your reading list at some point this week, if you have not already seen it. Part of what makes the article useful to me is that Crandall and his colleagues at University of Kansas conducted a study in which they contacted 200 Trump supporters and 200 Clinton supporters and asked them about a wide variety of questions, including questions regarding attitudes toward a variety of groups that Trump has insulted over the course of his campaign, including persons with disabilities, Latinos (more specifically those from Mexico), Muslims, immigrants, and people who might be classified as overweight. Half were asked to rate their own views about these groups and the other half were asked what they thought others' attitudes toward these groups were. What was interesting was that participants showed a shift in negative attitudes toward people in these categories - not only by Trump supporters but also Clinton supporters as well - after Trump was named President-Elect. Their perception of the social norms had shifted, and so too had their expressed attitudes.

As Crandall notes, this is certainly not the only example of an experimental study showing a normative shift, but it is one very applicable to our own particular circumstances in the US. It appears that after decades of effort to cultivate more favorable attitudes toward inclusiveness, we are witnessing just how fragile those efforts have been. As a social psychologist who studies aggression, I can see how the shift in attitudes we are now witnessing could have some significant blowback in the coming months and years. What we study in the lab as social psychologists will become even more important and applicable than ever in the years to come. There is much work to be done, and shared with the public.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

A reminder that media narratives can be positive

Although positive narratives in our mass media are few and far between, it seems, I am always delighted when I can find one. This description of the protagonist from the new film Arrival strikes me as one of those rare moments (be aware of spoilers in the following description, as my friend who composed the following paragraphs would likely want to remind the reader):

In Arrival, we get to know the character of Dr. Louise Banks, and to see what she’s capable of in an extraordinary situation. Not only is it rare, percentage wise, to see a highly educated, White, middle-aged woman in the role of the extraordinary hero, the particular story we tell about Dr. Banks is inspiring. She is a quiet hero whose successes in life have centered around her talent for languages.When put in incredibly stressful situations, she feels the stress, but she moves forward anyway, relying on her own judgment. Here is a image from Arrival in which Dr. Banks makes a decision about how to speak to the aliens. She decides to take off her protective gear and reach out physically to them.
In a world where ongoing aggressions at home and abroad are on most people’s minds, there are other elements of the story that many of us may find reassuring. Louise chooses to put herself at physical risk while remaining non-aggressive and committed to communication. She endures others’ doubts and presses for factions from around the world to work together because she believes it is the only way to solve the problem for the collective good.

At a time when so many films offer the same solution – kick butt until the world does it your way – this film shows us a refreshing alternative. I do understand why we enjoy fantasies where we punch, kick or shoot people until we achieve world peace. However, since we use stories to inspire us in our own lives, this approach is only so useful. How often do most of us solve our problems by beating people up until they cooperate? (Some do metaphorically!) Dr. Banks’ character represents not only women, but all of us because her solutions are much more like ones we might actually use.


Like many films, at the center of this story are a man and a woman working together. Here, we have Jeremy Renner as Dr. Banks’ colleague, Dr. Ian Donnelly. Dr. Donnelly plays a supportive role. While a loving relationship develops between the two, the story doesn’t rush to conclude that romance solves anyone’s problems.

The message of Arrival is, in fact, much deeper than that. What it offers is an existentialist view about life –that, despite the pain, choosing love in the face of life’s twists and turns is the only good choice we have.
From the description, this strikes me as a sci-fi film worth seeing. Although the prospect of encountering extraterrestrial life forms is the stuff of fantasy, what isn't fantasy is the fact that we as humans encounter fellow humans who are often quite diverse in their spoken languages, customs, and so on. How do we communicate with one another? How do we develop enough trust to arrive at beneficial resolutions to a potential conflict? What sorts of strategies are realistic for doing so peacefully? At a point in time when trust and goodwill are in short supply, it is worthwhile to see the behaviors that exemplify those qualities modeled on the big screen, and eventually on Blue Ray and streaming services.

Meet the professor whose efforts to combat clickbait went viral

The article itself is titled Meet the Professor Who's Trying to Help You Steer Clear of Clickbait. I have mentioned Melissa Zimdars' work before. You will do well to read this article about her and her work on media literacy. Obviously, there are some sites on the list whose owners are unhappy. Hers is not the only effort to combat the problem of false and misleading information going viral. As always I am an advocate of being a critical consumer of mass media and applaud efforts to foster media literacy. The survival of our democratic institutions depends upon the public developing enough literacy to distinguish between reasonably factual news sources and those that are not.

What happens when facts no longer matter?

This electoral cycle is certainly a unique and unsettling one in the sheer amount of false information has spread beyond the fringes and into the mainstream. I've made note earlier of the problem of fake "news" and click bait sites that polluted social media, especially late in the electoral cycle. I've also noted at least one tentative solution that although will do us no good this year may be of some value going forward.

I suspect that we've been trending towards a "fact-free" media culture for some time, and there have been efforts by extremists (both left and right) for as long as I have been aware to cultivate a cynical dismissal and suspicion of our nation's institutions and experts. That cultivation was certainly going on in earnest in talk radio in the 1980s and 1990s, and increasingly in cable news channels as the 1990s and early years of this century came and went. The development of the world wide web and various emerging media (such as social networking sites) merely accelerated a long-term trend. As time permits, I will provide some links to back up this particular assertion, but suffice it to say, I am relying a good deal on an analysis put forth by George Gerbner and to an extent sociologist Barry Glassner. The problem with this trend is that it ultimately threatens the very fabric of our democratic institutions upon which our particular form of government depends upon for its survival.

Although the following is from an economics blogger, I think his commentary speaks very much to the issue at hand. Barry Ritholz mainly focuses on how this post-truth phenomenon has played out with regard to such data as unemployment rates. In it, Ritholz examines Trump's campaign distortions of the Department of Labor's unemployment statistics (Bureau of Labor Statistics' U-3 unemployment estimates), making wild claims about the so-called "real" unemployment rate, and all while providing no evidence to back up his claims. The problem is that these fabricated claims go viral and become extremely difficult to counter. Add to that the problem that those most receptive to such false messaging are eager to believe it, and we have an enormous confirmation bias problem on our hands. Let me offer a few clips from Ritholz summarizing things as he lays it out nicely:
Catherine Rampell wrote an excellent piece in the Washington Post about the virtual impossibility of running a democracy if the facts don’t matter:

“You know those unemployment rates, inflation numbers, household spending figures, health insurance coverage rates, gross domestic product growth and other stats that companies and consumers rely on when making financial decisions? Nearly half of Americans, and a supermajority of Trump voters, believe the books are cooked.”

What’s interesting here is that it seems folks are all too eager to distrust and dismiss Obama-friendly numbers (job creation, the unemployment rate), but apparently have no problem whatsoever believing the Obama-unfriendly numbers (the low labor force participation rate, the low home ownership rate). So, apparently, the agencies are cooking some numbers, but not others, which is absolutely fascinating.


Once again to Ms. Rampell:

“The problem with elevating yourself by tearing down the existing authoritative institutions is that once you succeed, you’ve established a road map for others to tear you down, too. There will always be someone waiting in the wings with an even juicier conspiracy theory, an even zanier hidden truth, an even more intricate data-unskewing method — and there’s no longer any authority left to debunk any of it.

This is how a democracy crumbles: not with a bang, but with data trutherism.” 

We have crossed the rubicon
If I can offer anything of value on this blog it is simply be a voice for the experts and institutions that have served us well over the the decades. With regard to economic data, one great feature to the institutions that generate that data is that they are independent of whatever partisan shenanigans are going on at any given time. Sometimes their findings are ones that Presidents and Congressional members like and sometimes their findings are ones that are unappealing to Presidents and legislators alike. We can argue about how we proceed once we have the objective data at hand, but we cannot simply dismissively argue away objectivity altogether and expect to function as a healthy democratic society. I agree with Ritholz that we have crossed the proverbial rubicon. Whether or not we can cross back is an open question, and one for which at the moment I possess no answer.

I can advocate that we who are experts in our various areas do what we can to push back against a "fact free" media environment, and the cultural consequences that come along with that media environment. We can certainly do so in the classroom. I use my methodology classes to train students to examine data and to accept what the data are telling them, rather than to make stuff up. In other content courses, I've pointed out where conflicts of interest have led to potential data fabrication or poorly conducted research, and the consequences that have ensued. As it turns out I have a wealth of examples I can use at any given point. As a social psychologist, I make the case for combating confirmation bias when consuming mass media by instead reading from a variety of reliable news sources (note that I also tend to advocate turning off the television and tuning out the noise on social media), and to follow up by utilizing known and reliable fact checking sites. I do so in higher ed. My colleagues in the K-12 systems across the US can do something quite similar. Our objective is not to tell our students and the public what to think, but rather guide them through the process of learning how to think and drawing their own conclusions in as reality-based a manner as is humanly possible.

Where we do have media figures who are willing to advocate for objective examination of the truth, we should make certain that they are reinforced for their efforts. I loved the series Mythbusters over the course of its run precisely because its hosts were excellent at modeling scientific reasoning and accepting the evidence they found. Neil deGrasse Tyson and Bill Nye the Science Guy both serve a very similar function as public mass media figures. They all undoubtedly deserve more praise than they get.

Please note that what I am advocating is for a sense of healthy skepticism. We should certainly expect that our institutions and our experts are transparent in their methodology for collecting and analyzing their findings. At this point, that is precisely what our various institutions do, and generally what our experts in the various sciences do. A healthy respect for our experts and a healthy degree of skepticism are both essential to our society's well-being. We can witness now the consequences of losing both of those very necessary qualities.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

A solution to the fake news problem on Facebook

It only took these students 36 hours to fix Facebook's fake news problem. Obviously a Google Chrome extension is not the last word on Facebook fixing its problem with fake news, but this group of young people showed proof of concept. It can be done.

False, Misleading, Clickbait-y, and Satirical “News” Sources

One of the features of this election cycle was the proliferation of articles shared on social media that often led to the circulation of false information. Or to put it more bluntly, there sensationalistic lies were being circulated from sources that themselves were not credible. Usually one set of defenses I recommend is to keep the following websites bookmarked:




These fact checking websites have the advantages of being politically neutral (completely independent, and offering no advocacy of a party affiliation or ideological affiliation), and are run and staffed by individuals really do examine the validity of statements made by politicians, websites, media figures and so forth. The articles you will get from Snopes, Politifact, and Factcheck are well-sourced and verified. They can be trusted.

Beyond that, it is important to have on hand a list of websites that are not providing valid information. Their articles on the surface appear to be "news" but they really aren't. Some, like The Onion, are satire. Unfortunately, I have witnessed a rise in people circulating stories from The Onion as if they are real. These are smart people, by the way, who are simply overwhelmed by the overload of information. Other sites are pretending to be legitimate but are not. In that spirit, keep bookmarked the following website:

False, Misleading, Clickbait-y, and Satirical "News" Sources

Basically, if it seems too outrageous to be true, it probably is. The author of this valuable resource offers the following advice, with which I will close this post:

Tips for analyzing news sources:
  • Avoid websites that end in “lo” ex: Newslo (above). These sites specialize in taking a piece of accurate information and then packaging that information with other false or misleading “facts.”
  • Watch out for websites that end in “.com.co” as they are often fake versions of real news sources.
  • Watch out if known/reputable news sites are not also reporting on the story. Sometimes lack of coverage is the result of corporate media bias and other factors, but there should typically be more than one source reporting on a topic or event.
  • Odd domain names generally equal odd and rarely truthful news.
  • Lack of author attribution may, but not always, signify that the news story is suspect and requires verification.
  • Check the “About Us” tab on websites or look up the website on Snopes or Wikipedia for more information about the source.
  • If the story makes you REALLY ANGRY it’s probably a good idea to keep reading about the topic via other sources to make sure the story you read wasn’t purposefully trying to make you angry (with potentially misleading or false information) in order to generate shares and ad revenue.
  • It’s always best to read multiple sources of information to get a variety of viewpoints and media frames. Some sources not specifically included in this list (although their practices at times may qualify them for addition), such as The Daily Kos, The Huffington Post, and Fox News, vacillate between providing legitimate, problematic, and/or hyperbolic news coverage, requiring readers and viewers to verify and contextualize information with other sources.

Monday, November 14, 2016

De-escalating bullying

Since there has been an increase in incidents of hate related bullying in the wake of the election on November 8, I want to provide a link to an article about how to shut down all types of bullying. Your individual mileage may vary, but it does help to eliminate one huge problem in emergency situations: the bystander effect (a topic we always discuss in social psychology courses). There is always the possibility that the aggressor might turn on you instead, and the article offers some tips for dealing with that as well. We may not be able to have the kinder, gentler nation that many of us would want, but each of us can make a commitment to help out as we can in the meantime. Here is the comic illustrating the steps you'll need to take if ever confronted with a bullying situation:

What leadership looks like.

Spend a moment to read the letter that the CEO for Linkedin wrote to his employees regarding his thoughts on the election. His words to them in the aftermath of the election are precisely the sorts of words concerned employees need to read or hear. There may be some lessons for us all, whether in formal leadership positions or not. As leaders, we have an obligation to model and maintain the core values of our organizations and to protect the interests of those who work for and with us. As educators, we have an obligation to maintain those same core values and to protect the interests of our students.

A few quick observations about the recent US election

As of this writing, not yet a week has passed since Tuesday's election. Trump has won the electoral votes, based on how the US system is set up, but appears to be losing the popular vote. If trends continue as remaining overseas and absentee ballots are counted, this will mark the second time in 16 years that a President-Elect will have won the Electoral College, but not the popular vote.

I am no political scientist, nor shall I pretend to be, and my remarks that follow should be considered strictly off the cuff. I will be awaiting more detailed and sober analyses in the months to follow, just as you will. However I think I can offer some sober off the cuff remarks as a starting point.

1. Our nation is still very divided. The popular vote itself is a good indication of what I am talking about. There are also rural-urban divisions, socioeconomic class divisions, and so on that are very present and made themselves felt during the electoral season.

2. Many of the polls and the polling aggregators got it wrong. I periodically follow their Twitter feeds and at the moment there are efforts to rationalize the failures to make a correct prediction. Perhaps one of the few to suggest that Clinton's electoral "firewall" was vulnerable was Nate Silver on his Five Thirty Eight blog. Regrettably, his concerns were largely dismissed.

3. Why the polls were wrong will be the subject of analysis over the months and years to come. There have been other instances in recent years across the globe of mismatches between the polls and the final outcomes, such as the recent UK referendum to leave the EU, SYRIZA's victories in Greece, the Scottish referendum to split from the UK, as well as the 2014 US midterm elections. Some have been written off as the results being within the margin of error. Other analysts are suggesting that either actual voters are being missed by the polls or that some form of social desirability effect is occurring. It is possible in the current election that once pollsters switched to likely voter screens, they missed infrequent voters who did come out to vote either in early voting or on Election Day. It is also possible that a "shy Trump effect" was at least somewhat real. In other words, individuals may have told pollsters one thing and then done something quite different when they voted. Some evidence to support this sort of social desirability effects might be gleaned from examining discrepancies between web-based polling and phone interviews. Regardless, a serious analysis of which polling methods work better and why polling went poorly is necessary under the circumstances.

4. To the extent that the polls are to be believed, neither of the two major party candidates was particularly popular. Some evidence for that assertion can be found from the decline in the number of votes for both Clinton and Trump this year relative to the number of votes their respective counterparts (Obama and Romney) received in 2012. Third party candidates and write-ins perhaps were beneficiaries, given that overall there appears to be no evidence that the percentage of eligible voters went down. But clearly there appeared to be less enthusiasm for this year's candidates than in recent memory.

5. From what I read periodically as time permitted, this was a very stressful election for many US citizens. No doubt some of that comes from choosing between candidates who offered stark contrasts, but were not particularly well liked by the electorate. Partially, the tendency for mass media to sensationalize and offer fear-based headlines and stories contributed. The outcome appears to be equally stressful. I suspect clinical and counseling psychologists will have their hands full.

6. Again keeping in mind that I am not a political scientist, but merely an interested observer, and as such I will note that the US is arguably not immune to trends affecting other nations. The 2016 election here has been compared to Brexit, and a case can be made for that, I suspect.

7. I am not aware of any evidence that the US has suddenly become a more racist, sexist, or homophobic nation than before the electoral outcome, but as numerous observers have noted, the election appears to have empowered those holding such views to engage in aggressive and violent behaviors at a rate they might not have done otherwise. This is a trend that I as both a scholar and a citizen find disturbing, and one where the expertise of behavioral and social scientists may offer some needed insights into reducing these incidents.

8. We are now a nation of media echo chambers. The amount of confirmation bias that we are witnessing is surely not healthy for a democratic republic.

9. I am influenced by George Gerbner's work on media violence, and one quick take-away observation is that the constant news cycle coverage of violent crimes (whether mass shooting events, police shootings, and so on) have contributed to a culture of fear. A population that is scared is more vulnerable to manipulation by any of a number of powerful people and organizations eager to exploit them, and is more vulnerable to accepting government sanctioned human rights abuses. We need to be very concerned with the amount of mass media exposure we allow ourselves, especially that with violent content (and most especially that content which is realistic). The rise of various emerging media such as social media and its contribution to the increased exposure to media violence should concern us all.

10. The legitimate economic concerns of those who have been left behind not only during the long recovery from the last recession, but from the changes to the economy over the last two or three decades are unlikely to be satisfied, and I would wager that many who could be considered working class or lower middle class are likely to continue to be frustrated in their efforts to get by, let alone find upward mobility. The research on frustration and anger, and frustration and aggression suggest that we are in for some very turbulent times ahead.

11. Given the lack of a popular vote win to match the electoral vote win, given the narrow lead the Preident-Elect's party holds in the Senate, and given that the President-Elect's party in the House owes much of its majority to gerrymandering, the optics for claims of a mandate to lead are not particularly favorable. Those biased to believe in a mandate may go along, but those who are either general evidence-based skeptics (as I am) and/or opposition partisans are not likely to accept the results as a mandate. I would suggest by way of repetition that the best the outcome tells us would be that our nation's electorate is very nearly evenly divided and highly polarized. How long those trends hold going forward goes beyond my particular expertise.

12. I suspect that more and more calls to reform or abolish the Electoral College will emerge in the aftermath of this election. As a personal comment, I'll add my voice to that call. As a matter of principle, I have questioned the wisdom in retaining the Electoral College, rather than simply relying on the popular vote for over three decades - essentially since I started voting. Although there are some legitimate concerns among those living in states that safely vote for one party or another, the truth is that most voters in most of the US are ignored by the candidates unless those voters happen to live in either one off a handful of swing states or in their respective candidates' firewall states. The rest of us never see the candidates visit with us. A case can be made that in the absence of the Electoral College, candidates would be required to go beyond their own bubbles and actually face more of their potential voters, which could lead to improved competition for votes - an outcome that might be healthier for our particular democratic republic going forward. It is certainly worth consideration.

13. Finally, those who have legitimate fears in the aftermath of this election deserve to be heard and they deserve empathy. Their concerns should not be dismissed, especially after the rash of hate crimes that have occurred since the election. In addition, the genuine concerns of those who have been left behind economically are ones that deserve to be heard and deserve empathy. My main concern is that empathy is in very short supply. For the health of our society, we need to make the effort to be understanding to one another. 

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Some advice for academic blogging

I came across this interesting article on my twitter feed, and thought you would find it helpful. The article goes into considerable detail about different types of blogs and how we as scientists can utilize blogs to share our research and expertise. I would still offer a word of caution. Editors and peer reviewers still frown on reporting original data first on blogs and then submitting to their journals. There has been a debate as to whether work published first on a blog is already "published" and hence a submission to a journal afterwards would be considered republishing the same data set - something considered a form of academic fraud (although I probably would not quite be that harsh in my judgment). In addition, blog posts simply will not be new lines on your CV for the purposes of finding a job or obtaining promotions. So proceed with caution. My approach has been to offer narrative descriptions of recently published work, and to attempt to provide links to those articles as best I can so that interested readers can examine the data analyses themselves.

So why commit to science blogging? I would say the simple reason is to open up the lines of communication, not only within our particular disciplines and specialties, but also outside of our academic disciplines and to the public at large. I consider blogging as part of a commitment to a mission advocated by the late cognitive psychologist George Miller, namely "the giving away of psychology in the public interest." Doing so makes our work more accessible and understandable. We benefit as scientists if we can cultivate public audiences who are engaged in our work as we fight various battles to maintain and enhance public funding for scientific research, and to regain the respect that the public once had for the difficult work that those of us with highly specialized expertise do on a day to day basis. In other words, blogging can be a needed counterweight to a climate of anti-intellectualism that has plagued my particular country, but also increasingly world-wide.

As for myself, I have not been able to blog nearly as much as I would like due to personal circumstances. I am hoping that the worst of those circumstances are over, and I should be posting a bit more regularly going forward. For those interested in my work, my ResearchGate profile and Social Psychology Network profile both remain up to date, as does my LinkedIn profile. Often I can provide downloadable pdf files of my published work, for those interested, and I invite you to do so.