social networking & morality

Reading the UK newspaper, the Telegraph, I see that social networking sites can be bad for your moral values. Scientists say so, so it must be true…

Only they didn’t, & it’s not. Ben Goldacre has picked up on this story (along with other examples of overblown reporting in the UK press). The paper on which it’s based has yet to be published **, but he did a bit of digging & got hold of a copy. And contacted the lead researcher. Who said that the research paper didn’t mention Facebook or Twitter, the two sites fingered by the media, at all. However, his institution’s press officer did, in their media release, & the media picked this up & ran with it to create a story that’s both sensational and completely inaccurate.

I do wonder how long it will be before our own media spread this one around as well…


** Putting out press releases before the work’s been published in the scientific literature isn’t particularly good practice, as it means that other researchers in the field haven’t had a chance to read & evaluate it. But it does happen, as this case shows.

2 thoughts on “social networking & morality”

  • It’s interesting, though, that morals and scientific investigation are being linked more and more.
    Perhaps we are seeing a breakdown in the old mantra that science has nothing to say on this subject?

  • Alison Campbell says:

    It would be nice to think so, given that I’ve seen a few studies now providing reasonably good evolutionary reasons for the development – & application! – of a sense of ‘right’ & ‘wrong’. However, the sooner the media start presenting this in a way that really reflects the science (rather than the general tendency to sensationalism), the better.
    And that really applies to most ‘science’ stories in the media, not just this one!

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