According To My Study, You Are A Freaking Moron
Thursday, March 05, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
Okay, allow me to quote liberally from this Yahoo article that caught my eye. The headline was provocatively titled "Did Palin's looks hurt?"

A new article in the Journal of Experimental psychology makes the case that Sarah Palin's looks -- and the focus on them -- hurt her and John McCain in November's election.

The study is behind a pay wall, but Tom Jacobs summarizes the findings:

They took a group of 133 undergraduates and assigned them to write a few lines about one of two celebrities: Palin or actress Angelina Jolie. Half of the participants in each category were asked to write “your thoughts and feelings about this person,” while the other half were asked to write “your thoughts and feelings about this person’s appearance.”

The participants were then asked to rate their subject (Palin or Jolie) in terms of various attributes, including competence. Finally, they were asked who they intended to vote for in the upcoming election.

Those who wrote about Palin’s appearance were more positive in their assessments than those who assessed her qualities as a person. But they rated her far lower in terms of competence, intelligence and capability, and were far less likely to indicate they planned to vote for the McCain-Palin ticket.

“It wasn’t her appearance per se” that soured people on Palin, Heflick said in an interview. “It was the effect her appearance had on their perception of her competence and humanity. Those variables made people less likely to vote for her."...

Heflick noted that all the self-proclaimed Democrats participating in the exercise indicated they were voting for Obama. So at least in this sample, it was Republicans and independents who were internally debating Palin’s suitability for the job. The study suggests that their confidence in her abilities may have decreased the more they focused on her looks – and thus, in feminist terms, objectified her.

Now, this is a perfect example of twisting the results of a survey to get the outcome you want. Are we to assume that all 133 people involved in the survey have no pre-knowledge of either Angelina Jolie or Sarah Palin? Because one would suspect that having any awareness of Sarah Palin's performance as a political candidate would have a lot more to do with a person giving negative ratings than how she looks. I mean, yeah, we all get that she's a good looking lady, and we'd lying if we didn't give her high ratings for that. On the other hand, her obvious failure to grasp the most basic political ideas and to give a coherent answer during the Katic Couric interview, plus her vicious and untruthful campaign speeches are what I'd draw upon when looking to evaluate her suitability for the job.

Even if we assume that these people had only just emerged from a deep cryogenic sleep that lasted 20 years, thus ensuring their total lack of awareness of who Sarah Palin was, there are still important details left out of the article above. Where the people surveyed shown pictures of Palin and Jolie, and if so, which pictures were they? Was Palin smiling idiotically? Was she making a crazy angry face? Was she nervous looking and covered in flop sweat (which would I assume be a picture from the Couric interview)? This is important, because the smallest details can subconsciously prejudice a person's perception of another. Take the following two pictures for example:

Let's pretend you had no idea who either of these women were, and these were the only two photos I showed you of them. Would you trust either of these crazy bitches to hold high office? No. The one on the left looks like a crazed PTA president who wants to sell you Girl Scout cookies. The one on the right looks like a victim of The Joker's laughing gas. Based solely on these pictures, I would say neither of them are qualified to be either the Vice President or Secretary of State of the US.

I have no idea how the actual results of the study were written up and presented. My beef here is with the lazy way the article is written, and how it comes to apparently false assumptions about what the survey results mean.
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On 2:52 PM , SS+1 said...

I agree that the article was poorly put together, but I think that's why there are case can skew them so the results favor your hypothesis. Such is life in a statistician's world.