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Minors in the data; broken items; validity of scales

Posted by joeduarte on 18 Aug 2014 at 23:53 GMT


1. There are seven minors in their dataset, ages 5, 14, 14, 15, 15, 16, and 17. There is also a 32757 year old.

2. Some of their conspiracy items are broken. The New World Order conspiracy item starts: "A powerful and secretive group known as the New World Order are planning to eventually rule the world..."

Per the theory, the New World Order is not a secret group. It's a feared outcome, a world order.

The JFK item is perhaps not broken per se, but not much of a conspiracy: "The assassination of John F. Kennedy was not committed by the lone gunman Lee Harvey Oswald but was rather a detailed organized conspiracy to kill the President."

Since it doesn't name a conspirator or aim, leaving it open-ended, it's not much of a conspiracy item in this context. It's quite normal for people to doubt the official account of the JFK assassination. There's no apparent reason, with respect a rational knower's epistemic strategy, or an underlying "consiracist ideation" construct, to simply believe official accounts of events in the distant past. That case would have to be made -- why the rational knower should believe government accounts of things that they otherwise have no knowledge of. It's hardly a leap to imagine some coordination behind the assassination of a sitting President, and many journalists and historians have contested the government account here -- I don't know the details, but I think lots of reasonable people doubt said account. It would take a lot of work/reading to be confident in the official account of something when there's so much variance in views out there, and no one is obligated to undertake that work/reading.

I'm not sure what a "detailed" conspiracy is, per the item.

3. It's unclear what a "convenience" conspiracy is, or why a conspiracy about AIDS or tobacco would be convenient to someone.

4. The authors wait until the end to tell us that their "conspiracist ideation" variable is negatively correlated with conservatism, i.e. positively correlated with liberalism. In the abstract they say:

"Free-market worldviews are an important predictor of the rejection of scientific findings that have potential regulatory implications, such as climate science, but not necessarily of other scientific issues. Conspiracist ideation, by contrast, is associated with the rejection of all scientific propositions tested."

Thus, they associate one particular viewpoint with rejection of scientific findings. Then they tell us about conspiracist ideation, but they don't tell us the opposite viewpoint -- left/liberalism -- is associated with it.

5. I think the conspiracist ideation construct has to be validated. We don't know that it's real yet. As they note, its effects vary depending on what you ask.

6. The free market endorsement items are written in a caricatured, straw man, or question-begging style, an issue we see with a few scales out there. Relatedly, they're written in the language of the left, which will likely have some implications for their validity and the patterns of variance. Some items are double-barrelled, which is not good practice, and overly complex. e.g. "The free market system may be efficient for resource allocation but it is limited in its capacity to promote social justice."

What direction is that item pointing? They have it listed as reverse-scored. Is it? As a free market enthusiast, I'd probably rate it high (if I didn't skip all these awkwardly worded, leftist items), since I think I know what social justice means, and I don't think free markets necessarily deliver it. "Social justice" is a proprietary leftist slogan and term. It's not used outside of the left much at all. It's not what non-leftists call justice. Do participants know what it means?

Another example: "Free and unregulated markets pose important threats to sustainable development."

I don't know what that means, or what my answer would be. The concept of "sustainability" tends to be vague at best, and often ideolgically loaded and question-begging. It sprouts from environmentalist ideology, and non-environmentalists might not have a good sense of what it means. It's not a universal value, so these items are confusing and question-begging to those who dispute the left's casual notion of sustainability, and some scholars dispute it. (Random example:

One way to check the validity of the scale is to ask ourselves: Would pro-free market people write these items to measure free market views? Would conservatives or libertarians write these items? If not, then it's proabably worth asking why.

José L. Duarte

No competing interests declared.

RE: Minors in the data; broken items; validity of scales

S_Pruett replied to joeduarte on 10 Jan 2015 at 04:30 GMT

Jose Duarte is correct. This must be fixed. It is outrageous that this passed peer review. The issue of minors and 30,000+ year old participants alone should necessitate retraction of this paper. However, it is also a matter of concern there are many other issues that certainly seem valid to me that are addressed on Jose's blog. I suggest everyone read this ( Is science really dead at PlosOne? I hope not because I have published here.

No competing interests declared.