Friday, April 29, 2011

What Tufts Knows

I'm not certain exactly where Tufts is located, but in this story by the Tufts Daily (warning, a little slow to load) a shortened version of the naturalization political knowledge test made famous by a Newsweek article that demonstrated how poorly American adults did was posed to the university students.  I blogged about the Newsweek article here.

How did 225 Tufts students do?  Not so bad by the light on the hill:
The results of the test, however, showed that Tufts students did in fact outscore Newsweek's "average American" — by 61 percent. The subjects who participated in the Daily's abridged survey outperformed Newsweek's group by exceptionally steep margins on certain questions, including "Who was president during World War I?" to which only 20 percent of Newsweek participants but 70 percent of Tufts participants responded correctly, "Woodrow Wilson," and the question "What is the economic system in the United States?" to which only 33 percent of Newsweek's participants but 85 percent of Tufts participants replied correctly, "capitalist or market economy."
On some items, though, Tufts students didn't fare so well.  This one is kinda embarrassing.  Here's the graf:
The average American did, however, stump Tufts when it came to the question, "Whom did the United States fight against during World War II?" Sixty percent of Newsweek's subjects but only 53 percent of Tufts students were able to name all three major axis powers correctly.
Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?   Hell no!

The news article is good in that it spends time evaluating whether this kind of knowledge matters in general and specifically to Tufts students, many of whom are not from the U.S.  It's worth a read and I may very well use it in the Fall when I teach a freshman seminar on news and faux news and what people know.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Missing TV

When a favorite television show is not available, does it matter?  Apparently so, at least according to a study in the latest Mass Communication & Society, which finds -- and this is scary -- "going without your favorite TV program can be just as damaging as losing a relationship with a friend or loved one."

That what the press release for the study says, though I've not actually taken time to read the research (I used to get MC&S, but no longer).  The study "found that when television shows are temporarily taken off the air, viewers are likely to experience distress or a feeling of loss.  This is particularly true for TV viewers who actively watch shows for a specific purpose rather than simply as a way to pass the time.  This extends previous research into the effect these TV “breakups” have on emotional suffering by showing that the more important TV is in a person’s life the more distress the viewer suffers."


Those of you immersed in mass comm research will not be terribly surprised by this, but still it's kinda scary how much stock we put in our favorite programs, our favorite characters.

Study full cite:
Julie Lather and Emily Moyer-Guse (Volume 14, Issue 2, 2011)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Where Was Trump Born?

Seven percent of Americans think Donald Trump was born outside the U.S. and 30 percent are unsure where he was born, according a poll cited here.

Which goes to show you, when you ask these kinds of questions, build in a huge margin of error when thinking about the results.  Makes those Obama birth questions seem kinda silly now, eh?

Sorry Birthers

The Obama administration released his "long form" certificate of live birth today.   Story here.

I have mixed feelings about this.  I'm just starting a study of "birthers" and don't want the issue to go away any time soon.

What Americans Know

Busy today, so instead I point to this column about what people know, or don't know, and whether it matters.  Worth the read.  I especially find interesting the defense, such as it is, of goofs by certain politicians when it comes to American history.  An apologia of partisan proportions.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

What Arkansas Knows

Arkansas had a rough day yesterday with storms so I hate to point out a survey released this week that finds a quarter of Arkansas adults don't know which party controls the legislature (Dems, apparently.  Go figure).  What's interesting is that over two years, the last time the same question was asked, the poll found 11 percent thought incorrectly it was the Republicans.  Now 26 percent think so.  So inaccuracy has increased, perhaps because of GOP national successes in Congress.  That's interesting in and of itself, a halo effect of sorts, a national perception having statewide consequences, at least in perception.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Has the Birther Movement Peaked?

Despite a New York Times poll that finds a quarter of adults, and nearly half of all Republicans, believe President Barack Obama was born somewhere other than the U.S., I think we're seeing signs that the candles on the birther movement cake may be burning out.  Yes, state legislators keep trying to keep the candles lit through various laws, but even Tea Party favorite U.S. Rep. Michelle Bachmann admitted, upon being shown Obama's certificate of live birth, that the issue appears to be "settled." 

Donald Trump may not have gotten the inter-party memo, but I sense those at the top of the GOP, who are not above feeding the crazies (Dems too, in their own special way), are starting to edge away from the Cliffs of Despair.

In other words, I argue that the movement has peaked.

You'd hope so, with 45 percent of GOPers believing Obama was born somewhere other than where all official and semi-official evidence points -- Hawaii.  Trump may have hijacked the issue for a while, but most folks assume this will play out when he ducks out of actually running for office.

A year ago, 20 percent of adults thought Obama was born elsewhere.  Earlier this month it was at 24 percent.  Now it's 25 percent.  Not coincidentally, confidence in the U.S. has reached a two-year low.  When things are bad, we latch on to easy answers.  For many, it's easy to suspect the worst of someone, even a president, we may not particularly like at the moment.  Policy reasons are hard, so we use something simpler and easier -- a heuristic, as social scientists would say -- and good ones are that Obama is secretly Muslim.  Or born elsewhere.  Or the Anti-Christ.  Or whatever.

As the theory of motivated reasoning suggests, we often believe what we want to believe.  Or as the article I linked to in the previous sentence says: "our quick-fire emotions can set us on a course of thinking that’s highly biased, especially on topics we care a great deal about."

And it's easier.  Faster.  And in many ways, satisfying because we have a bad guy to blame.

But let's face it.  The only reason the movement has been trending up is Trump and a handful of others playing this tune, over and over, to the joy and chagrin of journalists.  It's a fun story.  But it's the wrong story.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Republicans and 2012

There's a new New York Times poll out today that more or less suggests that when it comes to what people know (or feel) about the likely GOP presidential candidates remains fairly thin and uninspiring.  It's early yet, to be sure, but the numbers do not bode well for early party challengers to President Barack Obama.

Only Mike Huckabee, and to some degree Mitt Romney, do pretty well.  Huckabee scores well in having very low negatives, meaning fewer Republicans dislike him than, say, Sarah Palin.

Here's a nice graphical display.

What's also telling is the "undecided, don't know enough to tell" numbers, which suggest a lack of knowledge or interest or, maybe, passion the public, especially the GOP public, has for these potential candidates.  Among Republican adults, the biggest "never heard of him" goes to Jon Huntsman, and the most recognized of the bunch is Sarah Palin.  Donald Trump gets about one-third favorable, one-third unfavorable, and a lucky one third who have managed to avoid all information about him.  To that one third, I envy you.

Emotion and Political Behavior

Sit down, budding mass comm scholars, and let me describe for you how to craft the perfect title for that academic journal article.
  1. It must have a colon.  There's even a name for this -- titular colonicity.
  2. But a colon alone does not an article title make.  You must, before the colon, come up with some clever or sexy name.  Playing off famous song titles is good.  Or puns.
  3. And after the colon comes the boring stuff, the part that says you really are a serious academic.  Really.  You have a PhD and everything.
  4. Put it all together and it all works so very well.
Which brings us to a recent Journal of Politics article that follows oh so well my careful algebraic formula above for writing the perfect title.

Before the colon: Election Night’s Alright for Fighting

You gotta give extra points for giving a political participation study a play off a great old Elton John song.  Terrific.

And then comes the colon.

And then comes the boring but important stuff: The Role of Emotions in Political Participation

I suppose I should discuss the study itself, at least briefly.  It looks at the role, obviously, that emotions play in participation, and specifically they find that anger matters more than enthusiasm or anxiety.  Their Table 2, for example, demonstrates anger as a predictor of participation.  Interestingly, political knowledge fails to be a factor.  No media variables are included in the analysis, which is too bad, but I suspect all the variance would have been sucked up by other factors used in the model.

For those who cannot access the study:

In contrast with previous literature, however, we also find important distinctions between the effects of anger and other emotions. In an experiment where emotions were induced independently, we find anger, but not anxiety or enthusiasm, significantly boosts participation. In our 2008 survey, we find anger to be positively linked to participation, while anxiety actually decreases participation and enthusiasm has little effect. Finally, in the ANES pooled data, anger, enthusiasm, and anxiety are positively associated with
participation. However, the effect of anxiety is confined to less costly participatory actions. On the other hand, anger and enthusiasm motivate costly forms of participation as well. Skills and resources are important, but the motivating power of anger and to a lesser extent enthusiasm, in combination with such factors, dramatically boosts participation.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Political Knowledge and Voting

Without further comment on a busy day, I point at this entry in the continuing debate over who should vote and whether a knowledge test makes sense.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The War of Northern Aggression

The Civil War is in the news today, of course, thanks to it being the 150th anniversary since shots were fired at Fort Sumter. 

Is the War of Northern Aggression (as we in the South sometimes call it) still relevant today?  According to a new Pew Research Center poll, yes it is, or at least it's seen as relevant to 56 percent of Americans.  The report does a pretty good job of breaking the findings down by southern versus non-southern attitudes not only about the war but also about the Confederate flag (to the right), the cause of the war (slavery versus states rights) and all the rest.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Yuri Gagarin -- 50 Years Later

On April 12, 1961 -- 50 years ago tomorrow (Tuesday) -- Yuri Gagarin became the first human in outer space.  That's cool.

Not only that, a survey a year ago by the Space Foundation found him one of the 10 Top Space Heroes of all time.

All but one from the list are actual people.  Unfortunately for Gagarin, he's tied with the only fictional character, James T. Kirk of the Starship Enterprise.  But c'mon, that's pretty damn good company.  Beam me up, Scotty.

Here's the list:

1. Astronaut Neil Armstrong, who flew in both the Gemini and Apollo programs and was the first human to set foot on the Moon
2. NASA Flight Director Gene Kranz, who played a key role in both the Gemini and Apollo programs and is best known for directing NASA's Mission Control efforts to save the crew of Apollo 13 after the capsule suffered a catastrophic explosion while en route to the Moon
3. Astronaut Capt. John W. Young*, USN (Retired), whose 42-year NASA career included the Gemini, Apollo and Space Shuttle programs, including walking on the Moon and piloting the first Shuttle
4. Astronaut Capt. James Lovell*, USN (Retired),
who flew in both the Gemini and Apollo programs and is best known for commanding the dramatic return to Earth of the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission
5. Former Senator and Astronaut Col. John Glenn, USMC (Retired),
who was first American to orbit the Earth and the only astronaut to fly in both the Mercury and Space Shuttle programs
6. (tie) Russian Cosmonaut Col. Yuri Gagarin,
Soviet Air Force, the first human in outer space; and fictional character Capt. James Tiberius Kirk of the starship USS Enterprise from the 1960s television series, Star Trek
7. Former NASA Administrator Michael Griffin, Ph.D.,
who led the U.S. space agency from 2005-2009
8. Scientist and author Carl Sagan, Ph.D., known primarily for popularizing astronomy, astrophysics and other natural sciences
(3-way tie) Astronaut Col. Buzz Aldrin*, Ph.D., USAF (Retired), who flew in both the Gemini and Apollo programs and was the second person to walk on the Moon; Mercury Astronaut Lt. Col. Virgil "Gus" Grissom, USAF, who was the second person to fly in space and the first to make a repeat trip, and was killed in a pre-launch test for Apollo 1; and Astronaut Rear Adm. Alan Shepard, USN (Retired), who flew in both the Mercury and Apollo programs and was the second person and first American in space
10. (tie) Entrepreneur and SpaceX founder Elon Musk,
who has created the first fully commercial U.S. space venture; and rocketry pioneer and scientist Wernher von Braun, known as the greatest rocket scientist in history

Monday Stuff

A few quick hits, items of interest that in some way touch on what people know.
  • A majority of European Community consumers lack knowledge about their basic rights.  According to the study: "A majority of consumers were not aware of their fundamental rights such as the right to have a faulty product repaired, replaced or reimbursed 18 months after purchase, the right to cancel an online financial services contract within 14 days if they change their mind or find a better offer, or similarly, the right to cancel a contract with a doorstep salesman."
  • A lot of retiring baby boomers think they won't actually get to retire and may have to keep working, according to a new survey. Me, I'm in my university's "optional retirement plan" in which, I'm fairly certain, retirement is only an option.
  • That nuclear family is a bad thing, or so suggests this story, in that it violates the human rights of the elderly.  In other words, a nuclear family leaves out the elderly, who then suffer from loneliness and other problems.  It's an interesting way to approach this, one I've never considered before.
  • Americans score pretty low in consumer spending knowledge, says this story.  "More than 41 percent of Americans give themselves a C or a lower grade for their knowledge of personal finance, acknowledging that they lack the ability to make sound financial decisions"  Ack.
And that's it for a busy Monday.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Agenda-Setting. Yawn.

My academic field loves agenda-setting.  I've never understood why.

It's the perfect we-dare-research-the-obvious example, is agenda-setting, the notion that as the news covers a topic more and more, it moves higher and higher in the public mind as what's important.  It's not really a theory, though we often dress it up as such and take it to dances and pretend that everyone else in the room doesn't realize she's really some tart from the wrong side of the tracks.  It's really more of an approach, or a paradigm, or some other fill-in-the-blank academic descriptor for stuff that doesn't really qualify as a theory.

Why am I venting about a mediocre research paradigm I don't really like?  In part because I've got to discuss it Monday in my reporting class, in part because I'm in a mood to vent.  It's my blog.  So cope.

There are more interesting ways to examine many of the same questions that agenda-setting tries poorly to do.  Priming, for example, boasts a stronger theoretical foundation.  Framing too. But if you do a Google Scholar search for "agenda setting" you get 75,300 hits.  Framing and priming get more hits, but they can mean so many more things ("framing theory," for example, snags only 2,370 hits).  So agenda-setting is fairly popular.  And I've never really understood why.

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Donald's Birthing Exercise

Yesterday I wrote, like so many others, about Donald Trump's birthing exercise.  You know the one, whether Barack Obama was born in the U.S. (yes, he was, if you consider Hawaii in the U.S.).  You can go to the previous post for details.  But I noticed today a new poll is out on the issue, the one finding a higher percentage of those who doubt Obama's U.S. citizenship.  First, a caveat -- it's a Fox News poll -- but let's assume the best.  According to the poll, 24 percent of Americans say Obama was not born in the U.S.

That's one-in-four of American adults doubting Obama's citizenship and, by extension, the constitutionality of his presidency. About two-thirds say Obama is a citizen.  Ten percent are unsure.

It goes without saying, though I'll say it, that Republicans are significantly more likely than Democrats or Independents to believe Obama was born elsewhere (37 percent).  They're also a lot more likely to be unsure (16 percent).  In other words, if you add the "elsewhere" and "unsure" groups together, you get well over half of Republicans (53 percent) doubting Obama was born in the U.S.  That qualifies as a wow as we gear up for the 2012 election cycle.

Clearly the significant difference seen between Republicans and either Democrats or Independents can be explained through motivational reasoning.  Simply put, we tend to believe what we want to believe -- and we will discount that which doesn't fit our predispositions.  Partisanship, it seems, wins out over accuracy.  A lot of this is subconscious and I used the theory in some published research to explain why people believe Obama is Muslim despite all evidence to the contrary.  And here's the twist ... corrections by the media of some mistake actually push the most partisan to even more strongly cling to inaccurate beliefs.  In other words, with some folks, you just can't win.

So often, instead of what people know, we should ask: what people prefer to know.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Obama, Birthers, and Donald Trump

The political chattering class is abuzz about Donald Trump's surprising strength among those seeking, or who may seek, the Republican presidential nomination.  Now I find Trump as entertaining as the next guy, and his surprise 17 percent showing, good enough for a tie at second place for the GOP nomination pool, is almost as much fun as him apparently sending investigators to Hawaii to see if Barack Obama was really born there.

Birthers, those who doubt Obama was born in the U.S., are equally entertaining.  But don't underestimate their numbers.  One recent poll found as many as 20 percent believe he was born somewhere other than the U.S., and 31 percent of Republicans think so.  In other words, one-in-five Americans are a bit kooky on this topic, and nearly one-third of Republicans are.  The Donald is on to something.  Not necessarily the truth, mind you, but a shameless play to his audience, those likely to participate in a Republican nomination.  I really see Trump surprising some folks.

By the way, the whole where was Obama born thing was settled long ago by that terrific web site devoted to debunking urban myths -- snopes.  Trump could have saved money by just clicking on the web site rather than "sending" investigators to Hawii to interview, I dunno, no one.  But he's got money to spare.  If he'd like to send me to Hawii to investigate then I'm willing to go on his dime too.

Yo Donald.  Call me.

From a theoretical perspective -- yeah, you knew I'd go there -- belief in the birther movement is reminiscent of those who believe Obama is Muslim. Basically these are people who want to believe the worst in a guy they politically disagree with.  No amount of correcting information will change this (I've blogged on this before, just search for it or motivated reasoning on my blog).  Even corrections will move the partisans further to the edge of sanity (far left, far right, you pick it).

Still, Donald.  Call me.

Obama and Web 2.0

That Barack Obama made remarkable use of social media and the Internet in the 2008 presidential election is hardly news, but this brand new study in the Journal of Political Marketing examines the effort in detail to find "the Obama '08 campaign created a nationwide virtual organization that motivated 3.1 million individual contributors and mobilized a grassroots movement of more than 5 million volunteers."

I'd discuss it more, but unfortunately it's one of those gotta pay for it sites, so all we have to work on is the abstract.

I mention this study for two reasons.  First, it's new and as we all know, new is news.  Second, Obama is kicking off his 2012 campaign and given the amount of money he hopes to raise, it'll be interesting to see if his campaign can harvest social media in the same way, with the same success, as in 2008.  Given the economy, his modest approval rating (49 percent), partisan sniping, and the dissatisfaction with his presidency found on his ideological right and left, I can't see the same success happening.

But get ready, budding masscomm scholars, because it'll be a neat comparison study of 2008 and 2012 -- what worked, and what didn't, and why.

My apologies for the weird formatting.  Using a Mac and it doesn't seem to get along well with Blogger.

As Beck Heads for the Fox Front Door

As I (and the rest of the planet) wrote about Wednesday, Glenn Beck will soon leave his Fox News show. There are some really good takes on this.  I'm partial to The Atlantic's version, which gives several reasons why it may have happened -- from Beck is too crazy even for Fox to his drop in ratings to fleeing advertisers to, well, Beck's gotta be Beck, and he'll do it better somewhere else. 

The latter, the personal branding argument, is a powerful one, but I'm going to come at this from its potential effect on the audience.  TV and radio talk shows tend to have a mixed audience.  There is the choir, the faithful getting preached at and who seek out the Becks of the world, on the left and on the right, to hear their opinions and predispositions echoed so they will feel good about themselves and their worldviews.  Then there are the curious, the political news junkies curious as to what "the other side" is up to, or to get ammo to make fun of them.  And finally there are the merely curious, the kind of people who not only slow down to oggle a traffic accident but who will actually get out of the car for a better view (yeah, that's me).

The political effects of such programming are not inconsequential.  Reaffirming beliefs, providing talking points to the faithful, those are significant effects and often watching or listening to this stuff pushes these folks even more to the extreme, and it tends to make them even less likely to entertain argument from the other side.  If indeed Beck went too far, we might take this as a good sign that even Fox has limits on its conservative brand.  But I suspect it's more a financial than journalistic decision, assuming Fox actually makes decisions based on journalistic ideals.

So what's the effect on real people?  I'd like to say the very worst hugger of invented historical conspiracy theories is gone, but his brand is powerful enough that he'll find a soapbox somewhere and an audience will follow.  What we're really seeing is an even further fragmentation of the media, in particular the conservative media, in which Fox might find itself marginalized into representing more of a mainline conservative viewpoint while a not-quite-but-kinda-like-Tea-Party-Conspiracy-Theory model will emerge elsewhere as a mild, but significant, challenge.

In other words, what's happening to the Republican Party is also happening to its primary information organ -- Fox News.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Glenn Beck To Leave Fox

Yes, we've been expecting this one for some time now, but apparently Glenn Beck's afternoon show will disappear "later this year," according to this NYTimes article.
Mr. Beck is a hugely popular figure on Fox News, averaging 2.2 million viewers each weekday, though his ratings have fallen somewhat in the last year. He is beloved by his fans for speaking out against what he sees as threats from progressives. His opponents — and there are many — condemn him for his conspiratorial views and apocalyptic predictions.
And that's exactly what makes him so much fun -- and great fodder for blogs.  I need the material, and Sarah Palin and/or Michelle Bachmann can only take you so far.  Yes, Beck may have his own show or channel or universe from which to operate, but it won't be the same as being on Fox.

A Government Shutdown

With a looming federal government shutdown, we've heard a lot about the last time this happened and how Clinton bested Congressional Republicans led by Newt Gingrich.  I agree with pundits who say this time is different.  Obama is no Clinton, and no one is playing the evil part as well as Gingrich, except maybe Lord Voldemort or Dick Cheney.

Recent polls put the blame game about even. For example, a Washington Post poll in March scored it 37 percent blaming the Republicans, 37 percent blaming the Obama administration, 15 percent wagging their fingers at both. 

But I'm less interested in in who wins the blame game than in how this affects people's attitudes toward government.  There are a lot of ways to look at this.  In a nod to the Tea Party folks, there's a great poll question asked for many years by USAToday/Gallup: "In your opinion, which of the following will be the biggest threat to the country in the future: big business, big labor, or big government?"

Back in 1999 and 2000, 65 percent pointed at big government.  By 2009 that had dropped to 55 percent.  No more recent data available from this poll.  Big business has gone up as a threat, from 24 percent to 32 percent.  Those evil unions?  Always around 8 to 10 percent.  Again, these data are a bit old, ending in 2009, so we have to read them with some caution.

A different poll looks at whether people think government is doing too much or too little.  Asked from 2002 to 2010, there's been little change, easily within the margin of error.

But trust in government is the big one.  A democratic government relies on the trust of the governed, it draws on that reservoir of trust (yeah, and cash) in other to operate.  Check out the graphic below, drawn from American National Elections Studies data.  Other than a few blips up (post 9/11 being the most recent), there is a steady trend toward less trust.  If you like, you can flip the chart below and look only at the rise in distrust (see here).  What's interesting to note is the steady rise in federal government trust after the 1994 takeover by Republicans (and the budget squabble with Clinton).  It's hard to tease out whether this is a function of GOP leadership, Clinton political skill, or the feds just coming off looking better as the Republicans forced a shutdown.  I'm leaning toward the latter, though I'd need to go find studies with a detailed analysis.  The ultimate point is this -- a shutdown, if it happens, might lead to people realizing how much they depend on the federal government and improve it's reputation among a cynical public.  But it's only a theory.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

New Pew Political IQ

The fine folks at Pew have another report out that looks at what people know, and the results are about what you'd expect.  Put simply, not great.  At the risk of ruining it for you if you hoped to take the test yourself, below you'll see the results of their late-March 2011 survey.  Read down the report to find breakdowns by age, partisan preference, and all the rest.

The Easter Bunny

It's Lent, which means Easter is coming soon. How do I know? Because one of my neighbors has this garish, tacky, giant inflatable Easter Bunny on their front porch. And on each side -- a giant inflatable carrot.  

Pagan Bunny?
But not everyone gets into the Bunny.

This story cites a survey, a bit dated, to discuss how Christians are divided on the whole Easter Bunny thing.  Nearly half don't think the Bunny belongs, that he has potentially Pagan overtones (worship the rabbit?  Only Bugs, voted the most popular cartoon character of all time).  Over a third of Christians (39 percent, the smart ones) say the Easter Bunny is not bad.

You won't find a lot of surveys about what people know about religious holidays or, specifically, about the Bunny.  Try searching for "easter" in and you draw a blank.  Christmas gets a lot more attention as a holiday, such as the semi-ridiculous "war on Christmas" issue from a few years ago (only 42 percent thought there was such a war, 48 percent said there wasn't).  I'd argue there is a war for Christmas, given all the continuous bad music we're forced to listen to in December.

But the Bunny?  Curiously, even suspiciously, ignored.  You can find some silly surveys asking "Do you believe in the Easter Bunny?" (more say "no" than "yes," and should not get anything in their basket).  And even important ones, like what part of the chocolate Easter Bunny do you eat first.  Ultimately, across the Net, you'll find the Easter Bunny lumped with Santa Claus and others and ask -- should we lie to our children?  Of course we should lie to our children.  What a dumb question.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Hollywood and Knowledge

How do you teach millennials -- the Twitter/Facebook generation, history?  Or more specifically, abstract concepts from history?

According to this study, learning styles for this young adults respond better to interactive and visual presentations.  No surprise there.  But they add: "We argue that for the “Facebook” and “Twitter” generation, Hollywood Blockbusters can serve as effective teaching tools to make abstract concepts more understandable." 

In other words, show 'em a movie.

Take, for example, the film Crimson Tide.  Good movie.  The study used it and another to argue that films such as this work better in helping students understand the nuances of the Cold War. Now, to be fair, the research asks students whether the films helped them, including specifics, but it did not include an objective test (I don't think) of how accurate students actually were about the Cold War and whether Denzel Washington actually worked on a nuclear submarine.  So in other words, this measures how much students think they learned, not what they actually learned.
For fun, a bit of the movie below:

Being Methodology Agnostic

I wrote the other day about how Twitter in particular seems to be arriving as a market research tool and seems to have substantive predictive power, even in elections.  Here's a column discussing kinda the same thing, though obviously better than my scribblings, thus I point you in that direction.  I love the quote from Joan Lewis of Proctor & Gamble, who says "we need to be methodology agnostic."

The blog's author echoes this point:
Another point in the article is to stay method agnostic — and I think this is a great recommendation.  As research professionals, it’s out job to get to information that helps us make good business decisions.  I don’t particularly care which method we’re using — as long as it can help me run my business.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Health and Social Media

There are a lot of ways to get health information -- from family, from friends, from the news media, from an actual living breathing doctor or nurse.  And, of course, there's that Internet thing.

Social media in particular are a growing source of health information, but ethical issues come up when doctors and patients use such avenues to connect, at least according to this story.  If you scroll to the story bottom you'll see an interesting bit of info on how much social media influence health care decisions. On a 1-to-5 scale, with "5" being high, 12 percent said it influences such decisions.  Twenty-one percent said a "1" meaning it never really has any influence.

I can see this.  In terms of what people know, especially about their own health, we often appeal to a "wisdom of the crowd," especially if in that crowd is our doctor, or any doctor, and others with some expertise, along with people who have the same shared problems.  It's the brave new health world.