Observing many researchers using the same data and hypothesis reveals a hidden universe of uncertainty
2022-11, Breznau, Nate, Rinke, Eike Mark, Wuttke, Alexander, Baute, Sharon, Hellmeier, Sebastian, Hunkler, Christian, Lersch, Philipp M., Lutscher, Philipp, Mader, Matthias, Seuring, Julian, Wehl, Nadja
This study explores how researchers' analytical choices affect the reliability of scientific findings. Most discussions of reliability problems in science focus on systematic biases. We broaden the lens to emphasize the idiosyncrasy of conscious and unconscious decisions that researchers make during data analysis. We coordinated 161 researchers in 73 research teams and observed their research decisions as they used the same data to independently test the same prominent social science hypothesis: that greater immigration reduces support for social policies among the public. In this typical case of social science research, research teams reported both widely diverging numerical findings and substantive conclusions despite identical start conditions. Researchers' expertise, prior beliefs, and expectations barely predict the wide variation in research outcomes. More than 95% of the total variance in numerical results remains unexplained even after qualitative coding of all identifiable decisions in each team's workflow. This reveals a universe of uncertainty that remains hidden when considering a single study in isolation. The idiosyncratic nature of how researchers' results and conclusions varied is a previously underappreciated explanation for why many scientific hypotheses remain contested. These results call for greater epistemic humility and clarity in reporting scientific findings.
A Source Like Any Other? : Field and Survey Experiment Evidence on How Interest Groups Shape Public Opinion
2021-04-25, Jungherr, Andreas, Wuttke, Alexander, Mader, Matthias, Schoen, Harald
Interest groups increasingly communicate with the public, yet we know little abouthow effective they are in shaping opinions. Since interest groups differ from otherpublic communicators, we propose a theory of interest group persuasion. Interestgroups typically have a low public profile, and so most people are unlikely to havestrong attitudes regarding them. Source-related predispositions, such as credibilityassessments, are therefore less relevant in moderating effects of persuasive appeals byinterest groups than those of high-profile communicators. We test this argument inmultiple large-scale studies. A parallel survey and field experiment (N¼4,659) estab-lishes the persuasive potential of low-profile interest groups in both controlled and re-alistic settings. An observational study (N¼700) shows that substantial portions ofthe public are unable to assess interest group credibility. A survey experiment(N¼8,245) demonstrates that credibility assessments moderate the impact of partybut not interest group communication.
Context-driven attitude formation : the difference between supporting free trade in the abstract and supporting specific trade agreements
2018-03-04, Jungherr, Andreas, Mader, Matthias, Schoen, Harald, Wuttke, Alexander
Many studies use the same factors to explain attitudes toward specific trade agreements and attitudes toward the principle of free trade and thus treat both objects as interchangeable. Contemporary trade agreements, however, often reach beyond trade in the narrow sense. Consequently, factors unrelated to free trade may affect citizens’ evaluations of these agreements. We propose a model of attitude formation toward specific trade agreements that includes the societal context as a constitutive feature. We expect salient aspects of an agreement to activate corresponding predispositions. Empirically, we compare how this contextual model and a standard model perform in explaining German citizens’ attitudes toward free trade and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). The results show that the standard model performs well in explaining public opinion on the principle of free trade but is less useful in explaining attitudes toward TTIP. The latter were driven by postures toward transatlantic cooperation, predispositions toward the role of interest groups in politics, and market regulation – aspects salient in German public discourse about TTIP. In sum, we find ample evidence for the need to differentiate between the two attitude objects and for our contextual model of attitude formation.