Must-Read: David Zweig: The Facts vs. David Brooks

Must-Read: David Zweig: The facts vs. David Brooks: “The passage from ‘The Road to Character’ reads…

…‘In 1950, the Gallup Organization asked high school seniors if they considered themselves to be a very important person. At that point, 12 percent said yes. The same question was asked in 2005, and this time it wasn’t 12 percent who considered themselves very important, it was 80 percent.’ Over the course of my search I discovered other iterations…. During a 2011 appearance on ‘Real Time With Bill Maher,’ for example, Brooks tells the same exact story, except… not in 2005 or 2006, but in 1998. The NYT’s… reviewer noted that the passage in question was similar to one in an earlier Brooks book, ‘The Social Animal,’ only… ‘with slightly different dates.’… (Amazingly, to the New York Times reviewer, the late 1980s and 2005 are only ‘slightly different dates.’)….

The thing I keep wondering is how did Brooks get nearly every detail of this passage wrong? He said Gallup… when… academics. He merged a data set from 1948 and 1954 into 1950. He said the second data set was from 2005, when it was from 1989…. He said it was high school seniors, when it was 9th graders. And he said 80 percent answered true, when that was only so for boys. Can one accidentally get this many details wrong?… If it wasn’t an accident, why would Brooks deliberately falsify nearly every detail in a passage of his book, let alone one that is a cornerstone of the book’s PR campaign?…. In addition to his factual errors, it’s worth noting that Newsom and Archer challenge Brooks’s interpretation…. One question had a huge jump, ostensibly supporting the case of less humility over time… [but] the overall subset [of]… Ego Inflation… had a relatively small increase…. It’s generally not sound to spotlight one question in isolation, especially if it contrasts with the findings of the overall study or subset.

June 15, 2015

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