This retraction had been anticipated, but just a little while ago, Science made it official. The 2014 study of attitude change toward gay marriage had been widely criticized. The now-retracted study abstract indicated that brief contacts with pro-gay marriage people could generate significant attitude change.
Can a single conversation change minds on divisive social issues, such as same-sex marriage? A randomized placebo-controlled trial assessed whether gay (n = 22) or straight (n = 19) messengers were effective at encouraging voters (n = 972) to support same-sex marriage and whether attitude change persisted and spread to others in voters’ social networks. The results, measured by an unrelated panel survey, show that both gay and straight canvassers produced large effects initially, but only gay canvassers’ effects persisted in 3-week, 6-week, and 9-month follow-ups. We also find strong evidence of within-household transmission of opinion change, but only in the wake of conversations with gay canvassers. Contact with gay canvassers further caused substantial change in the ratings of gay men and lesbians more generally. These large, persistent, and contagious effects were confirmed by a follow-up experiment. Contact with minorities coupled with discussion of issues pertinent to them is capable of producing a cascade of opinion change.
Science’s Office of Public Affairs provided the following press release:
Subject:For Immediate Release: Retraction of Science Report by LaCour and Green
Date: May 28, 2015 at 2:00:16 PM EDT
Dear Science press package registrants,
Today, Thursday, 28 May, 2015, Science, with the concurrence of author Donald P. Green, is retracting the 12 December 2014 Report “When contact changes minds: An experiment on transmission of support for gay equality,” by Michael J. LaCour and Dr. Green. Mr. LaCour does not agree to this retraction.
Science provided three key reasons for the retraction: (1) the misrepresentation of survey incentives; (2) false statements of sponsorship; and (3) the inability to produce original data, which makes it impossible to verify or alleviate concerns about statistical irregularities documented in an independent online response to the original work. Please refer to the “summary of irregularities” cited in the retraction.
Science had previously published an Editorial Expression of Concern about the study, on Wednesday, 20 May, 2015, to alert readers to the fact that serious questions had been raised about the validity of the study’s results. This was after receiving a retraction request from Dr. Green, on Tuesday, 19 May, 2015.
Reporters registered with EurekAlert! can also refer to the original Science Press Package summary of this study and related materials, which have been updated with a retraction notice.
A link to a related news story by John Bohannon, a contributing correspondent to Science’s news department, can be found here: http://news.sciencemag.org/scientific-community/2015/05/science-retracts-gay-marriage-paper-without-lead-author-s-consent
Links to Retraction and other Materials Cited Above:
Independent Online Response:http://stanford.edu/~dbroock/broockman_kalla_aronow_lg_irregularities.pdf
Editorial Expression of Concern:http://www.sciencemag.org/content/early/2015/05/20/science.aac6184
Original Science Press Package Summary: http://www.eurekalert.org/jrnls/sci/summaries-12-12-14.php#C
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