Why does the news turn social science into garbage?

I'm reading garbage. But I look smart. I feel smart. And doggone it, I'm pretty wealthy.

I’m reading garbage. But I look smart. I feel smart. And doggone it, I’m pretty wealthy.

Okay, I could have added “sometimes” in the title.

Someone at the New York Times‘s One-Page Magazine took this interesting study (paywalled) of conversational styles among a sample of older couples over a period of 13 years and turned it into this:

Forget counseling: a new study in The Journal of Marriage and Family found that couples who have been married for more than 35 years and are over the age of 60 are more likely to change the subject rather than confront toxic topics in their relationship.

Forget counseling? Not only do the authors not say this is a good thing (the study did not include marital outcomes), they specifically suggest the research might help shape future approaches to marital therapy at older ages.

But why care? It’s just another gossipy piece of social science fluff that doesn’t reference the actual study, written to give NYT readers a harmless chuckle while they peruse the Sunday paper. Ha ha. Ick.

6 Comments

Filed under In the news

6 responses to “Why does the news turn social science into garbage?

  1. Sarah

    Professor Cohen – Do you have any suggestions for balancing the research with the news story style of writing (on the researcher side of things, though)? One of the critiques I get from the media people in my org is that my writing is “dry” and not, well, you know, “newsy”/catchy enough. As a researcher, I would like to learn how to balance this better to make the research more accessible while not compromising the true nature of the data. Any books, links, lectures, etc. to suggest?

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  2. My first thought was that in 2013, couples who have been married for more than 35 years and are over the age of 60 is a pretty small data set, given the ease of divorce and that they’d have to have married before age 25.

    Anyway, what I noticed is the utter and complete contradiction between conflict avoidance isn’t necessarily a prescription for a long and happy marriage and Couples who’ve been married a long time have already tried to resolve these topics, and they know there’s no solution that makes it better. That’s just bad writing.

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  3. claudia

    In a worst case scenario, a young, newly married person could conclude that changing the topic rather than couples’ therapy or developing communication skills would lead to a longer marriage. But if this issue is “toxic,” It wouldn’t be a happy marriage, if it happened to survived.

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  4. Scott Rose

    When the Times’ Benedict Carey first reported on Regnerus’s NFSS, he reported that Dr. Paul Amato had approved of the study, and also wrote that Amato was not involved with it.

    Like

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