Popular Science is shutting down online comments. Why? Because vitriol piled below an article skews the way readers perceive what’s above. And that’s Science:
In one study led by University of Wisconsin-Madison professor Dominique Brossard, 1,183 Americans read a fake blog post on nanotechnology and revealed in survey questions how they felt about the subject (are they wary of the benefits or supportive?). Then, through a randomly assigned condition, they read either epithet- and insult-laden comments (“If you don’t see the benefits of using nanotechnology in these kinds of products, you’re an idiot” ) or civil comments. The results, as Brossard and coauthor Dietram A. Scheufele wrote in a New York Times op-ed:
“Uncivil comments not only polarized readers, but they often changed a participant’s interpretation of the news story itself.
“In the civil group, those who initially did or did not support the technology — whom we identified with preliminary survey questions — continued to feel the same way after reading the comments. Those exposed to rude comments, however, ended up with a much more polarized understanding of the risks connected with the technology.
“Simply including an ad hominem attack in a reader comment was enough to make study participants think the downside of the reported technology was greater than they’d previously thought.”
Interesting. I’m sure nothing like that ever happens here. No sir.
I’ve toyed with the idea of ending comments here in favor of a format where readers could email their thoughts and I would share the best ones, the ones that actually address what I wrote. I’m not interested in weeding out criticism, just the pointless bickering and name-calling.
I also know that an email system may not be any better. For example, here’s the only email I received on my Sunday column looking at research showing that our strong political views can get in the way of our critical thinking skills. It arrived with the subject line “Asshat.”
Great article today Toddy. Do you consider yourself a journalist? Really? Come on now Todd! Let’s get real. If you actually were a serious journalist you would actually now that, yes, death panels are a part of obamacare. Really Toddy, check it out. I know it is hard, boring reading, but hell we have to put up with your bs. Opinion writer! And you actually think you change people. Asshat indeed.
So good luck, Popular Science. As for this site, comments remain welcome below. Toddy out.