Turns out liberals are the real authoritarians.
A political-science journal that published an oft-cited study claiming conservatives were more likely to show traits associated with “psychoticism” now says it got it wrong. Very wrong.
The American Journal of Political Sciencepublished a correction this year saying that the 2012 paper has “an error” — and that liberal political beliefs, not conservative ones, are actually linked to psychoticism.
“The interpretation of the coding of the political attitude items in the descriptive and preliminary analyses portion of the manuscript was exactly reversed,” the journal said in the startling correction.
“The descriptive analyses report that those higher in Eysenck’s psychoticism are more conservative, but they are actually more liberal; and where the original manuscript reports those higher in neuroticism and social desirability are more liberal, they are, in fact, more conservative.”
In the paper, psychoticism is associated with traits such as tough-mindedness, risk-taking, sensation-seeking, impulsivity and authoritarianism.
The social-desirability scale measures people’s tendency to answer questions in ways they believe would please researchers, even if it means overestimating their positive characteristics and underestimating negative ones.
The erroneous report has been cited 45 times, according to Thomson Reuters Web of Science.
Brad Verhulst, a Virginia Commonwealth University researcher and a co-author of the paper, said he was not sure who was to blame.
“I don’t know where it happened. All I know is it happened,” he told Retraction Watch, a blog that tracks corrections in academic papers. “It’s our fault for not figuring it out before.”
The journal said the error doesn’t change the main conclusions of the paper, which found that “personality traits do not cause people to develop political attitudes.”
But professor Steven Ludeke of the University of Southern Denmark, who pointed out the errors, told Retraction Watch that they “matter quite a lot.”
“The erroneous results represented some of the larger correlations between personality and politics ever reported; they were reported and interpreted, repeatedly, in the wrong direction,” he said.