Two Stanford University researchers conducting a study on “fake news” ended up with disappointing results when they pitted the liberal American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) against the conservative American College of Pediatricians (ACPeds).
The researchers asked Stanford students, faculty from the university’s history department, and a group of fact-checkers working for media companies to evaluate the anti-bullying statements on each organization’s website. An overwhelming majority of students, 80 percent, determined ACPed’s statement more trustworthy or equally trustworthy when compared to the the AAP’s statement. Half of the history professors agreed.
The fact-checkers came to a different conclusion after researching both groups and discovering ACPed’s pro-family, pro-life stance. According to the Stanford researchers, the fact-checkers reached the “right” conclusion, even though they didn’t objectively evaluate the anti-bullying statement or its related scientific references. On average, the fact-checkers took just 2 minutes to reach a conclusion, while the other two groups spent nearly three times as long. The researchers, in their concluding paper, said the students and historians reached “unwarranted” conclusions based on evaluating ACPed’s statement at face value.
In a response to the findings, ACPeds noted the irony that a study on “fake news” succumbed to the same blind bias that influences people to believe what they read on the internet, regardless of the facts.
“While it is reasonable to point out to readers that the college is much smaller, younger, and less lucrative than the academy, the investigators were more emotional in their further descriptions, calling the college ‘a splinter group,’ ‘virulently anti-gay,’ and ‘incendiary,’” wrote Den A. Trumbull, a founding member of ACPeds. “It would appear that the investigators were frustrated with the objectivity of the students and historians, since this approach led them to a very different conclusion than they preferred.” —L.J.