It’s not uncommon that the authors of a scientific paper have to publish a correction at a later time. Even ignoring the occasional bit out outright fraud, it’s neither unexpected not unforgivable for there to be errors in math or problems in data collection or interpretation. What is a little unusual, however, is for the data to be *reversed.* Take, for example, a study from Virginia Commonwealth University, published in 2012:
The takeaway from this study was that there seemed to be a correlation between psychopathy and political conservatism. This study got some press and is undoubtedly still being used to whop conservatives over the head… “See? The science says you guys are not just nuts, but bad guys!”
Ah, but then there’s this:
Ahem (bolding mine):
The authors regret that there is an error in the published version of “Correlation not Causation: The Relationship between Personality Traits and Political Ideologies” American Journal of Political Science 56 (1), 34–51. The interpretation of the coding of the political attitude items in the descriptive and preliminary analyses portion of the manuscript was exactly reversed. Thus, where we indicated that higher scores in Table 1 (page 40) reflect a more conservative response, they actually reflect a more liberal response. Specifically, in the original manuscript, 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.
Admittedly this is not really news… the correction was first published months ago. Still, it’s interesting. Ya gotta wonder what happened with the authors… were they teased mercilessly by their fellows? Were they met with rounds of “happens to all of us?” Or, just possibly, “hey, you got a lot of people to think that conservatives are psychos, so, well done?”