New study: Dirty music leads to bad reporting

This isn’t the first time I’ve carped about how little reporters understand about science and social research. Probably won’t be the last.

So, you may have seen this story, courtesy of FOX News :

Sexy Music Lyrics Prompt Teen to Have Sex
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
By Daniel J. DeNoon

Teens start having sex sooner if their preferred music has sexually degrading lyrics, a small study of young teenagers suggests.

However, lyrics with sexual content that is not degrading did not affect teen sexual behavior. Degrading lyrics, as defined in this study, describe men as insatiable studs and women as sex objects.

The findings come from RAND, a nonprofit think tank. It based its study on telephone interviews with a national sample of 1,242 kids, aged 12 to 17.

RAND researcher Steven C. Martino, PhD, and colleagues report the findings in the August issue of Pediatrics.

“The more teens listened to degrading sexual music content, the more likely they were to subsequently initiate intercourse and progress in [other], noncoital activity,” Martino and colleagues report. “These music effects held, even though 18 other predictors of sexual behavior were taken into account.” (Story.)

(And as bad as I hate FOX News, let’s understand that they’re no dumber than anybody else on this score.)

Daniel DeNoon apparently doesn’t know enough to ask even the most basic questions about causality vs. correlation. To wit, while I have no doubt that these two factors co-vary, how do we know that A –> B? (We don’t.) Is it possible that a third factor (say, membership in a sub-culture that’s more open about sex) causes both A and B? (Yes, it is.) Or maybe even that a predisposition toward sexual exploration leads to the consumption of media that supports the idea? That is, maybe B –> A? (Could be, based on what we know). And based on what I know about social research, I bet the lead investigator can’t do much more than speculate (which he’s doing like a celebrity-starved jackass, if this story is any indication). I don’t know – maybe I’m being unfair to the researcher, but I’d be surprised if the reporter would know a “predictor” if it nipped him in the willy.

Not his fault, though. American colleges aren’t effectively teaching an understanding of scientific method to non-science majors, and journalism schools, which have an obligation to prepare reporters for just such an occurrence, are letting kids out the door without even a basic grasp of how to analyze research claims. This is obvious just about every time a study is reported, and it’s painfully evident in most any story that makes use of the words “Kansas” and “schoolboard.”

[sigh]

:xpost:

62 comments

  • I haven’t heard about that study, but if you come across a link, PLEASE forward it on.

  • I haven’t heard about that study, but if you come across a link, PLEASE forward it on.

  • I haven’t heard about that study, but if you come across a link, PLEASE forward it on.

  • I saw a report that has almost the same implications on MSNBC and rolled my eyes.

  • I saw a report that has almost the same implications on MSNBC and rolled my eyes.

  • “The bottom line is that we are affected by what we expose ourselves to,” DuRant said. “This study shows that the incidence of date fighting and other violence increases when the exposure to violence increases.”
    [sigh]
    NO IT DOESN’T!
    Based on what I’m reading here, it comes as close or closer to proving the opposite – that violent tendencies lead to watching wrestling.
    Gods, how many hours of the first year of my PhD program did I expend reading analyses of effects research (whcih began way the hell back in the 1920s)? I could write books about how wrong this kind of thinking is, but hey – dozens of others already have…

  • “The bottom line is that we are affected by what we expose ourselves to,” DuRant said. “This study shows that the incidence of date fighting and other violence increases when the exposure to violence increases.”
    [sigh]
    NO IT DOESN’T!
    Based on what I’m reading here, it comes as close or closer to proving the opposite – that violent tendencies lead to watching wrestling.
    Gods, how many hours of the first year of my PhD program did I expend reading analyses of effects research (whcih began way the hell back in the 1920s)? I could write books about how wrong this kind of thinking is, but hey – dozens of others already have…

  • you’ll get no arguments from me. 🙂

  • you’ll get no arguments from me. 🙂

  • hahaha. when i first read that, i thought it said something about watching MSNBC being correlated with rolling your eyes. haha.

  • hahaha. when i first read that, i thought it said something about watching MSNBC being correlated with rolling your eyes. haha.

  • No, that would be FOX News.

  • No, that would be FOX News.

  • This is further proof of the Devil leading children into sin. When music isn’t making kids want to kill themselves or their classmates, it’s making them want to have sex.

  • This is further proof of the Devil leading children into sin. When music isn’t making kids want to kill themselves or their classmates, it’s making them want to have sex.

  • well, that makes sense. you NEED to have more sex if you’re killing your friends. otherwise we wouldn’t survive as a species. duh!

  • well, that makes sense. you NEED to have more sex if you’re killing your friends. otherwise we wouldn’t survive as a species. duh!

  • Pardon the intrusion on your LJ, but your post on neph_politics today was so well written, I became curious to explore more…
    And your point about this particular study is spot on, which I pointed out to my husband last night. What about the correlation of education level, socioeconomic status, and/or race (just to name a few) being correlating factors in BOTH sexual activity and types of music? I cry daily at the erosion of scientific accuracy in order to pander to the sound byte American audience.

  • Pardon the intrusion on your LJ, but your post on neph_politics today was so well written, I became curious to explore more…
    And your point about this particular study is spot on, which I pointed out to my husband last night. What about the correlation of education level, socioeconomic status, and/or race (just to name a few) being correlating factors in BOTH sexual activity and types of music? I cry daily at the erosion of scientific accuracy in order to pander to the sound byte American audience.

  • What about the correlation of education level, socioeconomic status, and/or race (just to name a few) being correlating factors in BOTH sexual activity and types of music?
    Heh – in my WILDEST dreams I don’t ask for this kind of analysis from reporters.
    It was really frustrating to me when I was a prof at St Bonaventure a couple years ago that our majors would have had NO clue how to handle a story like this. We were all aware of the issue and talked about how to handle it from a curricular standpoint. But nothing had been done when I left and I suspect many other programs aren’t even having the conversation.

  • What about the correlation of education level, socioeconomic status, and/or race (just to name a few) being correlating factors in BOTH sexual activity and types of music?
    Heh – in my WILDEST dreams I don’t ask for this kind of analysis from reporters.
    It was really frustrating to me when I was a prof at St Bonaventure a couple years ago that our majors would have had NO clue how to handle a story like this. We were all aware of the issue and talked about how to handle it from a curricular standpoint. But nothing had been done when I left and I suspect many other programs aren’t even having the conversation.

  • like i said above, i don’t just blame the journalists. i blame a lot of the scientists, too. in fact, right now, i’m reviewing a manuscript involving human subjects with a sample size of 8. statistically, for a human study, that’s a joke. these guys are making all sorts of claims about their results that just plain scare me, given the size of the study.

  • like i said above, i don’t just blame the journalists. i blame a lot of the scientists, too. in fact, right now, i’m reviewing a manuscript involving human subjects with a sample size of 8. statistically, for a human study, that’s a joke. these guys are making all sorts of claims about their results that just plain scare me, given the size of the study.

  • This is why I’m such a big fan of qualitative research.

  • This is why I’m such a big fan of qualitative research.

  • depends on the endpoints, i guess. when you’re talking about the expression of a very specific protein after a very specific activity, you need more data points to actually make any meaningful conclusions. unless you have a huge screaming signal (like getting shot in the head leads to death in 8 out of 8 subjects), your results will most likely get lost in the noise.

  • depends on the endpoints, i guess. when you’re talking about the expression of a very specific protein after a very specific activity, you need more data points to actually make any meaningful conclusions. unless you have a huge screaming signal (like getting shot in the head leads to death in 8 out of 8 subjects), your results will most likely get lost in the noise.

  • I’m actually talking more about social and business research – my side of the world. Not sure we need a lot of focus groups on proteins.

  • I’m actually talking more about social and business research – my side of the world. Not sure we need a lot of focus groups on proteins.

  • bah. someone needs to figure out those damned equations Asimov wrote about in the Foundation series. heh.

  • bah. someone needs to figure out those damned equations Asimov wrote about in the Foundation series. heh.

  • I didn’t know that many kids listened to country music.

  • I didn’t know that many kids listened to country music.

  • Ohmygod, it’s all clear to me now. I was conceived not out of love, but because my parents listened to “Makin’ Whoopee” when they were kids. Shit.

  • Ohmygod, it’s all clear to me now. I was conceived not out of love, but because my parents listened to “Makin’ Whoopee” when they were kids. Shit.

  • Not on topic with bad reporting, but this gives some context to the study–what a good reporter should have done.

  • Not on topic with bad reporting, but this gives some context to the study–what a good reporter should have done.

  • Outstanding bit of analysis. If only THIS person were the reporter….

  • Outstanding bit of analysis. If only THIS person were the reporter….

  • I know something is wrong with current journalism practices if I rely on blogs for my news. 😦

  • I know something is wrong with current journalism practices if I rely on blogs for my news. 😦

  • The GOOD news, I guess, is that blogs can in fact be a great source of information and analysis. The trick is vetting them, which takes time…

  • The GOOD news, I guess, is that blogs can in fact be a great source of information and analysis. The trick is vetting them, which takes time…

  • I particularly enjoy reading feminist blogs for that analysis and perspective I can’t get from the mainstream media–not to mention many news stories the mainstream media fails to report.
    I’ve gotten pretty good at sorting through the crap. 🙂 Besides, even if I don’t agree with what some people have to say, it’s always good to hear different viewpoints–again, something I can’t get from mainstream media.
    I do enjoy subjective journalism.

  • I particularly enjoy reading feminist blogs for that analysis and perspective I can’t get from the mainstream media–not to mention many news stories the mainstream media fails to report.
    I’ve gotten pretty good at sorting through the crap. 🙂 Besides, even if I don’t agree with what some people have to say, it’s always good to hear different viewpoints–again, something I can’t get from mainstream media.
    I do enjoy subjective journalism.

  • Right. Agreeing with me isn’t a prerequisite. There are geniuses who disagree with me and morons who agree right down the line. I’m looking for SMART. I can learn from smart…

  • Right. Agreeing with me isn’t a prerequisite. There are geniuses who disagree with me and morons who agree right down the line. I’m looking for SMART. I can learn from smart…

  • Pingback: Scholars and Rogues » Are liberals smarter than conservatives? Our nitwit media strike again…

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