A study purporting to show that people’s views on gay marriage could change simply by meeting gay people has been retracted following revelations that its data was fabricated.
The study was published last December in Science, and prior to publication drew a great deal of attention from the American media. Vox, for instance, described the findings in the study as “kind of miraculous.” As it turns out, that’s exactly what they were, because they were apparently made up.
According to the study, people from communities hostile to gay marriage could have their opinions shift dramatically after spending just a few minutes speaking with a gay person who canvassed their neighborhood promoting gay marriage. Not only that, but this could have a spillover effect, making not just the people themselves more pro-gay but also other people who lived in the same household.
The study, among other things, lent support to the notion that those opposed to gay marriage simply don’t know or interact with open homosexuals. More broadly, it was seen as an important development in the science of how people can be convinced to change their minds on ideologically-charged issues.
The study began to fall apart when students at the University of California at Berkeley sought to conduct additional research building off of it, only to find major irregularities in how its research was apparently conducted. For example, thermometers used to measure participants’ attitudes produced consistent, reliable information, even though they are known for producing relatively unreliable numbers.