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Nooooooooooooooooo! (dentists named Dennis, still appearing in 2018)

From today’s NYT:

Another finding of note, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2002, is that people gravitate toward places of residence and occupations that resemble their own names. So, the researchers assert, a higher proportion of men named Louis live in St. Louis than would occur at random, and a lot of people named Dennis or Denise become dentists.

Nope. The answer’s in the google:

Hey, I got faked out by that one too. It was years before I saw the correction. And, years after that, the mistake was still being reported uncritically in the news media.

I’ll say now what I said then:

No big deal, we all make mistakes, but I hope the Times can run a correction of equal length to the original article, explaining that the claim about names has been shot down, and also educating readers a bit on the uncertainties of this sort of scientific finding.

That’s what really frustrates me: Not when people make mistakes, but when they take no responsibility for the errors that they make. I really hate the screw-up-then-say-nothing-and-move-on attitude toward journalism. This dentists-name-Dennis thing is no big deal—but if the Times considered it worth reporting in the first place, they should consider it worth correcting.

I guess we should just count our blessings. At least they didn’t say anything about obesity being contagious.

4 Comments

  1. Jonathan (another one) says:

    And the NYT will response will be that all they said is that is that it is a “finding of note” and that it was published (and when) and that it was the people who wrote the article “assert.” All this “truth” stuff is way too complicated. And what is the “Google” thing? Who are its editors?

    Interestingly, that is not their take on “findings of note” and “assertions” from politicians.

  2. Jerrod says:

    I’m not sold on the claim of implicit eogtism, but Pelham seems to be sticking to his original findings. Here is a paper from 2015 https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/15298868.2015.10707. There are certainly several researcher degrees of freedom, but using the 1940 census, he gets similar findings as his early papers. I’m not sure he got the message that the claim about the effects of implicit egotism was shot down. Is there a lit review (or comprehensive blog post) that provides a summary on the research thus far? I don’t have time to google it myself, so any good Samaritans out there will certainly be appreciated.

  3. Zad says:

    It’s also unfortunate because no one noticed it in the comments from my quick skim of them

  4. a reader says:

    Not only are the news outlets getting faked out, but so are the TV shows!

    The Office (U. S.) Season 3 Episode 3 (2006) around 11 minutes in:
    Micheal: “Crentist? That sounds a lot like … dentist.”
    Dwight: “Maybe that’s why he became a dentist.”

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