An Untrustworthy Study About Perceptions Of Untrustworthiness That Shows Something Else Entirely

Research is frequently polluted by confirmation bias; personally, I believe this is the case more often than not. A particularly vivid example is the work on “vocal fry,” described as “slowly fluttering the vocal cords, resulting in a popping or creaking sound at the bottom of the vocal register.” Supposedly a 2011 study determined that two-thirds of college women were doing it, and now a paper by Rindy C. Anderson, Casey A. Klofstad , William J. Mayew, and Mohan Venkatachalam announces the results of further research showing how harmful it is. I admit: I’ve now read a lot of stuff about vocal fry, which I had never heard of until recently, and I’m still unclear on exactly what the hell it is, other than “talking in an annoying fashion.” The Atlantic tells us that this is vocal fry, which means it consists of talking like Zooey Deschanel does here:

Got it? OK, now you can explain it to me.

Anyway, what the exact phenomenon is doesn’t matter to the ethics issue; all you have to know is that a respected, serious, scholarly study has spawned lots of media attention by claiming that its data shows that women and men who exhibit vocal fry in their speech patterns will tend to be hired less often than job interviewees who don’t, because employers view them as untrustworthy, among other things. (The study’s catchy title is “Vocal Fry May Undermine the Success of Young Women in the Labor Market,” because, as we know, women are all that matter these days, having had war declared on them and all.) Continue reading