The effect of ad hominem attacks on the evaluation of claims promoted by scientists


Ralph M. Barnes, Heather M. Johnston, Noah Mackenzie, Stephanie J. Tobin, Chelsea M. Taglang


PloS one


Two experiments were conducted to determine the relative impact of direct and indirect (ad hominem) attacks on science claims. Four hundred and thirty-nine college students (Experiment 1) and 199 adults (Experiment 2) read a series of science claims and indicated their attitudes towards those claims. Each claim was paired with one of the following: A) a direct attack upon the empirical basis of the science claim B) an ad hominem attack on the scientist who made the claim or C) both. Results indicate that ad hominem attacks may have the same degree of impact as attacks on the empirical basis of the science claims, and that allegations of conflict of interest may be just as influential as allegations of outright fraud.



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