More on the worm

This was a comment made in the thread on , but I think is worth making a post for more to see.

Earlier this year, my colleagues and I published a paper in the open access journal PLoS One that reported an experiment we conducted during the 2010 UK election debates. We showed that the worm has a very powerful influence on voters’ perceptions of televised election debates, and even on their voting intentions. We cautioned that this was a significant cause for concern, particularly given the unreliability of a worm poll based on such a small (and probably unrepresentative) sample.

The worm may be good entertainment, but it’s not good for democracy. Broadcasting a debate with the worm shortly before the election raises very serious concerns about the potential for biasing voters. This matter is too important to be left solely to media organisations to determine.

I made several attempts to contact journalists and politicians prior to the debate. Other than a polite letter from the Minister for Broadcasting, I received no response. I hope that those commenting here who are concerned about the use of the worm will take a look at our research and consider appealing to broadcasters (or their MPs) to try to prevent the reappearance of the worm.
You can read our paper here:

http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0018154

Here’s another link that may be of interest:

http://www.thenakedscientists.com/HTML/content/interviews/interview/1606/

Professor Davis is a Professor of Cognitive Science at Royal Holloway University of London.

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