Editorial: An example of hype in science publishing and reporting

Bruce Boyes
Feb 8, 2016 · 9 min read

How the “Little Emperors” paper is hyped

Is China a land of “little emperors” whose parents dote on them exclusively?

The main text of the Little Emperors: Behavioral Impacts of China’s One-Child Policy paper begins with the two sentences:

Are the so-called “little emperors” of significant concern to Chinese people?

After introducing the notion of “little emperors”, the main text of the paper then puts forward evidence to support “the observation that these children tend to be more self-centred and less cooperative”, stating that:

Do the conclusions of the paper match the evidence?

The “Little Emperors” paper uses data from economic games conducted with people born just before and after the introduction of the OCP in 1979 to conclude that:

Did the media practice investigative journalism?

Rather than investigate and critically analyse the conclusions in the “Little Emperors” paper, the mainstream media has simply spread the hype that would have arrived by media release in their inboxes. For example, the article in The Independent states that:

Beware of the hype in science publishing and reporting

Most people reading any of the media articles about the Little Emperors: Behavioral Impacts of China’s One-Child Policy paper or the paper itself would have formed the view that there is strong and definitive evidence that China’s one-child policy has produced significant negative behavioural changes. These readers would also now incorrectly believe that China is “a land of “little emperors” whose parents dote on them exclusively.”

  1. Zhao, Xudong, Ma, Xiquan, Yao, Yuhong, Wan, Chonghua & Ng, Emily (2013). China’s Little Emperors Show Signs of Success. Science, 339, 905–906.

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Bruce Boyes

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It’s about people: helping people to learn, know, participate, act and interact has been the focus of my diverse career.

RealKM Magazine

Syndicating the articles published on realkm.com