20/20 survey exposés. The popular prime-time ABC television program 20/20 presented several misleading (and possibly unethical) surveys in a segment titled “Facts or Fiction? Exposés of So-Called Surveys” (March 31,1995). The information reported from four of these surveys, conducted by businesses or special-interest groups with specific objectives in mind, are given. (Actual survey facts are provided in parentheses.) Quaker Oats Study: Eating oat bran is a cheap and easy way to reduce your cholesterol count. ( Fact : Diet must consist of nothing but oat bran to achieve a slightly lower cholesterol count.) March of Dimes Report: Domestic violence causes more birth defects than all medical issues combined. ( Fact : No study—false report.) American Association of University Women (AAUW) study: Only 29% of high school girls are happy with themselves, compared with 66% of elementary school girls. (Fact : Of 3,000 high school girls, 29% responded “Always true” to the statement, “I am happy the way I am.” Most answered, “Sort of true” and “Sometimes true.”) Food Research and Action Center study: One in four American children under age 12 is hungry or at risk of hunger. ( Fact : Survey results are based on responses to the questions “Do you ever cut the size of meals?,” “Do you ever eat less than you feel you should?” and “Did you ever rely on limited numbers of foods to feed your children because you were running out of money to buy food for a meal?”)
a. Refer to the Quaker Oats study relating oat bran to cholesterol levels. Discuss why it is unethical to report the results as stated.
b. Consider the false March of Dimes report on domestic violence and birth defects. Discuss the type of data required to investigate the impact of domestic violence on birth defects. What data collection method would you recommend?
c. Refer to the AAUW study of the self-esteem of high school girls. Explain why the results of the study are likely to be misleading. What data might be appropriate for assessing the self-esteem of high school girls?
d. Refer to the Food Research and Action Center study of hunger in America. Explain why the results of the study are likely to be misleading. What data would provide insight into the proportion of hungry American children?