Be Careful Who Is Interpreting The Data.Asst. Professor In Firefighter Personality Study Says Globe Was Wrong

Globe lets union reply go without posting, but professor calls out the opinionated editor.


On 8 February we shared with you Boston Local 718’s response, still not printed, to an Op-Ed piece in the Boston Globe written by Lawrence Harmon on his interpretation of a personality study in 2010 journal, Personality and Individual Differences. The study looked at the personality differences of 206 fire and police recruits in the Boston and southern New Hampshire area.

The Boston Fire Department union, Local 718, president Richard Paris provided a well written reply, still not printed in the Globe, and posted it to their Facebook page.

Today, the Boston Globe has printed a response – not the union one above, but from the assistant professor involved in the editorialized research:

LAWRENCE HARMON’S Feb. 6 op-ed column “Fire and police are worlds apart’’ cited a study on the personalities of police and firefighter recruits that I published with two colleagues in the journal Personality and Individual Differences in 2010. The conclusions that Harmon drew (that firefighters are “shameless manipulators’’ while police “look like choirboys in comparison’’) were not warranted by our data.

While we did find small differences between police and firefighters on the personality dimensions of dutifulness and deliberation, both groups scored within the normal range compared to the general population. That is, neither group would be considered significantly higher or lower in these dimensions than the average person. Harmon’s implication that firefighters are morally inferior is not justifiable.

Further, the participants in our study were asked to report on their own personality; this method has significant limitations. For example, perhaps police think of themselves as more dutiful. This does not mean that they necessarily behave in more dutiful ways. This and other limitations of the study were presented quite clearly in our discussion of the findings.

I am grateful to the Boston-area police and firefighters who participated in this study, and I am disappointed that the findings have been misrepresented in this way.

Kristalyn Salters-Pedneault
Assistant Professor of Psychology
Eastern Connecticut State University
Willimantic, Conn.

[bold mine]

Thank you to Assistant Professor Salters-Pedneault for setting the record straight and reviewing who reviews your research.

Did I mention that the Globe has still not printed the union’s reply?

“Fire and Police Are Worlds Apart”, Lawrence Harmon, Boston Globe, 6 February 2011
“Disappointed in way police and firefighter study was presented”, Boston Globe, 17 February 2011



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william Schnaekel
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