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The Metallic Metals Act is a non-existent piece of proposed legislation that featured prominently in an experiment conducted in 1947 by Sam Gill.

The Experiment

According to an article in Tide magazine (14 March 1947), Gill asked a number of persons the following question:

Which of the following statements most closely coincides with your opinion of the Metallic Metals Act?

  • It would be a good move on the part of the US.
  • It would be a good thing, but should be left to the individual states
  • It’s all right for foreign countries, but should not be required here.
  • It is of no value at all

Of those asked, 70% expressed an opinion despite the fact that no such act existed and, therefore, the respondents could have no actual knowledge.[1] The responses (for those 70%) were:

  • It would be a good move on the part of the US. (21.4%)
  • It would be a good thing, but should be left to the individual states (58.6%)
  • It’s all right for foreign countries, but should not be required here. (15.7%)
  • It is of no value at all (4.3%)[2]

Criticism

This study may be criticized on a number of points. Reportedly theTide article does not disclose the study's sample size nor the method by which participants were selected.[3]. The study is cited as an example of bias induced by forced choice.[4] The study, and the Act, are nonetheless referred to in textbooks and other works, some of whom are listed in the references below.

An element of hoaxing is common in psychological studies, but questions about the methodology of Gill's study and its publication in a nonscientific venue give rise to the possibility that not only the Act, but the study itself, may have had an element of hoax, however harmless. The truth may be difficult to ascertain.

References

  1. ^ The Psychology of Judgment and Decision Making by Scott Plous, ISBN 0-07-050477-6, p. 55
  2. ^ Tainted Truth: The Manipulation of Fact In America, by Cynthia Crossnen, ISBN 0-684-81556-7, p. 24
  3. ^ Questions and Answers in Attitude Surveys by Howard Schuman and Stanley Presser, ISBN 0-7619-0359-3, page 147
  4. ^ Friedman, Hershey H. and Amoo, Taiwo (Winter, 1999). "Rating the Rating Scales". Journal of Marketing Management. http://academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu/economic/friedman/rateratingscales.htm. Retrieved August 10, 2007.  
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