Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Spouting Nonsense: Fake news about fear of public speaking from a course announcement

I ran across an announcement for an upcoming two-day course at Florida International University in Miami on Conquering Presentations: Public Speaking and Presentation Skills that began with this startling claim:

“What is your biggest fear? Is it possibly death or failure? According to the third annual Chapman University Survey of American Fears, public speaking ranks as the number one fear of American citizens.”

But a quick check shows it is absolute nonsense. If you look at the Chapman blog post about their third survey on October 11, 2016 titled America’s Top Fears 2016, you will find public speaking wasn’t even in their top ten, and only ranked 33rd out of 79 fears.

A frequently cited article in the Washington Post on October 30, 2014 about the first Chapman survey was titled America’s top fears: Public speaking, heights and bugs. It discussed a subset of their results (on phobias), which I also blogged about a day earlier in a post titled Chapman Survey on American Fears includes both zombies and ghosts. The Chapman press release on October 20, 2014 incorrectly titled What Americans Fear Most – New Poll from Chapman University only had public speaking in their top five.  

The course is to be taught by Katsiaryna Matusevich, Ph.D. You’d expect someone with that degree would have checked their information more carefully, so she gets a Spoutly.  

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