Researchers Say

“Researchers say” is roughly equivalent to “inspired by a true story,” or (of musicians) “classically trained” or (of people with academic pretensions) “studied at.” You can almost always find some research that suggests counterintuitive or bizarre things — whether that research convinces other scientists, or holds up to testing, that is another matter. You could say I’m “classically trained” as a vocalist, because I had a handful of voice lessons when I was preparing for ministry. I’ve “studied at” lots of places — apart from where I earned my actual degrees, I’ve “studied at” Harvard, the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Edinburgh, King’s College London, Northwestern University, the University of Chicago, pretty much anyplace they let me sit still with a book for a few minutes.

If press releases aren’t willing to be more specific about the scale and scope and weight of the research results, they might as well say “These characters guess that…” (or “Me mum made me take piano lessons” or “I’ve been to their campus”).

None of this, of course, diminishes the significance of real research results that stand up to testing, nor of real musical training in the classical tradition, nor of the approbation of academic study at a prestigious institution. Quite the contrary — the inflationary rhetoric of vagueness is the culprit that devalues the accomplishments toward which the vague expressions deceptively point.

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