Interviews Not Trustworthy and Triply Subjective

Interviews are not trustworthy and triply subjective.  Two articles in the Feb. 11, 2016, issue of the New York Review of Books make these related pointsJanet Malcolm, in her review of a biography of Ted Hughes,  refers to interviews as “not  evidence of the highest order of trustworthiness” and Diane Johnson, in reviewing Jean Stein’s West of Eden, “an oral history . . . shaped from interviews”, writes: “as history it is triply subjective, filtered through people’s self-deceptions as they tell their stories, the author’s biases in  choosing which bits to print, and the reader’s biases in deciding wh[at] to believe. . . . results can seem closer to gossip than gospel, hardly definitive history.”

For more on the unreliability of interviews, see my book, The Problem with Survey Research and my post, Interviews of the Famous .


About georgebeam

George Beam is an educator and author. The perspectives that inform his interpretations of the topics of this blog–-as well as his other writings and university courses -–are system analysis, behaviorism, and Internet effects. Specific interests include quality management, methodology, and politics. He is Associate Professor Emeritus, Department of Public Administration; Affiliated Faculty, Department of Political Science; and, previously, Head, Department of Public Administration, University of Illinois at Chicago
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One Response to Interviews Not Trustworthy and Triply Subjective

  1. Pingback: Non-random Samples and Bribes in Survey Research | George Beam's Blog

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