Uncivil comments not only polarized readers, but they often changed a participant's interpretation of the news story itself.

-Dominique Brossard and Dietram A. Scheufele in the NY Times

Why we're shutting out comments down

The examples they give of "Comments Gone Wild" are from their own site: President Obama's Climate Change Plan and the dumping ground that became of a study on the effects of being denied an abortion. Be careful. It's not pretty in there. Of course, you could click on C-SPAN right now and see the same lack of back-and-forth.

They feature a UW study whose authors wrote in a NY Times op-ed:

Uncivil comments not only polarized readers, but they often changed a participant's interpretation of the news story itself.

In the civil group, those who initially did or did not support the technology — whom we identified with preliminary survey questions — continued to feel the same way after reading the comments. Those exposed to rude comments, however, ended up with a much more polarized understanding of the risks connected with the technology.

Simply including an ad hominem attack in a reader comment was enough to make study participants think the downside of the reported technology was greater than they'd previously thought.

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Popular Science's compelling conclusion:

If you carry out those results to their logical end—commenters shape public opinion; public opinion shapes public policy; public policy shapes how and whether and what research gets funded—you start to see why we feel compelled to hit the "off" switch.

Following the discussion last week about a study demonstrating that personal opinion changes people's perception of facts, I'm close to banning all conversation except GIFS.

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Are we hurting or helping with our comments on GT? Jezebel? Kotaku? And of course Facebook?

Note: I'm pretty confident of the answer for GroupThink thanks to this great GT Man Q&A from Sugarhill where many confessed that the more reasoned conversation over here swayed them not only to the blog but to feminism as well.