#1 Social Psychology Prof questions---wait for it---Liberal Bias in Social Psychology!
07-29-2014, 10:19 PM
- Join Date
- Jun 2008
And he says it's a problem!
From the Chronicle of Higher Education (trade paper for academia). The article is behind a paywall, so I'm reprinting it here.
Social-Psychology Researchers Are Very Liberal. Is That a Problem?
By Tom Bartlett
During a 2011 talk at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Jonathan Haidt asked the roughly 1,000 researchers gathered how many considered themselves liberal. About 800 hands went up. Twenty identified as "moderate or centrist"; 12 fessed up to libertarianism. The number of self-described conservatives in the room: three.
Out of a thousand.
Now a forthcoming paper in the journal Behavioral and Brain Sciences, written by Mr. Haidt and several co-authors, makes the case that ideological one-sidedness in social psychology is a genuine problem and offers suggestions for fixing it. The paper also singles out researchers that the authors believe are guilty of letting their leanings undermine the quality of their work.
The paper grew out of an essay by José Duarte that he posted on a social-psychology email list after Mr. Haidt’s impromptu survey of the field’s political loyalties. In the essay, Mr. Duarte, a graduate student at Arizona State University who is one of the new paper’s co-authors, offered the following principle: "If a research question requires that one assume that a particular ideology or value system is factually true, then that research question is invalid."
So what, specifically, does he mean by that? Mr. Duarte and his co-authors point to examples like a 2012 paper titled "Bright Minds and Dark Attitudes: Lower Cognitive Ability Predicts Greater Prejudice Through Right-Wing Ideology and Low Intergroup Contact." That paper, they argue, assumes that conservatives are indeed prejudiced. They suggest that a fairer way to frame that question would be to ask, "Which groups are targets of prejudice and intolerance across the political spectrum, and why?"
Here’s another example: A 2010 paper set out to understand the "denial of environmental realities" by certain segments of the population. Those who believe that "the earth has plenty of natural resources if we just learn how to develop them" were deemed deniers of the limits of growth. Subjects who believe that "humans will eventually learn enough about how nature works to be able to control it" were denying the need to abide by the constraints of nature.
That word—"denial"—is the problem, Mr. Haidt and his co-authors argue, because it assumes that "anyone who fails to endorse the pro-environmental side of these claims is engaged in a psychological process of denial."
Hostility in the Academy
The paper includes excerpts from emails Mr. Haidt received after his show-of-hands stunt. Among those emails is one from an (anonymous) former graduate student who wrote that a professor had blamed him for the deaths of soldiers in Iraq because he had supported George W. Bush rather than John F. Kerry in the 2004 presidential election. The graduate student elected not to pursue a career in the academy.
A 2012 study asked social psychologists whether they had had to deal with hostility because of their political beliefs. Of the 17 conservatives who responded, 14 said they had.
The worry that psychology professors—not to mention professors in general—are disproportionately liberal is anything but new. Another co-author of the forthcoming paper, Philip E. Tetlock, published a paper in 1994 with the title "Political Psychology or Politicized Psychology: Is the Road to Scientific Hell Paved With Good Moral Intentions?" In it he argued for making a distinction between being a concerned citizen and a good scientist.
In 2011, the last time this discussion moved into the mainstream, many conservatives took it as further proof that they don’t get a fair shake on campuses. Meanwhile, liberals like Paul Krugman argued that "doing head counts is a terrible way to assess" bias, and asked whether such disparities might simply be evidence of "the tendency of people who actually know science to reject a political tendency that denies climate change and is broadly hostile to the theory of evolution."
The new paper’s authors call for researchers to be alert to double standards, and to encourage adversarial collaboration, among other possible solutions. It matters, Mr. Duarte writes on his blog, for the following reason: "Social science shouldn’t be a vehicle for revealing the pathologies that keep people from embracing your obviously true ideology."
07-30-2014, 12:12 PM
As a social worker, this really doesn't shock me that much. As a liberal, I try to keep my biases in check, but not everybody does so. I really don't get that many conservative clients, considering my territory is the south end of Detroit, east Dearborn and the east suburbs.
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