“Psychologists have demonstrated the value of diversity—particularly diversity of viewpoints—for enhancing creativity, discovery, and problem solving,” say a team of social scientists in a new paper. “But one key type of viewpoint diversity is lacking in academic psychology in general and social psychology in particular: political diversity.”
Social psychology is an interdisciplinary domain that bridges the gap between psychology and sociology by studying how people’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are influenced by the actual, imagined, or implied presence of others. The field studies a range of topics—from persuasion and propaganda to racial and gender issues—that profoundly affect society. Yet people whose views on politics and society are monolithic dominate the science.
What is needed, say the researchers, is ideological diversity, specifically more “non-liberals.” Their article reviews the available evidence and finds support for four claims:
1) Academic psychology once had considerable political diversity, but has lost nearly all of it in the last 50 years;
2) This lack of political diversity can undermine the validity of social psychological science via mechanisms such as the embedding of liberal values into research questions and methods, steering researchers away from important but politically unpalatable research topics, and producing conclusions that mischaracterize liberals and conservatives alike;
3) Increased political diversity would improve social psychological science by reducing the impact of bias mechanisms such as confirmation bias, and by empowering dissenting minorities to improve the quality of the majority’s thinking; and
4) The underrepresentation of nonliberals in social psychology is most likely due to a combination of self-selection, hostile climate, and discrimination.
We conservatives have been pointing out the lack of diversity in the social sciences for decades. But the evidence of conscious discrimination against conservative viewpoints will likely even surprise us:
Inbar and Lammers (2012) found that most social psychologists who responded to their survey were willing to explicitly state that they would discriminate against conservatives. Their survey posed the question: “If two job candidates (with equal qualifications) were to apply for an opening in your department, and you knew that one was politically quite conservative, do you think you would be inclined to vote for the more liberal one?” Of the 237 liberals, only 42 (18%) chose the lowest scale point, “not at all.” In other words, 82% admitted that they would be at least a little bit prejudiced against a conservative candidate, and 43% chose the midpoint (“somewhat”) or above. In contrast, the majority of moderates (67%) and conservatives (83%) chose the lowest scale point (“not at all”).
Inbar and Lammers (2012) assessed explicit willingness to discriminate in other ways as well, all of which told the same story: when reviewing a grant, 82% of liberals admitted at least a trace of bias, and 27% chose “somewhat” or above; when reviewing a paper, 78% admitted at least a trace of bias, and 21% chose “somewhat” or above; and when inviting participants to a symposium, 56% of liberals admitted at least a trace of bias, and 15% chose “somewhat” or above. The combination of basic research demonstrating high degrees of hostility towards opposing partisans, the field studies demonstrating discrimination against research projects that are unflattering to liberals and their views, and survey results of self-reported willingness to engage in political discrimination all point to the same conclusion: political discrimination is a reality in social psychology.
The authors note that, “We have focused on social (and personality) psychology, but the problems we describe occur in other areas of psychology (Redding, 2001), as well as in other social sciences (Gross, 2013; Redding, 2013).”
They also ask, “Will psychologists tolerate and defend the status quo, or will psychology make the changes needed to realize its values and improve its science?”
Perhaps it is conservative cynicism to assume, at least for the foreseeable future, they’ll continue to “defend the status quo.” But the fact that it’s becoming harder for them to ignore the problem is a refreshing sign of progress.
(Via: Bryan Caplan)
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