In what was a stellar session and fantastic way to round out the APS Convention, I just happened to be fumbling through the program to see if there were any sessions to go to from 12-1. To my surprise and excitement, an "all-star" group of researchers, one of which was Yoel Inbar whose study I replicated, extended, and presented at this conference, were giving a talk on "Improving Psychology by Understanding (& limiting) Political Bias.
Some highlights from the presentations:
- There has been a significant amount of literature and research that equates political conservatism with prejudice, especially racial and ethic prejudice.
- The idea that conservatives are prejudice and liberals aren't is widely accepted in the field of psychology.
- There are problems with this stereotype...liberals too are prejudice...people like people who are similar to them and dislike those who are dissimilar.
- Therefore, he proposed the hypothesis that people are prejudice against ideologically different groups, in that past research has argued that conservatives are prejudice against minority groups such as racial groups, but these groups are confounded. A they often align with political persuasions quite different from conservative beliefs.
- Results: found prejudice on both sides of the ideological spectrum. Liberals are prejudice toward conservative groups just like conservatives are prejudice toward liberal groups. Race is not a factor, it is about attitude differences.
Yoel Inbar: Ideological Differences in Social Psychology
- It is widespread opinion that diversity is good, but many groups in their promotion of initiatives to increase diversity do not include 'political diversity' on their list.
- There are major differences in the percent of the US population that considers s themselves to be conservative, and the percent of Social and Personality Psychologists that consider themselves to be conservative..
- Could this be from self selection? ... Preference or taste? ... No... This idea is insulting as well, basically paints conservatives as dumb, greedy, and uninterested in new ideas.
- Paranoia on the right...academic environment is very hostile, expression of views doesn't happen...
- I this really discrimination? ... Perhaps people just don't like 'agenda-driven' research? This is not the case though if this were the case, in the data there would be a large number of moderates that would have an aversion to both sides, but this is not present.
- There is explicit agenda-driven research, such as social justice research. Prominent research journal specifically calls for "Marxist oriented critiques of distributive justice theories." There is a lot of liberal agenda driven research, and many people are comfortable with this.
- Perhaps respondents were accurately reporting their unintended biases, as reflected through some open-ended responses such as "It is impossible to feel safe around conservatives. You are in danger around them."
- Would liberals actually discriminate? Likely not, because there are essentially no conservatives to discriminate against! (Haha)
- Fairness: students feel intimidated when slanted perspectives are presented, and this should never be the case.
- Funding: Republican legislators are often the ones cutting research grant funding, and in all reality why should they find people who are pushing ideological driven research? If you are liberal, wouldn't you throw a fit if Republicans started funding right wing think tanks with government dollars? Even if just out of self interest and out of a desire to continue to have funding, need to care about being neutral.
- Credibility: we can't be seen as ideologues, pushing one side of the story.
- Knowledge: there needs to be a free exchange of ideas to test out what is best and find out what is right. We are developing a blindside in science because we aren't getting the other side of the story (the conservative perspective). W are missing out on information, and we don't even know what we are missing out on because we are blocking it.
- What to do?
- Don't presume your audience is liberal. Even if only 5% of your audience may be conservative, you get nowhere by offending them.
- Be especially careful around students.
- Take conservative beliefs seriously, and make an effort to better understand what they think and why...pick a source of news that is conservative and follow it.
- Practice tolerance...a pretty low bar.
Lee Jussim, Rutgers University: Conservative Psychologists: An Endangered Species
- Psychology is massively skewed and becoming more so
- Explanations for liberal prespondance
- Conservatives are too dumb to earn Ph.Ds? No.
- Self selection?
- Liberals just happen to prefer social psychology? No.
- Dramatic disparities:
- 1: 1.45 Romney to Obama voters
- 1: 1.73 Conservative to liberal undergrads in social psychology class
- 1: 2.35 Conservative to liberal undergrads seeking Ph.Ds (across all disciplines)
- 1: 8.43 Conservative to liberal Social Psychology Faculty
- 1: 40.5 Conservative to liberal social psychology grads/ post docs
- This is not just self selection at work
- Conservatives are routinely characterized in horrible pejorative ways...if ethnic groups were characterized the ways conservatives frequently are we would be screaming bloody murder!
- Why is political bias important?
- Because discriminations giants individual social psychologists? Not really a big reason (though this is not good)
- Leads to distorted research
- Questionable Interpretive Practices...lead to entirely unjustified "conclusions" about potentially politicized topics
- Selective preference: sent in different proposals to IRBs
- Blind spots: stereotype accuracy, reliance on individuating information
- Mythmaking: weak and irreplicable effects and data are extolled as powerful
- Put science above politics...keep to a minimum the distorting effects of politics on science.
Some great perspectives to think about, and the scary thing is that if we don't do anything about it, it is only going to get worse! It was quite a treat being able to listen to these guys and then talk to them afterward. I am excited to see where this literature continues to progress. Till next time.