Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Fixing the Problem of Liberal Bias in Social Psychology regarding issues such as gender, race, morality

Scientific American     Does Social Psychology need more political diversity? Here’s one thing on which everyone can agree: social psychology is overwhelmingly composed of liberals (around 85%). The question of why this is the case, and whether it presents a problem for the field, is more controversial. The topic has exploded out of our conference halls and into major news outlets over the past several years, with claims of both overt hostility and subtle bias against conservative students, colleagues, and their publications, being met with reactions ranging from knee-jerk dismissal to sincere self-reflection and measured methodological critique. 

A recent paper led by Jose Duarte of Arizona State University attempts to organize the existing empirical research relevant to this debate.  There are two central questions here. First, is the ideological imbalance the result of some kind of bias against conservatives, or some more benign cause, like self-selection into the field? And second, independent of the cause, would more political diversity actually improve the validity of our science? 

Duarte et al provide evidence suggesting that social psychology is not a welcoming environment for conservatives. Papers are reviewed differently depending on whether they are considered to support liberal vs. conservative positions, and anonymous surveys reveal a considerable percentage of social psychologists willing to explicitly report negative attitudes towards conservatives.  This shouldn’t surprise us. Everything social psychologists know about group behavior tells us that overwhelming homogeneity, especially when defined through an important component of one’s identity like political ideology, will lead to negativity towards an outgroup. We also know a thing or two about confirmation bias and all the ways in which it can affect our decision-making, and it is odd to suggest it might not affect our own. Or to suggest that it might in some domains but not the political. 

What about the consequences of this imbalance? Would more political diversity increase the validity of social psychological findings? First, as the authors note, this concern about diversity only applies to the small subset of research dealing with politically charged issues (e.g. gender, race, morality). They argue that having a range of political opinions in these domains would combat the pernicious effects of confirmation bias and group think by introducing more dissent. The authors identify several examples of research which they believe to be  “tainted” by ideological motivation, and based on their assessment of the state of the research in politically controversial areas, conclude that “the parameters [of the field] are not set properly for the optimum discovery of truth. More political diversity would help the system discover more truth.” Conservative social psychologists would test different hypotheses, better identify methodologies in which liberal values are embedded, and be more critical in general of theories and data that advance liberal narratives.[...]

1 comment :

  1. yes & this anti torah liberalism, plays itself out in therapy [even with frum thrapists]


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