NYTimes has an article about a new “outgroup” that’s discriminated against: conservatives in psychology. An informal survey of psychologists at a convention showed that about 80% of them identified as liberal. A tiny minority of 3 out of 1000 identified as conservative. Dr. Haigt, who brought up the underrepresentation, said that this should change, and conservatives should be encouraged to become psychs even if the end result is that some of their research turns out to negatively impact the liberal agenda.
I think this is a pretty good idea. Obviously there’s still really idiotic politically incorrect speech, no disputing that (and I’ve stopped listening in on him during my lunch break). But that kind of racism has really diminished in general since the start of the Civil Rights era. The pendulum has really swung a bit too far to the left.
The fields of psychology, sociology and anthropology have long attracted liberals, but they became more exclusive after the 1960s, according to Dr. Haidt. “The fight for civil rights and against racism became the sacred cause unifying the left throughout American society, and within the academy,” he said, arguing that this shared morality both “binds and blinds.”
“If a group circles around sacred values, they will evolve into a tribal-moral community,” he said. “They’ll embrace science whenever it supports their sacred values, but they’ll ditch it or distort it as soon as it threatens a sacred value.” It’s easy for social scientists to observe this process in other communities, like the fundamentalist Christians who embrace “intelligent design” while rejecting Darwinism. But academics can be selective, too, as Daniel Patrick Moynihan found in 1965 when he warned about the rise of unmarried parenthood and welfare dependency among blacks — violating the taboo against criticizing victims of racism.
“Moynihan was shunned by many of his colleagues at Harvard as racist,” Dr. Haidt said. “Open-minded inquiry into the problems of the black family was shut down for decades, precisely the decades in which it was most urgently needed. Only in the last few years have liberal sociologists begun to acknowledge that Moynihan was right all along.”
So if a few more social scientists put down their rose colored glasses and start taking in some rather uncomfortable interpretations of all the data out there, I think it’s a great thing. Still, I wonder how many conservatives would even be interested in an academic role in studying society. If society has eliminated the greatest injustices for the most part, I don’t know that the current political status quo in social science isn’t the natural equilibrium that it would reach anyways.
Think of the recent news that Wikipedia has a gender gap. This should have surprised absolutely nobody. There’s no barrier to entry except learning the little bit of formatting necessary to get links to display correctly, but women just don’t seem very interested. The natural equilibrium for Wikipedia is a large male population, just as first person shooters and fighting games are naturally going to attract fewer women. But social scientists typically see the imbalance and think discrimination must be the culprit.
[T]he taboo against discussing sex differences was reinforced, so universities and the National Science Foundation went on spending tens of millions of dollars on research and programs based on the assumption that female scientists faced discrimination and various forms of unconscious bias. But that assumption has been repeatedly contradicted, most recently in a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by two Cornell psychologists, Stephen J. Ceci and Wendy M. Williams. After reviewing two decades of research, they report that a woman in academic science typically fares as well as, if not better than, a comparable man when it comes to being interviewed, hired, promoted, financed and published.
So is there really a bias against conservatives in psych or do conservatives just tend to avoid that major? My guess is that there’s some of both, but less outright discrimination than most would think just by looking at the present representation. The upshot is that I don’t think a concerted effort to bring more conservatives into psych is going to yield much in the way of results. It’s just the way things are.