Thursday, February 12, 2015

Liberal Bias In Social Psychology

hbdchick linked to two articles by Lee Jussim, Ph.D. (in social psychology) over at Psychology Today. Liberal Bias in Social Psychology: Personal Experience I and Liberal Bias In Social Psychology: Personal Experience II.

Initial pieces to be aware of:  Dr. Jussim has a full-length disclaimer about what personal experiences, individual studies, and his entire series on bias does and does not mean. It is more than the standard boilerplate of small sample size, your-mileage-may-vary, further-research-is-warranted disclaimers.  He writes well, thinks well, and nonliberals cannot count on him always telling them things they would like to hear. Be prepared. Second, Psychology Today is as generally socially liberal as one would expect a popular magazine in the social sciences to be, so good on them for including Dr. Jussim at all.

In brief: They had research which illustrated and boldly stated that liberals had been much more biased and anti-science in their experiment, but they couldn't get it published.  They decided to make one change, simply removing the bold claim likely to stand out and offend liberals at first glance, and the paper was accepted.

In the other personal experience, they had a grant proposal which included this introductory paragraph:

 The field of psychology is dominated by liberals (Redding, 2001), and this political homogeneity can be problematic . . In fact, content analysis of all the articles published in American Psychologist during the 1990s revealed that 97% had liberal themes (Redding, 2001). Furthermore, recent research suggests many social psychologists would blatantly discriminate based on politics. About 37% admitted that, given equally qualified conservative and liberal job applicants, the liberal candidate should be hired over the conservative candidate (Inbar & Lammers, 2012).  

It was turned down, and the reasons given were fatuous.  They decided to resubmit the proposal with a new introductory paragraph which was almost a cartoon of liberal prejudice.

 Conservatives are often more skeptical of scientific research than are liberals, and they are often more willing to sacrifice science to achieve political goals (Anglin & Jussim, in preparation).  Furthermore, science has a long and checkered history of periodically being used and exploited as a tool to advance nefarious rightwing political agendas (e.g., social Darwinism; Nazi eliminationist practices; Herrnstein & Murray's (1994) claims about genetic bases of race differences in intelligence.

It was accepted.


RichardJohnson said...

Conservatives are often more skeptical of scientific research than are liberals.

You have on occasion referred to studies which show that in previous years, there was very little conservative/liberal split in skepticism towards science. Increasing conservative skepticism toward science is correlated with increased greater incidence of scientific fraud.
I have also found such information at another time, but am not going to look it up again.

Texan99 said...

The comments sections on both Part I and Part II (but especially Part II) were really, really discouraging if you cherish a belief in the rationality of humankind.

james said...

I have taken a little hiatus due to lack of time, but I've tried to indulge a hobby of fact-checking science reporting. The science reporting and the resulting received wisdom are wrong more often than the studies.

Perhaps the target of the skepticism should be adjusted?

Assistant Village Idiot said...

That is certainly in the discussion. At present, I imagine the biases intersect, intensifying the error. But it does a disservice to more cautious scientists who are making a strenuous effort not to claim more than is warranted, if the reporters leap to conclusions and report them poorly.

That would be an interesting study across fields, interviewing researchers after the fact and asking them to rate how intelligent and fair the reporting was. i have some guesses how that would turn out, but it would be interesting to know.