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Peer review: New Yorker asks, Is the field of psychology biased against conservatives?

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In all seriousness, apparently.

As Maria Konnikova notes,

Haidt was far from the first to voice concern over the liberal slant in academia, broadly speaking, and in social psychology in particular. He was, however, the first to do it quite so visibly—and the reactions were vocal. At first, Haidt was pleased. “People responded very constructively,” he said. “They listened carefully, took it seriously. That speaks very well for the field. I’ve never felt as if raising this issue has made me into a pariah or damaged me in any way.” For the most part, his colleagues have continued to support his claims—or, at least, the need to investigate them further. Some, however, reacted with indignation.

The reasons cited for indignation make interesting reading. Think: Self-satisfied elite clique.

More to the point: The critical question isn’t whether the bias harms conservatives but whether it harms the discipline as a whole. Of course it does. As Konnikova writes,

All these studies and analyses [which she summarizes, showing the bias] are classic examples of confirmation bias: when it comes to questions of subjective belief, we more easily believe the things that mesh with our general world view. When something clashes with our vision of how things should be, we look immediately for the flaws. That, in a sense, is the heart of Haidt’s concern. If findings that rub liberals the wrong way can’t be reviewed impartially—and if those that match their ideals are given more lenient treatment—we have a problem. In a review of the literature on bias in interpreting research results, the social psychologist Robert MacCoun (then at Berkeley and now at Stanford) found that “biased research interpretation is a common phenomenon, and an overdetermined one.” It could be intentional, but often it was the result of motivational, under-the-radar biases, subtle shifts in interpretation imperceptible to the researchers themselves. The bias is especially strong when we’re confronted with topics that affect us or our group identity directly—something that ideological debates often do.

Haidt believes that the problems start with the selection and formulation of research topics to begin with. In his paper, he and his co-authors review how liberal values can influence the choice of topics and method of research. What questions, for instance, do researchers choose to tackle? Those likely to get better traction are those that most resonate with the researchers—after all, psychologists often jest that research is little more than “me-search.” Given a homogeneity of views, topics can fall into ruts because conflicting approaches won’t be considered. Experimentally, viewpoint diversity is one of the most effective ways of attaining creative and innovative breakthroughs in any field; its absence leads to much the opposite result. More.

Yes, exactly. This problem is directly related to the sheer number of recent social science scandals. Who is going to speak up about shoddy methodology when everyone assumes that certain conclusions would be true anyway?

And surely Darwinism works that way in evolutionary biology as well, as many are beginning to realize.

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One Reply to “Peer review: New Yorker asks, Is the field of psychology biased against conservatives?

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    Of humorous related note:

    Liberal or conservative? Reactions to disgust are a dead giveaway – Oct 29, 2014
    Excerpt: Maggot infestations, rotting carcasses, unidentifiable gunk in the kitchen sink – how much your brain responds to disgusting images could predict whether you are liberal or conservative.,,,
    In a brain scanner, participants were shown disgusting images, such as dirty toilets or mutilated carcasses, mixed with neutral and pleasant images, such as landscapes and babies.,,,
    Conservatives tend to have more magnified responses to disgusting images, but scientists don’t know exactly why, Montague said.,,,
    http://phys.org/news/2014-10-l.....eaway.html

    Hmmm, why am I not surprised?

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