From Jonathan Haidt at Heterodox Academy:
New Study Indicates Existence of Eight Conservative Social Psychologists
A new data set has come in. Bill von Hippel and David Buss surveyed the membership of the Society for Experimental Social Psychology. That’s a professional society composed of the most active researchers in the field who are at least five years post-PhD. It’s very selective – you must be nominated by a current member and approved by a committee before you can join. Von Hippel and Buss sent a web survey to the 900 members of SESP and got a response rate of 37% (335 responses). So this is a good sample of the mid-level and senior people (average age 51) who produce most of the research in social psychology. Von Hippel and Buss were surveying the members’ views about evolution, to try to understand the reasons why many social psychologists distrust or dislike evolutionary psychology. At the end of the survey, they happened to include a very good set of measures of political identity. Not just self-descriptions, but also whom the person voted for in the 2012 US Presidential election. And they asked nine questions about politically valenced policy questions, such as “Do you support gun control?” “Do you support gay marriage?” and “Do you support a woman’s right to get an abortion?”
Telling us what we already know, but with much more precision:
Most people know that professors in America, and in most countries, generally vote for left-leaning parties and policies. But few people realize just how fast things have changed since the 1990s. An academic field that leans left (or right) can still function, as long as ideological claims or politically motivated research is sure to be challenged. But when a field goes from leaning left to being entirely on the left, the normal safeguards of peer review and institutionalized disconfirmation break down. Research on politically controversial topics becomes unreliable because politically favored conclusions receive less-than-normal scrutiny while politically incorrect findings must scale mountains of motivated and hostile reasoning from reviewers and editors.
I consider the rapid loss of political diversity, over the last 20 years, to be the second-greatest existential threat to the field of social psychology, after the “replication crisis.” The field is responding constructively to the replication crisis. Will it also attend to its political diversity crisis? Or will it continue to think of diversity only in terms of the demographic categories that most matter to people on the left: race, gender and sexual orientation? More.
Reality check: This disproportion hurts social sciences more than it hurts the people social scientists apparently loathe. Governments can and do just decide to cut funding to social sciences faculties, especially if they sound like nothing more than left-wing hate groups, best noted for bizarre pronouncements and academic malfeasance.
Yes, even progressive governments might do that. Because—quite honestly—there is a variety of types of left-wing hate groups governments can fund. And profs don’t usually threaten to riot if they don’t get money. Okay, the profs can tacitly encourage their students to riot, but it will usually happen only on campus, where it might be indistinguishable from other forms of study in the humanities today.
Note: Re evolutionary psychology, the socio profs are likely right to distrust it, but probably for all the wrong reasons. It’s a highly debatable field because, like space alien studies, it is a discipline without a subject. Stone Age man is long dead and most attempts to interpret his behaviour turn out to be efforts to explain modern society by pretending it is primaeval.
Worse, if evo psych were valid, it would demonstrate that no evolution has in fact occurred in the last 2 million years. Who knows, that might be true. But if so, the field should be renamed “stasis psychology.”*
Wrong reasons? The social psychs probably oppose evo psych because it implies that human nature is not infinitely malleable through social engineering. That part is right, of course, but we needn’t dig up Stone Age man to demonstrate it. The destrution wrought by progressive utopias is sufficient demonstration.
*Stasis? See stasis chart: Yes, it is quite possible for nothing much to happen to a life form for hundreds of millions of years, never mind millions. But demonstrating that about something as immaterial as psychology (!) would take some doing. If you want to demonstrate stasis, go into paleontology instead. There are plenty of old bones out there still.
New science mythbuster book should be blockbuster So pointing out that the pop sci lore on these subjects is largely myth is now going mainstream?
A slightly different form of this post appeared at Blazing Cat Fur.