Haidt: “Political Diversity Will Improve Social Psychological Science”


Via Marginal Revolution, here the abstract of a big paper from what seems like most of the non-liberal social psychologists in the world, such as Jonathan Haidt, Philip Tetlock, and Lee Jussim:

Political Diversity Will Improve Social Psychological Science.

Behav Brain Sci. 2014 Jul 18:1-54. [Epub ahead of print]

Duarte JL1, Crawford JT2, Stern C3, Haidt J4, Jussim L5, Tetlock PE6.

Psychologists have demonstrated the value of diversity-particularly diversity of viewpoints-for enhancing creativity, discovery, and problem solving. But one key type of viewpoint diversity is lacking in academic psychology in general and social psychology in particular: political diversity. This article reviews the available evidence and finds support for four claims: 1) Academic psychology once had considerable political diversity, but has lost nearly all of it in the last 50 years; 2) This lack of political diversity can undermine the validity of social psychological science via mechanisms such as the embedding of liberal values into research questions and methods, steering researchers away from important but politically unpalatable research topics, and producing conclusions that mischaracterize liberals and conservatives alike; 3) Increased political diversity would improve social psychological science by reducing the impact of bias mechanisms such as confirmation bias, and by empowering dissenting minorities to improve the quality of the majority’s thinking; and 4) The underrepresentation of non-liberals in social psychology is most likely due to a combination of self-selection, hostile climate, and discrimination. We close with recommendations for increasing political diversity in social psychology.

Here are a couple of excerpts from the paper chosen by Theden:

Since the 1930s, social psychologists have been proclaiming the inaccuracy of social stereotypes, despite lacking evidence of such inaccuracy. Evidence has seemed unnecessary because stereotypes have been, in effect, stereotyped as inherently nasty and inaccurate (see Jussim, 2012a for a review).

Some group stereotypes are indeed hopelessly crude and untestable. But some may rest on valid empiricism—and represent subjective estimates of population characteristics (e.g. the proportion of people who drop out of high school, are victims of crime, or endorse policies that support women at work, see Jussim, 2012a, Ryan, 2002 for reviews).

In this context, it is not surprising that the rigorous empirical study of the accuracy of factual stereotypes was initiated by one of the very few self-avowed conservatives in social psychology—Clark McCauley (McCauley & Stitt, 1978). Since then, dozens of studies by independent researchers have yielded evidence that stereotype accuracy (of all sorts of stereotypes) is one of the most robust effects in all of social psychology (Jussim, 2012a).

Here is a clear example of the value of political diversity: a conservative social psychologist asked a question nobody else thought (or dared) to ask, and found results that continue to make many social psychologists uncomfortable. McCauley’s willingness to put the assumption of stereotype inaccuracy to an empirical test led to the correction of one of social psychology’s most longstanding errors. …

Prejudice and intolerance have long been considered the province of the political right (e.g., Adorno, Frenkel-Brunswik, Levinson, & Sanford, 1950; Duckitt, 2001; Lindner & Nosek, 2009).

Indeed, since Allport (1954), social psychologists have suspected that there is a personality type associated with generalized prejudice toward a variety of social groups (Akrami, Ekehammar, & Bergh, 2011), which they have linked to political conservatism (Roets & van Hiel, 2011). More recently, however, several scholars have noted that the groups typically considered targets of prejudice in such research programs are usually low status and often left-leaning (e.g., African-Americans and Communists; for more examples and further arguments, see Chambers, Schlenker & Collisson, 2013 and Crawford & Pilanski, 2013).

Using research designs that include both left-leaning and right-leaning targets, and using nationally representative as well as student and community samples, these researchers have demonstrated that prejudice is potent on both the left and right. Conservatives are prejudiced against stereotypically left-leaning targets (e.g., African-Americans), whereas liberals are prejudiced against stereotypically right-leaning targets (e.g., religious Christians; see Chambers et al., 2013; Crawford & Pilanski, 2013; Wetherell, Brandt, & Reyna, 2013).

Summarizing these recent findings, Brandt, Reyna, Chambers, Crawford, and Wetherell (2014) put forward the ideological conflict hypothesis, which posits that people across the political spectrum are prejudiced against ideologically dissimilar others.

Once again, the shared moral narrative of social psychology seems to have restricted the range of research: the investigation of prejudice was long limited to prejudice against the targets that liberals care most about. But the presence of a non-liberal researcher (John Chambers is a libertarian) led to an expansion of the range of targets, which might, over time, lead the entire field to a more nuanced view of the relationship between politics and prejudice.