Abstract-collection: Political diversity in science & comments

This blogpost just collects the abstracts of the Heterodox-Academy-paper on diversity of views in the social sciences and the commentaries it provoked. Why I do this? Because reading these abstracts may inform the discussions – at least a bit. By the way, this is the direct Cambridge-University-Press-link to the journal-article and here comes the full reference: José L. Duarte, Jarret T. Crawford, Charlotta Stern, Jonathan Haidt, Lee Jussim and Philip E. Tetlock (2015). Political diversity will improve social psychological science. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 38, e130 doi:10.1017/S0140525X14000430.

Duarte et al. (2015): Political diversity will improve social psychological science

Abstract: 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. (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.

Ainslie (2015): A “cohesive moral community” is already patrolling behavioral science

Abstract: Authors of non-liberal proposals experience more collegial objections than others do. These objections are often couched as criticism of determinism, reductionism, or methodological individualism, but from a scientific viewpoint such criticism could be easily answered. Underneath it is a wish to harness scientific belief in service of positive social values, at the cost of reducing objectivity.

Baumeister (2015): Recognizing and coping with our own prejudices: Fighting liberal bias without conservative input

Abstract: This commentary summarizes my struggle to overcome liberal bias without conservative input. I generally assume I am biased and constantly try to build a good-quality argument for the opposite view. Trying to dispense with one’s liberal values can help, if one is willing. Frequent self-tests help. Liberal biases include race, gender, and poverty, but also dislike of business corporations and even Western civilization. Feminism is the single strongest and most powerful bias.

Beit-Hallahmi (2015): Method and matter in the social sciences: Umbilically tied to the Enlightenment

Abstract: This commentary deals with the nonconformity of academics and the ethos of social science. Academics in all fields deviate from majority norms in politics and religion, and this deviance may be essential to the academic mind and to academic norms. The Enlightenment legacy inspires both methods and subject matter in academic work, and severing ties with it may be impossible.

Bilewicz et al. (2015): Is liberal bias universal? An international perspective on social psychologists

Abstract: Based on our comparison of political orientation and research interests of social psychologists in capitalist Western countries versus post-Communist Eastern European countries, we suggest that Duarte and colleagues’ claim of liberal bias in the field seems American-centric. We propose an alternative account of political biases which focuses on the academic tendency to explain attitudes of lower status groups.

Binning and Sears (2015): On the history of political diversity in social psychology

Abstract: We argue that the history of political diversity in social psychology may be better characterized by stability than by a large shift toward liberalism. The branch of social psychology that focuses on political issues has defined social problems from a liberal perspective since at least the 1930s. Although a lack of ideological diversity within the discipline can pose many of the problems noted by Duarte et al., we suggest that these problems (a) are less apparent when the insights of social psychology are pitted against the insights from other social science disciplines, and (b) are less pressing than the need for other types of diversity in the field, especially ethnic and racial diversity.

Brandt and Proulx (2015): QTIPs: Questionable theoretical and interpretive practices in social psychology

Abstract: One possible consequence of ideological homogeneity is the misinterpretation of data collected with otherwise solid methods. To help identify these issues outside of politically relevant research, we name and give broad descriptions to three questionable interpretive practices described by Duarte et al. and introduce three additional questionable theoretical practices that also reduce the theoretical power and paradigmatic scope of psychology.

Ceci and Williams (2015): The psychology of psychology: A thought experiment

Abstract: In the target article, Duarte et al. allege that the lack of political diversity reduces research efficacy. We pose a thought experiment that could provide an empirical test by examining whether institutional review board (IRB) members, granting agencies, and journal reviewers filter scientific products based on political values, invoking scientific criteria (rigor, etc.) as their justification. When these same products are cast in terms highlighting opposite values, do these people shift their decisions?

Chambers and Schlenker (2015): Political homogeneity can nurture threats to research validity

Abstract: Political homogeneity within a scientific field nurtures threats to the validity of many research conclusions by allowing ideologically compatible values to influence interpretations, by minimizing skepticism, and by creating premature consensus. Although validity threats can crop in any research, the usual corrective activities in science are more likely to be minimized and delayed.

Charney (2015): Liberal bias and the five-factor model

Abstract: Duarte et al. draw attention to the “embedding of liberal values and methods” in social psychological research. They note how these biases are often invisible to the researchers themselves. The authors themselves fall prey to these “invisible biases” by utilizing the five-factor model of personality and the trait of openness to experience as one possible explanation for the under-representation of political conservatives in social psychology. I show that the manner in which the trait of openness to experience is conceptualized and measured is a particularly blatant example of the very liberal bias the authors decry.

Ditto et al. (2015): Political bias is tenacious

Abstract: Duarte et al. are right to worry about political bias in social psychology but they underestimate the ease of correcting it. Both liberals and conservatives show partisan bias that often worsens with cognitive sophistication. More non-liberals in social psychology is unlikely to speed our convergence upon the truth, although it may broaden the questions we ask and the data we collect.

Eagly (2015): Mischaracterizing social psychology to support the laudable goal of increasing its political diversity

Abstract: Duarte et al.’s arguments for increasing political diversity in social psychology are based on mischaracterizations of social psychology as fundamentally flawed in understanding stereotype accuracy and the effects of attitudes on information processing. I correct their misunderstandings while agreeing with their view that political diversity, along with other forms of diversity, stands to benefit social psychology.

Everett (2015): “Wait – You’re a conservative?” Political diversity and the dilemma of disclosure

Abstract: Many of the proposed recommendations for remedying the harmful effects of political homogeneity for psychology depend upon conservatives disclosing their political identity. Yet how likely is this, when disclosure is so harmful to the individual? Considering this issue as a social dilemma clarifies the pernicious nature of the problem, as well as suggesting how the dilemma can be resolved.

Funder (2015): Towards a de-biased social psychology: The effects of ideological perspective go beyond politics

Abstract: Reasonable conservatives are in short supply and will not arrive to save social psychology any time soon. The field needs to save itself through de-biasing. The effects of a liberal worldview permeate and distort discussion of many topics that are not overtly political, including behavioral genetics and evolutionary psychology, the fundamental attribution error, and the remarkably persistent consistency controversy.

Gelman and Gross (2015): Political attitudes in social environments

Abstract: We agree with Duarte et al. that it is worthwhile to study professions’ political alignments. But we have seen no evidence to support the idea that social science fields with more politically diverse workforces generally produce better research. We also think that when considering ideological balance, it is useful to place social psychology within a larger context of the prevailing ideologies of other influential groups within society, such as military officers, journalists, and business executives.

Hibbing et al. (2015): Liberals and conservatives: Non-convertible currencies

Abstract: Duarte et al. are correct that the social science enterprise would improve on several fronts if the number of politically conservative researchers were to increase; however, because they misunderstand the degree to which liberals and conservatives are dispositionally different, they fail to appreciate the full range of reasons that conservatives are reluctant to enter the modern social sciences.

Hilbig and Moshagen (2015): A predominance of self-identified Democrats is no evidence of a leftward bias

Abstract: The reasoning of Duarte et al. hinges on the basic premise that a positive ratio of Democrats versus Republicans implies a political bias. However, when placed in a global and historical context, it is evident that U.S. Democrats currently represent a moderate position on the political left–right spectrum. Thus, Duarte et al. provide no evidence of a leftward bias in the scientific community.

Inbar and Lammers (2015): Increasing ideological tolerance in social psychology

Abstract: We argue that recognizing current ideological diversity in social psychology and promoting tolerance of minority views is just as important as increasing the number of non-liberal researchers. Increasing tolerance will allow individuals in the minority to express dissenting views, which will improve psychological science by reducing bias. We present four recommendations for increasing tolerance.

Kessler et al. (2015): Political diversity versus stimuli diversity: Alternative ways to improve social psychological science

Abstract: Instead of enhancing diversity in research groups, we suggest that in order to reduce biases in social psychological research a more basic formulation and systematic testing of theories is required. Following the important but often neglected ecological research approach would lead to systematic variation of stimuli and sometimes representative sampling of stimuli for specific environments.

Lilienfeld (2015): Lack of political diversity and the framing of findings in personality and clinical psychology

Abstract: I extend the arguments of Duarte et al. by examining the implications of political uniformity for the framing of findings in personality and clinical psychology. I argue that the one-sided framing of psychological research on political ideology has limited our understanding of the personality correlates of liberalism and conservatism.

McCauley (2015): A conservative’s social psychology

Abstract: I suggest that social psychologists should stick to studying positive and negative attitudes and give up stigmatizing some attitudes as “prejudice.” I recommend that we avoid assuming that race and ethnicity have no biological foundations, in order to avoid a collision course with modern biology. And I wonder how much difference the target article recommendations can make in the context of hiring a social psychologist for an academic position.

Motyl and Iyer (2015): Diverse crowds using diverse methods improves the scientific dialectic

Abstract: In science, diversity is vital to the development of new knowledge. We agree with Duarte et al. that we need more political diversity in social psychology, but contend that we need more religious diversity and methodological diversity as well. If some diversity is good, more is better (especially in science).

Nisbett (2015): Welcoming conservatives to the field

Abstract: More conservatives would provide advantages, and social psychologists may not be as opposed to increasing the number of conservatives as Duarte et al. think. Recruitment problems concern primarily self-selection and biases in undergraduate instruction. Social psychologists should welcome having conservatives in the field to serve as a conduit for our theories and methods to conservative intellectuals and policy makers.

Pfister and Böhm (2015): Political orientations do not cancel out, and politics is not about truth

Abstract: Duarte et al. propose that divergent political biases cancel each other out such that increasing political diversity will improve scientific validity. We argue that this idea is misguided. Their recommendations for improving political diversity in academia bear the danger of imposing political interests on science. Scientific scrutiny and criticism are the only viable remedies for bad science.

Pinker (2015): Political bias, explanatory depth, and narratives of progress

Abstract: Political bias has indeed been a distorter of psychology, not just in particular research areas but in an aversion to the explanatory depth available from politically fraught fields like evolution. I add two friendly amendments to the target article: (1) The leftist moral narrative may be based on zero-sum competition among identity groups rather than continuous progress; and (2) ideological bias should be dealt with not just via diversity of ideological factions but by minimizing the influence of ideology altogether.

Redding (2015): Sociopolitical insularity is psychology’s Achilles heel

Abstract: Academic psychology has become increasingly non-diverse politically, which skews and impedes social psychological science (as Duarte et al. argue). We should embrace viewpoint diversity, especially since the arguments favoring sociopolitical diversity are identical to those for demographic and cultural diversity. Doing so will produce a more robust, open, and creative psychological science that is informed and tested by a multiplicity of sociopolitical paradigms.

Ross (2015): What kinds of conservatives does social psychology lack, and why?

Abstract: Although Duarte et al.’s claims about the potential benefits of greater political diversity in the ranks of social psychology are apt, their discussion of the decline in such diversity, the role played by selfselection, and the specific domains they cite in discussing an anticonservative bias raise issues that merit closer examination. The claim that sound research and analysis challenging liberal orthodoxies fails to receive a fair hearing in our journals and professional discourse is also disputed.

Seibt et al. (2015): Conservatism is not the missing viewpoint for true diversity

Abstract: The target article diagnoses a dominance of liberal viewpoints with little evidence, promotes a conservative viewpoint without defining it, and wrongly projects the U.S. liberal-conservative spectrum to the whole field of social psychology. Instead, we propose to anticipate and reduce mixing of theorizing and ideology by using definitions that acknowledge divergence in perspective, and promote representative sampling and observation of the field, as well as dialogical publication.

Shweder (2015): Should social psychologists create a disciplinary affirmative action program for political conservatives?

Abstract: Freely staying on the move between alternative points of view is the best antidote to dogmatism. Robert Merton’s ideals for an epistemic community are sufficient to correct pseudo-empirical studies designed to confirm beliefs that liberals (or conservatives) think deserve to be true. Institutionalizing the self-proclaimed political identities of social psychologists may make things worse.

Tybur and Navarrete (2015): When theory trumps ideology: Lessons from evolutionary psychology

Abstract: Evolutionary psychologists are personally liberal, just as social psychologists are. Yet their research has rarely been perceived as liberally biased – if anything, it has been erroneously perceived as motivated by conservative political agendas. Taking a closer look at evolutionary psychologists might offer the broader social psychology community guidance in neutralizing some of the biases Duarte et al. discuss.

van der Vossen (2015): Diversity of depoliticization?

Abstract: An ideologically homogeneous discipline of political psychology is a serious problem. But undoing the field’s homogeneity may not suffice to address this problem. Instead, we should consider undoing the politicization.

Washburn et al. (2015): A checklist to facilitate objective hypothesis testing in social psychology research

Abstract: Social psychology is not a very politically diverse area of inquiry, something that could negatively affect the objectivity of social psychological theory and research, as Duarte et al. argue in the target article. This commentary offers a number of checks to help researchers uncover possible biases and identify when they are engaging in hypothesis confirmation and advocacy instead of hypothesis testing.

Winegard et al. (2015): Too paranoid to see progress: Social psychology is probably liberal, but it doesn’t believe in progress

Abstract: We agree with Duarte et al. that bias in social psychology is a serious problem that researchers should confront. However, we are skeptical that most social psychologists adhere to a liberal progress narrative. We suggest, instead, that most social psychologists are paranoid egalitarian meliorists (PEMs). We explain the term and suggest possible remedies to bias in social psychology.

Wright (2015): Meta-ethical pluralism: A cautionary tale about cohesive moral communities

Abstract: Meta-ethical pluralism gives us additional insight into how moral communities become cohesive and why this can be problematic (even dangerous) – and in this way provides support for the worries raised by the target article. At the same time, it offers several reasons to be concerned about the proposed initiative, the most important of which is that it could seriously backfire.

Authors’ response:

Crawford et al. (2015): It may be harder than we thought, but political diversity will (still) improve social psychological science

Abstract: In our target article, we made four claims: (1) Social psychology is now politically homogeneous; (2) this homogeneity sometimes harms the science; (3) increasing political diversity would reduce this damage; and (4) some portion of the homogeneity is due to a hostile climate and outright discrimination against non-liberals. In this response, we review these claims in light of the arguments made by a diverse group of commentators. We were surprised to find near-universal agreement with our first two claims, and we note that few challenged our fourth claim. Most of the disagreements came in response to our claim that increasing political diversity would be beneficial. We agree with our critics that increasing political diversity may be harder than we had thought, but we explain why we still believe that it is possible and desirable to do so. We conclude with a revised list of 12 recommendations for improving political diversity in social psychology, as well as in other areas of the academy.


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