Does social psychology have a prejudice problem?

The Weekly Standard has a scorching article that takes ‘liberal psychopundits’ to task for suggesting that science supports their view that conservatives are ‘heartless and stupid’.

It comes on the heels of a new study that found that social psychology professors were more likely to be liberal (no surprise there) but rather more shockingly were prepared to openly discriminate against conservative colleagues.

The ‘science blind Republicans’ idea has become particularly popular in some corners of the blogosphere, but as psychologists will tell you, people in White Houses shouldn’t throw stones.

If you want an excellent discussion of why everyone, regardless of their political stripe, is susceptible to the denial of science, a recent edition of BBC Radio 4’s Analysis on the psychology of political prejudice is one of the best cognitive science documentaries I’ve heard in ages.

Right wingers prefer to deny the science of evolution and global warming, while left-wingers prefer to ignore the evidence on the genetic influence on behaviour and IQ.

Reality, of course, is bipartisan and will smack you in the nose regardless of how you vote.

Link to edition of BBC Radio 4 Analysis on political prejudice.
Link to podcast download page for same.

8 thoughts on “Does social psychology have a prejudice problem?”

  1. >Reality, of course, is bipartisan and will smack you in the nose regardless of how you vote.

    Love you for that one – and I think I’ll adopt that way of expressing this.

    (I usually thought of it as, if your science never pisses off your political sensibilities, you are doing it wrong).

  2. In the US at least, I wouldn’t say that reality is bipartisan as bipartisan in the US just means that everyone in charge is in agreement on how to stick it to the rest of us.

  3. left wingers tend to ignore genetic influence on behavior & IQ? Is this a U.K. thing? Honestly never encountered that on this side of the pond.

  4. For me, a political ideology does not necessarily correspond to an academic’s scientific and philosophical views and, in particular, their epistemological perspectives. For example, one can hold conservative views yet at the same time follow what some might consider to be a “liberal” epistemology (e.g., postmodernism, constructivism, social constructionism). People are surprised when I suggest that postmodernism is not an exclusive doctrine of liberals. Postmodernism deserves a full claim of the epistemological territory. It does not proscribe nor prescribe ideas but, rather, it sets forth a theory of the nature and limits of knowledge. Hence, postmodernism is compatible with any political views.

  5. You are working on the apples and oranges comparison of liberal and conservative in the US today, The apple part is that it is no longer about fiscal policy but class struggle for the maintenance of infrastructure through the wealthy paying appropriate taxes. The oranges is comparing disbelief in evident physical science with the liberal support for modifying the use of fossil fuel and “conserving” environment. The author then actually contradicts himself by maintaining that liberals deny that the poor are the poor because they don’t do anything about being poor. Many liberals believe that it’s not about WHO the poor are but that they exist and the responsibility is an ethical one. Try again, this time get it right.

  6. Great post. Ferguson’s criticism of Haidt’s approach is interesting. But I do appreciate Haidt’s ability to talk about discrimination in the social sciences in an accessible manner. See: Tierney’s NY Times piece last year. Haidt’s quote about the “statistically impossible lack of diversity” in psychology is direct, simple and easy to understand.

  7. >Reality, of course, is bipartisan and will smack you in the nose regardless of how you vote.

    True. As true as the fact that social psychology and reality are not the best partners to put it very mildly.

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