Wanted: political diversity in social psychology

A fascinating article on why social psychology needs more political diversity is due to be published in Behavioral and Brain Sciences. Sadly the full article is locked behind a paywall but the abstract gives an excellent summary of the article and the wider problem itself.

Political Diversity Will Improve Social Psychological Science.

Duarte JL, Crawford JT, Stern C, Haidt J, Jussim L, Tetlock PE.
Behav Brain Sci. 2014 Jul 18:1-54. [Epub ahead of print]

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.

As the article notes there is considerable evidence that social diversity is beneficial on many levels for numerous types of social groups.

This is widely believed in social science and community work except when it comes to political opinion where many believe that non-liberal views are incompatible with this type of work, when clearly they are not. This affects the field to the point where people are seemingly prepared to actively discriminate against non-liberals.

The defence of diversity matters most when you are defending the inclusion of people with whom you disagree or who make you uncomfortable. And we will all be better off as a result.

Link to PubMed entry for article.

8 thoughts on “Wanted: political diversity in social psychology”

  1. This is just another gussied-up attempt by wingnuts at “reframing” science to suit their ideology, since as comedian Stephen Colbert points out “Reality has well-known liberal bias”.

  2. I find it funny that the preferred solution to the problem is, as one commenter expresses it, “to pepper the field with conservatives who can introduce their own political biases to offset those of the liberal majority.” Well, even the solution social psychologists envisage seems to be a liberal one, affirmative action! I can’t imagine conservatives flocking to this proposal, as it is counter to their core assumptions. A more conservative way of doing it would be something along of “color blind” or “ideological blind” hiring.

    1. Well put! Surely science would benefit more through scientists doing science rather than through fighting one bias with another bias hoping the mean is in line with reality.

  3. It’s worth bearing in mind that there can be diversity within different political identities, e.g. the rather nebulous “right wing”.

    As other comments above have noted, some of these political viewpoints (e.g. social dominance orientation, see link below) may not chime with the spirit of inclusivity that the authors of the target article may be trying to enhance.


  4. I’m just wondering if *religious diversity would be included in this metric as well. I’m not being flip, I really am wondering. It would add diversity and if you’re talking about adding American Conservatives, you sure are going to get more Christian viewpoints anyway.

  5. Thanks for your interest in BBS — we just opened the article temporarily for your readers to access.

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