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Friday, August 04, 2017

Liberal Bias in Social Psychology: Personal Experience II

Liberal Bias in Social Psychology: Personal Experience II

"Anyway, one of my former graduate students and current collaborators, Dr. Jarret Crawford, has been at the forefront of exposing bias in the ways ideological biases have been studied by (overwhelmingly) liberal social psychologists. He led a study examining whether liberals or conservatives showed more bias in their evaluations of scientific articles. This is a hot topic because liberals (including but not restricted to liberal social psychologists) are so often appalled at conservatives supposed anti-scientific views (see my previous posts on why this view is so highly overstated and also on why conservative skepticism about science is often more well-justified than liberal trust in it).

In our study, people read either an article reporting research showing that affirmative action harmed African-Americans and an article reporting research showing that same sex relationships were just as healthy as heterosexual relationships OR they read an article reporting research showing that affirmative action was beneficial to African-Americans and an article reporting research showing that same sex relationships were not as healthy as heterosexual relationships. So, everyone read one “liberal” and one “conservative” article. Furthermore, everything about the articles was held constant, except the result, so there were no objective differences in the quality of research supporting the liberal or conservative conclusions.

The main question was: Who would be more biased in their judgments of the article, liberals or conservatives? People were asked to indicate how true they considered the article to be, and how biased they considered the author to be.

And the resounding answer was: Liberals were far more biased. Liberals viewed the articles reporting “liberal” results (affirmative action and same sex relationships are good) as truer and reflecting less author bias than the articles reporting “conservative” results. Conservatives, in contrast, viewed the truthfulness and bias in the articles as nearly identical, regardless of their results...

This should have been important “news” – even “counterintuitive news” given how much the received wisdom emphasized conservative bias (and, for better or worse, social psychology has long been enamored of such counterintuitive findings – although, as this story demonstrates, perhaps it is primarily counterintuitive findings that do not challenge the supposed moral or intellectual superiority of liberals that are so privileged).

We could not get this published. It was rejected at two separate journals. Finally, we decided to bag every mention of liberals being more biased than conservatives, and resubmitted it to another journal. This time, it was accepted. Now, even though the text does not mention finding that liberals were more biased than conservatives, the pattern is right there, in the data reported in tables and figures, for anyone to see. The paper shows that liberals are more biased than conservatives, at least when and how we studied it. Neither I nor Jarret would or did claim that such a pattern is always necessarily true. But it was true in our data. We were just not permitted to say so."


In other words, liberals are more biased than conservatives. And in the peer review process, the exact same article was rejected when framed as liberals being more biased (i.e. what is actually found) but accepted when it didn't explicitly report this key finding.
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