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InsiderOnline Blog: February 2011

Social Psychology’s Ideological Blinders

Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist at the University of Virginia, has challenged his fellow psychologists to recognize how liberal bias has hurt their research. At the Society for Personality and Social Psychology’s January conference, Haidt gave a talk in which he argued that the field had become a hostile climate for researchers who don’t start with liberal assumptions. John Tierney profiles Haidt in the New York Times:

The fields of psychology, sociology and anthropology have long attracted liberals, but they became more exclusive after the 1960s, according to Dr. Haidt. “The fight for civil rights and against racism became the sacred cause unifying the left throughout American society, and within the academy,” he said, arguing that this shared morality both “binds and blinds.”

“If a group circles around sacred values, they will evolve into a tribal-moral community,” he said. “They’ll embrace science whenever it supports their sacred values, but they’ll ditch it or distort it as soon as it threatens a sacred value.” It’s easy for social scientists to observe this process in other communities, like the fundamentalist Christians who embrace “intelligent design” while rejecting Darwinism. But academics can be selective, too, as Daniel Patrick Moynihan found in 1965 when he warned about the rise of unmarried parenthood and welfare dependency among blacks — violating the taboo against criticizing victims of racism.

“Moynihan was shunned by many of his colleagues at Harvard as racist,” Dr. Haidt said. “Open-minded inquiry into the problems of the black family was shut down for decades, precisely the decades in which it was most urgently needed. Only in the last few years have liberal sociologists begun to acknowledge that Moynihan was right all along.” …

To overcome taboos, he advised them to subscribe to National Review and to read Thomas Sowell’s “A Conflict of Visions.”

See “Social Scientist See Bias Within,” New York Times, February 7, 2011.

Posted on 02/11/11 12:29 PM by Alex Adrianson

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