8 February 2011

Academic group-think

The NYT reports an experiment conducted by Jonathan Haidt, a U of Virginia social psychologist whose field is the intuitive foundations of morality and ideology. At a conference in San Antonio he started his presentation by asking how many considered themselves politically liberal. A sea of hands appeared, and Haidt estimated that liberals made up 80 percent of the 1,000 psychologists in the ballroom. When he asked for centrists and libertarians, he spotted fewer than three dozen hands. And then, when he asked for conservatives, he counted a grand total of three.

"This is a statistically impossible lack of diversity", Haidt concluded, noting polls showing that 40 percent of Americans are conservative and 20 percent are liberal. In his speech and later in an interview, Haidt argued that social psychologists are a "tribal-moral community" united by "sacred values" that hinder research and damage their credibility - and blind them to the hostile climate they’ve created for non-liberals.

And his solution? To promote affirmative action for conservatives! He's locked into his own academic group-think and does not even realize it.

Hat-tip: Kinsla


  1. Yes, but of course the 'sacred values' are partly methodological - polls, samples, experiments purporting to 'prove something.'The ineffable high that comes from being at 'the cutting edge' of victimology studies ....ah, sorry, the study of human beings, tends to reinforce a faith in one's own historical importance. After all, for the clever sociologist, history began this morning, or perhaps at least when he got his license to practice.

  2. These people are licensed? I thought they came about through parthenogenesis.

  3. Alas, they have unlimited license.