Le virtú della diversità ideologica nell’accademica

The lack of political diversity in social psychology di Jonathan Haidt

La psicologia sociale è in crisi.

No, non per i recenti casi di plagio.

No, non perché il “replication program” annovera i suoi studi tra i più scadenti.

No, il motivo reale è diverso e merita un approfondimento: in quelle aule l’orientamento ideologico di docenti e ricercatori è tristemente compatto: tutti a sinistra! Tutti progressisti…

… In this article, we suggest that one largely overlooked cause of failure is a lack of political diversity…

La destra è sottorappresentata, gli studiosi conservatori sono spariti dai radar…

… We focus on conservatives as an underrepresented group because the data on the prevalence in psychology of different ideological groups is best for the liberal-conservative contrast– and the departure from the proportion of liberals and conservatives in the U.S. population is so dramatic…

A soffrirne è l’attendibilità della ricerca sfornata, particolarmente in certe materie specifiche…

… The lack of diversity causes problems for the scientific process primarily in areas related to the political concerns of the Left– areas such as race, gender, stereotyping, environmentalism, power, and inequality…

La situazione è grave: lo sbilanciamento non è mai stato tanto accentuato.

Gli anni novanta hanno segnato un tracollo nella diversità ideologica. Scindendo lo spettro politico in sinistra/destra il rapporto di 4 a 1 si è impennato fino a  12 a 1…

… Before the 1990s, academic psychology only LEANED left. Liberals and Democrats outnumbered Conservatives and Republican by 4 to 1 or less. But as the “greatest generation” retired in the 1990s and was replaced by baby boomers, the ratio skyrocketed to something more like 12 to 1….

***

Ma una situazione del genere è davvero dannosa per la disciplina?

Il guaio numero uno del conformismo

undermine the self-correction

I rischi specifici sono molti. Indaghiamo nel dettaglio.

Primo: i dogmi dell’ ideologia predominante si assumono nelle ricerche come dati oggettivi

… ideological claims are wrongly treated as objective truth,…

Un esempio illuminante…

… Son Hing, Bobocel, Zanna, and McBride (2007) found that: 1) people high in social dominance orientation (SDO) were more likely to make unethical decisions, 2) people high in right-wing authoritarianism (RWA) were more likely to go along with the unethical decisions of leaders, and 3) dyads with high SDO leaders and high RWA followers made more unethical decisions than dyads with alternative arrangements (e.g., low SDO— low RWA dyads). Yet consider the decisions they defined as unethical: not formally taking a female colleague’s side in her sexual harassment complaint against her subordinate (given little information about the case), and a worker placing the well-being of his or her company above unspecified harms to the environment attributed to the company’s operations. Liberal values of feminism and environmentalism were embedded directly into the operationalization of ethics…

Secondo: le ricerche si concentrano laddove offrono conforto all’ideologia professata.

Ci sono ormai aree di ricerca inesplorata, anzi, praticamente soggette a tacita censura…

… in a politically homogeneous field, a larger-than-optimal number of scientists shine their flashlights on ideologically important regions of the terrain. Doing so leaves many areas unexplored. Even worse, some areas become walled off, and inquisitive researchers risk ostracism if they venture in…

Un caso classico è quello degli stereotipi. Poiché si riscontrava una certa accuratezza negli stereotipi che l’ideologia intendeva “sradicare”, le ricerche sono state sospese e dirottate altrove…

… Stereotype accuracy. Since the 1930s, social psychologists have been proclaiming the inaccuracy of social stereotypes, despite lacking evidence of such inaccuracy. Evidence has seemed unnecessary because stereotypes have been, in effect, stereotyped as inherently nasty and inaccurate (see Jussim, 2012a for a review). Some group stereotypes are indeed hopelessly crude and untestable. But some may rest on valid empiricism— and represent subjective estimates of population characteristics (e.g. the proportion of people who drop out of high school, are victims of crime, or endorse policies that support women at work, see Jussim, 2012a, Ryan, 2002 for reviews). In this context, it is not surprising that the rigorous empirical study of the accuracy of factual stereotypes was initiated by one of the very few self-avowed conservatives in social psychology— Clark McCauley (McCauley & Stitt, 1978)….

Terzo: le ricerche prodotte tendono a dare un ritratto psicologico deforme e inattendibile dell’avversario politico.

L’uomo di destra è visto come dogmatico e intollerante verso le ambiguità…

… A long-standing view in social-political psychology is that the right is more dogmatic and intolerant of ambiguity than the left, a view Tetlock (1983) dubbed the rigidity-of-the-right hypothesis…. But had social psychologists studied a broad enough range of situations to justify these broad conclusions?…

Poi si approfondisce  e saltano fuori le sorprese

… Recent evidence suggests not. The ideologically objectionable premise model (IOPM; Crawford, 2012) posits that people on the political left and right are equally likely to approach political judgments with their ideological blinders on. That said, they will only do so when the premise of a political judgment is ideologically acceptable. If it’s objectionable, any preferences for one group over another will be short-circuited, and biases won’t emerge. The IOPM thus allows for biases to emerge only among liberals, only among conservatives, or among both liberals and conservatives, depending on the situation. For example, reinterpreting Altemeyer’s mandatory school prayer results, Crawford (2012) argued that for people low in RWA who value individual freedom and autonomy, mandatory school prayer is objectionable; thus, the very nature of the judgment should shut off any biases in favor of one target over the other. However, for people high in RWA who value society-wide conformity to traditional morals and values, mandating school prayer is acceptable; this acceptable premise then allows for people high in RWA to express a bias in favor of Christian over Muslim school prayer. Crawford (2012, Study 1) replaced mandatory prayer with voluntary prayer, which would be acceptable to both people high and low in RWA. In line with the IOPM, people high in RWA were still biased in favor of Christian over Muslim prayer, while people low in RWA now showed a bias in favor of Muslim over Christian voluntary prayer. Hypocrisy is therefore not necessarily a special province of the right….

***

La diversità ideologica è quasi sempre proficua, ma nel mondo della ricerca sociale lo è ancora di più…

… benefits of viewpoint diversity are most pronounced when organizations are pursuing open-ended exploratory goals (e.g., scientific discovery) as opposed to exploitative goals (e.g., applying well-established routines to well-defined problems; Cannella, Park & Hu, 2008)…

Innanzitutto, argina il famigerato “bias della conferma”, che alligna in tutti, anche negli scienziati…

… This confirmation bias (Nickerson, 1998) is widespread among both laypeople and scientists (Ioannidis, 2012)…

I “diversi”, poi, vedono meglio i rispettivi difetti

…people are far better at identifying the flaws in other people’s evidence-gathering than in their own, especially if those other people have dissimilar beliefs (e.g., Mercier & Sperber, 2011; Sperber et al., 2010)…

È inane lo sforzo teso a sradicare il bias della conferma nel singolo, purtroppo siamo fatti così. Non resta che puntare sulla varietà…

… The most obvious cure for this problem is to increase the viewpoint diversity of the field. Nobody has found a way to eradicate confirmation bias in individuals (Lilienfeld et al., 2009), but we can diversify the field to the point where individual viewpoint biases begin to cancel each other out…

Poi c’è un altro problema: la pressione che crea il conformismo

… Majorities influence decision-making by producing conformity pressure that creates cohesion and community…

I ben noti difetti del “pensiero di gruppo” affliggono soprattutto le équipes omogenee.

Ci sono alcuni temi di ricerca su cui la varietà influisce in modo particolarmente benefico…

… There is even evidence that politically diverse teams produce more creative solutions than do politically homogeneous teams on problems such as “how can a person of average talent achieve fame” and how to find funding for a partially-built church ineligible for bank loans (Triandis, Hall, & Ewen, 1965)…….

***

Ma perché la sinistra domina nell’accademia? Perché la destra latita?

Di seguito alcune spiegazioni avanzate con annessa valutazione sperimentale.

Forse l’uomo con simpatie politiche a destra possiede mediamente minori abilità cognitive.

L’evidenza non supporta l’ardita tesi…

… Social conservatism correlates with lower cognitive ability test scores, but economic conservatism correlates with higher scores (Iyer, Koleva, Graham, Ditto, & Haidt, 2012; Kemmelmeier 2008). [Libertarians are the political group with the highest IQ, yet they are underrepresented in the social sciences other than economics]…

I libertari/liberisti sono addirittura il gruppo con l’IQ medio più elevato!

Forse conta allora l’istruzione ricevuta: una scuola statale orientata a sinistra sforna accademici di sinistra.

Anche qui l’evidenza sembrerebbe smentire: sull’orientamento ideologico contano più famiglia e amici rispetto alla scuola frequentata…

… There is little evidence that education causes students to become more liberal. Instead, several longitudinal studies following tens of thousands of college students for many years have concluded that political socialization in college occurs primarily as a function of one’s peers, not education per se (Astin, 1993; Dey, 1997)…

Forse c’è una differenza di interessi tra chi propende a destra e chi propende a sinistra.

Bingo!: la curiosità è un tratto caratteriale che contrassegna sia il ricercatore tipo che chi ha simpatie a sinistra…

… Might liberals simply find a career in social psychology (or the academy more broadly) more appealing? Yes, for several reasons. The Big-5 trait that correlates most strongly with political liberalism is openness to experience (r = .32 in Jost, Glaser, Kruglanski, & Sulloways’s 2003 meta-analysis), and people high in that trait are more likely to pursue careers that will let them indulge their curiosity and desire to learn, such as a career in the academy (McCrae, 1996)…

L’effetto è destinato ad amplificarsi: i simili si attraggono

… Such intrinsic variations in interest may be amplified by a “birds of a feather” or “homophile” effect. “Similarity attracts” is one of the most well-established findings in social psychology (Byrne, 1969)…

L’auto-selezione gioca chiaramente un ruolo.

C’è poi un clima ostile che l’accademia riserva ai conservatori. E chi lo nega abbia il coraggio di alzare  la mano…

… Might self-selection be amplified by an accurate perception among conservative students that they are not welcome in the social psychology community? Consider the narrative of conservatives that can be formed from some recent conclusions in social psychological research: compared to liberals, conservatives are less intelligent (Hodson & Busseri, 2012) and less cognitively complex (Jost et al., 2003). They are more rigid, dogmatic, and inflexible (Jost et al., 2003). Their lower IQ explains their racism and sexism (Deary, Batty, & Gale, 2008), and their endorsement of inequality explains why they are happier than liberals (Napier & Jost, 2008). As conservative undergraduates encounter the research literature in their social psychology classes, might they recognize cues that the field regards them and their beliefs as defective?…

Ecco la lettera di una matricola che votava Bush…

… I can’t begin to tell you how difficult it was for me in graduate school because I am not a liberal Democrat. As one example, following Bush’s defeat of Kerry, one of my professors would email me every time a soldier’s death in Iraq made the headlines; he would call me out, publicly blaming me for not supporting Kerry in the election. I was a reasonably successful graduate student, but the political ecology became too uncomfortable for me. Instead of seeking the professorship that I once worked toward, I am now leaving academia for a job in industry…

Ricerche non aneddotiche sul clima ostile…

… Inbar and Lammers (2012) asked members of the SPSP discussion list: “Do you feel that there is a hostile climate towards your political beliefs in your field?” Of 17 conservatives, 14 (82%) responded “yes” (i.e., a response at or above the midpoint of the scale, where the midpoint was labeled “somewhat” and the top point “very much”), with half of those responding “very much.” In contrast, only 18 of 266 liberals (7%) responded “yes”, with only two of those responding “very much.” Interestingly, 18 of 25 moderates (72%) responded “yes,” with one responding “very much.”…

C’è poi una vera discriminazione contro chi professa idee di destra…

… ample evidence using multiple methods demonstrates that social psychologists do in fact act in discriminatory ways toward non-liberal colleagues and their research….

Ecco come “non pubblicare” un manoscritto su cui si è lavorato a lungo…

… if you change a research proposal so that its hypotheses sound conservative, but you leave the methods the same, then the manuscript is deemed less publishable, and is less likely to get IRB approval]…

La discriminazione, oltretutto, è esplicita. Ecco la domanda proposta da un sondaggio sottoposto ai docenti, a seguire le sconcertanti ma autentiche risposte…

… “If two job candidates (with equal qualifications) were to apply for an opening in your department, and you knew that one was politically quite conservative, do you think you would be inclined to vote for the more liberal one?” Of the 237 liberals, only 42 (18%) chose the lowest scale point, “not at all.” In other words, 82% admitted that they would be at least a little bit prejudiced against a conservative candidate, and 43% chose the midpoint (“ somewhat”) or above. In contrast, the majority of moderates (67%) and conservatives (83%) chose the lowest scale point (“ not at all”)…….

Direi che in un ambiente del genere è del tutto razionale nascondere le proprie idee politiche…

… Conservative graduate students and assistant professors are behaving rationally when they keep their political identities hidden…

***

Che fare? Politiche anti-discriminatorie?…

… Implement a “climate study” regarding members’ experiences, comfort/ discomfort… encourage and support research training programs and research conferences to attract, retain, and graduate conservative… Raise consciousness… Expand diversity statements… Be alert to double standards. 2. Support adversarial collaborations. [3. Improve research norms to increase the degree to which a research field becomes self-correcting.]…

Forse non basta. Forse la cosa migliore è razionare i finanziamenti. Il ricorso a capitali privati avvicinerebbe finanziatori dal mondo del business, notoriamente più collocato a destra rispetto a quello accademico.

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