Social Psychologists: Becoming Self-Conscious of Their Liberalism

Social psychologists are the ones doing all the research on ethnocentrism, xenophobia, and discrimination, and they are notoriously liberal. An address to their main professional society by Jonathan Haidt may at least make them a bit more self-conscious about it (NYTimes, “Social Psychologists Detect Bias Within“). Like pretty much all the faculty in the social sciences and humanities, they identify as liberal—around 80% of them liberals. And out of 1000 psychologists attending the lecture, only three had the temerity to publicly identify themselves as conservative. This .3% compares to 40% of Americans who self-identify as conservative.

It goes with saying that some in the audience may have decided that raising their hand in public would be an act of professional suicide. The intellectual left loves blacklists and social ostracism. Indeed, a student is quoted as saying that “Given what I’ve read of the literature, I am certain any research I conducted in political psychology would provide contrary findings and, therefore, go unpublished. Although I think I could make a substantial contribution to the knowledge base, and would be excited to do so, I will not.”

So much for the idea that social psychology is a science. Things are so bad that Prof. Haidt urged his colleagues to “to focus on shared science rather than shared moral values.” Real sciences don’t need such urgings. He also encouraged them to read National Review and Thomas Sowell, so don’t expect any real change soon.

Haidt points out that “If a group circles around sacred values, they will evolve into a tribal-moral community. 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.” Very true. Social scientists are expert at recognizing the blinders of others, such as Christian fundamentalists who reject Darwinism. But they are very poor at recognizing their own biases—an example of self-deception. Like all religious fundamentalists, what comes first is a knee-jerk emotional reaction against anything that violates their sacred values. Then they harness their cognitive abilities to fight the good fight.

What strikes me about this is that these academic tribal-moral communities are secular, non-ethnic versions of Judaism — the exemplar of a tribal-moral community whose sacred values have become enshrined in all of the moral high grounds throughout the West. Engaging in self-deception, they see themselves as a morally superior ingroup surrounded by their intellectual and moral inferiors—a light unto the nations. I rather doubt that any liberal attending the lecture would find it troubling that social psychologists are far less likely to be conservative than the public at large. Rather, they wear their liberalism as a badge—a sure sign that they are members of a morally and intellectually superior ingroup.

It’s interesting that whereas the views of Jewish professors are quite in line with the views of the wider Jewish community, the views of non-Jewish White professors are radically out of step with the wider White community. The White majority among these social psychologists have been recruited in a war framed in terms of moral abstractions, a war against their own people . It’s a disease that Whites are particularly prone to.

That is certainly not the case with Jewish professors whose ethnic interests as members of a Diaspora group are completely congruent with the attitudes of the academic left. It’s no accident then that Jewish academics have been vastly over-represented in departments of humanities and social sciences at elite universities and that they were intimately involved in creating the post-1960s academic left and in recruiting the new constituencies of aggrieved minorities and morally superior White people that now dominate these departments, a topic reviewed in my “Why are Professors Liberals?” (The Occidental Quarterly, Summer, 2010).

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