Psychologists Are Overwhelmingly Liberal

From the NYT

It’s worth reading the article.

ISTM that this has significant relevance when discussing the mainsteam position or consensus of professionals in the field of psychology, when the issue touches on political or PC issues. Essentially, any time the mainstream view is aligned with a left-wing viewpoint, there is room to question whether this is the result of unbiased scientific study or simply a reflection of the fact that people tend to find support for things they already believe (or prefer to).

“Psychologists do not align themselves with people who beleave telling teenagers not to have sex is a reasonable and effective approach to reducing STDs and teen pregnacncy.”

In other news:

“Dog bites man who was watching sun rise in East”

So? Higher education is correlated with liberalism.

I find several things wrong with this rubric that you are offering up for making judgments on bias in scientific results.

First, there is only one good, unbiased standard for judging data and that is to analyze the study that produced it. Peer review is the process by which this occurs. So when doubting due to the left-wing ideology and results congruence criteria you are offering you fail to recognize that it has already been rigorously doubted. You are of course free to doubt further and it is superior to go to the source and analyze the study for problems yourself.

Second, your rubric is deeply superficial and biased. Its major problem is: “Left-wing to what”? There is obvious subjectivity in assigning ideology to data. You realize that the pain in the ass process that is science is designed to prevent bias? In scientific reporting, even the data is separated from the analysis of the data in scientific reporting. This to prevent a reader’s bias. Where do you see that anywhere else?

Third, I have a much better rubric: How many times has the result been repeated and how many different ways has it been tested? If a result withstands the test of replication then it becomes more convincing.

Fourth, your rubric offers up a prediction based on a correlation. Every student knows: Correlation does not equal causation. You have failed to assign cause-and-effect. You cannot possibly determine cause-and-effect using the data you have. There is a correlation between political leanings and profession. That is all you have. It could be that psychologists are more liberal because of the data they are exposed to as professionals. Many may have started out being conservative. In other words, for your rubric to have meaning you must be able to say why there is this relationship. Many perfectly reasonable explanations for the relationship exists without it having any bearing on data.

In other words, you fail so completely with this rubric that proposing it only reveals a superficial understanding of the scientific process. It says more about you and cynicism toward science than reveals anything on how science actually works.

Peer-reviewing does not analyze the study or vouvh for the results. It’s more of a scientific spell-check.

I find your post to be almost completely gibberish. But to the extent that it’s slightly intelligible, it appears that what you’re saying is that you have a naive faith in the scientific process to root out all traces of bias.

I don’t share that view and I don’t believe many scientists do either. Nor does the history of science provide any basis for such a viewpoint.

I am a scientist, and I found his post to summarize my own position on the matter quite articulately. It was certainly not gibberish. cum hoc ergo propter hoc

Smart people tend to be liberal. Yes. Why is this a surprise?

What is that the OP believes prevents conservatives from becoming academically successful?

Best as I can figure what he was saying was:

  1. The peer review process precludes bias.

  2. The scientific process separates the data from the analysis, which precludes bias.

  3. Replication precludes bias.

  4. There’s no proof as to why there is a correlation between liberal political views and psychology.

The first three are what I summed up earlier, but in simpler language, and the last seems irrelevent here.

If I’ve missed something please fill it in.

I believe psychology in general, and mental health therapy in particular, arouse conservative ire because they spend so much time in the realm of the individual, dealing in intangibles.

Psychology assumes that the feelings, dignity, and self-worth of a person are worthy of understanding and even fundamental to wellbeing. Social conservatives typically either do not take these things seriously, or believe persons ought to have to earn them through living by certain codes.

Nothing. Actually, conservatives tend to be better educated than liberals, on average.

(What was your point with this?)

Being in a charitable mood, I will suggest “the expected salaries.”

I have not found that to be the case in my work but everybody has different experiences.


Your OP seems to be a complaint that the top of academia is dominated by liberals. What is that you think prevents conservatives from being able to become successful at that level or to become psychologists?

As I recall, conservatives are more likely to have a bachelor’s degree and less likely to have a graduate degree than liberals.

(The OP’s contention appears to be that if a scientific study favors a conservative viewpoint, it is to be implicitly trusted, whereas if it favors a liberal viewpoint, it is to be distrusted as likely the product of bias. This strikes me as in no way self-serving.)

He was saying, and I quote him directly:
First, there is only one good, unbiased standard for judging data and that is to analyze the study that produced it.*

I agree with this. If you want to take issue with something psychologists espouse that you believe to be a result of liberal bias, then you need to find a flaw or bias in the studies that their position cites. That’s how science works.

How is your #4 irrelevant? The correlation that you have presented is meaningless unless you have some position on the causation. The easiest to defend position is that the correlation is caused by a greater understanding of human behavior.

The thing is, ideologies tend to be developed before one gets to the PhD level. Most people I know are already obviously headed towards liberalism or conservatism by graduation from high school. I think it more likely that liberals are more likely to want to go into psychology in the first place.

The only conservatives I know that are big on helping people with their problems are some of those in the Christian Right, and those that feel that way tend to go into ministry. I think fiscal conservatism just has too much of self-reliance paradigm.

Do you think Larry Summers should suggest that liberals are simply more likely to be associated with high end intelligence?

BigT – you are correct that the psychological profession probably selects for liberalism, but that is different from whether or not the perceived liberalism of psychological idea X is caused by bias or a greater understanding of human behavior.

I’ve seen this over the years and I remember looking it up myself in the past, but I’m not inclined to look it up just now, because it has no relevance to this thread. (It may be related to higher income levels among conservatives.)

It was not.

You’re quoting one sentence out of a lengthy post.

Many times you can do this. But the relevance is 1) suppose you’re not inclined to do this, and 2) suppose you think you see the bias but might otherwise be intimidated by the fact that you are not a trained psychologist and how could you go against the collective wisdom of the scientific establishment. If that collective wisdom is tainted by bias, then it’s a lot easier.

In addition, many times the bias is not so much in terms of interpreting the data but in terms of what gets considered, studied, and published to begin with. The article in the OP gave two good examples of this, in racial and gender studies.

You are confusing cause and effect. The OP was about the implications of this bias, not about the causes of it.