Social Psychologists Espouse Tolerance and Diversity—Do They Walk the Walk?

Medical Xpress, September 6, 2012

Every ten years or so, someone will make the observation that there is a lack of political diversity among psychological scientists and a discussion about what ought to be done ensues. The notion that the field discriminates against and is skewed toward a liberal political perspective is worthy of concern; scholars, both within and outside the field, have offered various solutions to this diversity problem.

As psychological scientists Yoel Inbar and Joris Lammers point out, however, we have few of the relevant facts necessary to understand and address the issue.

In an article to be published in the September 2012 issue of Perspectives on Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, Inbar and Lammers, of Tilburg University, pose several questions in an attempt to better understand the ideological diversity between and within social psychologists.

Inbar and Lammers contacted members on the mailing list for the Society for Personality and Social Psychology and asked them to participate in an anonymous online survey. Across the two studies, the researchers received nearly 800 responses.

Their findings confirm the field’s liberal bias, but they reveal some surprises as well.

Although only 6 percent of the respondents described themselves as conservative “overall,” there was much more ideological diversity than anecdotal evidence would suggest. Inbar and Lammers found an overwhelming liberal majority when it concerned social issues, but greater diversity on economic and foreign policy issues.

So why does the field appear to be less politically diverse than it actually is? It seems that conservative social psychologists hide their views because they perceive the field as hostile to their values. The more conservative respondents were, the more likely they were to report that they had experienced an intellectually unfriendly climate. Importantly, self-defined liberals did not seem to have the same perceptions of hostility.

Furthermore, liberal respondents were more likely to say that they would discriminate against psychologists who displayed clear conservative views in the context of a paper or grant review, a symposium invitation, and in faculty hiring.


Social tolerance and fairness are important values for many psychological scientists, so it’s surprising to find intolerance of a different kind in the field. And despite the fact that psychological scientists are well aware of the potentially harmful effects of cognitive biases, they are clearly not immune to such biases themselves.

Several of the commentaries raise serious questions about how ideology might be shaping the issues and questions that social psychologists systematically choose—and do not choose—to explore.



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  • Dean_Wormers_Hot_Wife

    Social scientists are annoying, but the at least are smart enough to be scientists.  That’s why they don’t have much Diversity, because the standards are currently too “domiant culture” high.

    That will change. Look for Diversity enrichment to trump intellectual integrity.

    Down goes another profession…

  • Liberals have what I have termed “selective tolerance.”

  • Psychologists – because some people fail out of Med. school!

  • NorthernWind

    All of the social sciences and humanities have a strong left-wing bias.  This goes from the professors to the textbooks. If you present a “controversial” position they get flustered and resort to calling you ignorant, racist, sexist, hateful, mentally ill, etc (we all know what kind of things they say). Then they simply assert that your view wrong and “repulsive”. If you persist they either start yelling hysterically or leave/ kick you out.

    Social “scientists” are the most closed-minded people I know. It’s damn funny because they profess that they are open-minded and carefully examine evidence.

  • E_Pluribus_Pluribus

    Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, in a widely-noted address to the 2011 annual convention of social psychologists in San Antonio, ended his talk with plea to colleagues that they take a much more welcoming attitude toward conservatives, that they welcome “a few dozen conservatives into our ranks”  — so as to remain relevant, to illuminate  blind spots in the social sciences, to get the field out of deep “ideological ruts”.   Quoting Haidt:
    In closing, I hope I’ve convinced you that we are in fact a tribal moral community [with sacred values and taboos that sometimes blind the field to the truth], and that our science will improve if we can shut off our moral electromagnet. Here are 3 things you can do to make that happen. First, be careful about “locker room” talk. Be careful when there are students around about creating a hostile climate. Don’t say things like “I’m a good liberal democrat, just like every other social psychologist I know.”

    Second, expose yourself to other perspectives. I have a project along with Ravi Iyer and Matt Motyl, at, where we bring together materials to help people understand the other side. I also suggest that you read a book by Thomas Sowell, A Conflict of Visions. And consider subscribing to National Review. I read about 8 magazines every month. Seven of them lean left. I get more new ideas from reading National Review than from any of the others.

    Third, advocate for moral diversity, in admissions and hiring. It may perhaps be possible to shut off our magnet without finding any actual conservatives. But I think we should take our own rhetoric about the benefits of diversity seriously, and apply it to ourselves. I think we should make it a priority to find, nurture, and welcome a few dozen conservatives into our ranks. We are the world’s experts in this sort of challenge. We know how to do this.
    Here is a screen shot from the SPSP webpage describing our diversity initiatives. It states as an explicit goal fostering “the career development of students who come from underrepresented groups, i.e., ethnic or racial minorities, first generation college students, individuals with a physical disability, and or lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered students.”

    I’d like to make 3 specific suggestions, which I issue as challenges to our incoming president, and to the SPSP executive board. First, can we change “i.e.” to “e.g.?” Why should it be i.e.? Do we really want to say to the public that this is the official list of groups that get benefits? Second, can we tack on a phrase like: “or who bring helpful and underrepresented perspectives in other ways?” And third, I’d like us to set a goal for SPSP that we become 10% conservative by 2020. Yes, I am actually recommending affirmative action for conservatives. Set aside any moral arguments; my claim is that it would be good for us.

    Just Imagine if we had a true diversity of perspectives in social psychology. Imagine if conservative students felt free enough to challenge our dominant ideas, and bold enough to pull us out of our deepest ideological ruts. That is my vision for our bright post-partisan future.


  • loyalwhitebriton

    Social Psychology – the most pointless “discipline” on God’s sweet earth.

    And as we all know, the problem with “liberals” is that they only tolerate their own opinions.

    • Sloppo

      I’ve heard people say that “women’s studies” was the most pointless discipline, but I don’t have enough data to confirm that because there were only two women for me to study at the engineering school I attended.  On the other hand, I eventually married one and I’ve studied her for more than a decade but I still don’t understand her so much.  

  • bluffcreek1967

    “Social Psychologists.” Another soft-science that falsely parades itself as ‘rigorously objective.’ The field is dominated by liberals and when not ‘on the record,’ they will admit that they are biased against conservatives and conservative opinion. Part of the reason so much of their theories are unworkable or laden with errors or half-truths is because they don’t generally permit opposing conservative views. A good many of their foundational assumptions about human nature and other related subjects are mistaken at best. Thus, everything else they build from them is misguided and subject to error. It’s a vicious circle to say the least.  

  • MekongDelta69

    It takes these geniuses thousands of studies and surveys to come to the same conclusions any AmRen reader knew 50 years ago via nothing more than common sense and intelligence.