Posted on November 28, 2020

A Cross-Cultural Analysis of Censorship on Campuses

Cory Clark et al., ResearchGate, November 2020

Modern Western societies conceive universities as places for free thought, open discourse, and the relentless pursuit of truth. Yet in recent years, many scholars have expressed concerns about increasing censoriousness on college campuses, suggesting that social justice goals have taken priority over open inquiry and truth-seeking goals. In the present investigation, we tested whether people have heightened desires to censor information on college campuses that is perceived as threatening to group equality or reinforcing of status hierarchies—specifically, information that portrays low status groups unfavorably. Across four samples from three countries (United States adults and three college-aged samples in the United States, United Kingdom, and Hungary; total n = 1,616) and three domains of group differences, we found that people were more censorious of information that portrays low status groups unfavorably (women, Blacks, Muslims) than identical information that portrays high status groups unfavorably (men, Whites, Christians). We also found that these “double standards” in censorship preferences increased as participants were more politically liberal. This likely reflects Liberals’ greater aversion to inequality and protectiveness toward low status groups. Such patterns (especially in conjunction with other recent work) challenge the conventional wisdom that double standards and biases generally harm low status groups and reinforce existing hierarchies. Instead, in modern Western societies, at least in recent years, group-based biases in information evaluations seem designed to help low status groups and eliminate or possibly even reverse existing hierarchies.