The article by Richard Redding (American Psychologist, March, 2001) documents an astonishing level of ideological uniformity in the community of psychologists. Liberals rule. His solution is a call for greater political diversity in the field — a call that is likely to go completely unheeded. But I believe the real problem is not bias but the pervasive intrusion of ideology and value judgements into supposedly scientific research in psychology. The real solution, therefore, is not to change the political persuasions of psychologists — an impossible, and indeed improper, task for a scientific organization — but to exclude as far as possible any ideological considerations from psychological research.
The magnitude of the problem is nicely illustrated by the lead article in the February American Psychologist: “An ambivalent alliance: Hostile and benevolent sexism as complementary justifications” by Glick and Fiske. The theme of the Glick and Fiske article is that “The equation of prejudice with antipathy is challenged by recent research on sexism” (p. 109) or, more pithily, “you sometimes hurt the one you love.” But of course both “prejudice” and “sexism” are terms that depend for their pejorative force on a set of values — values that are almost entirely unstated in the article. Not that the authors are unaware of the power of ideology. They are very critical of what they call “legitimizing ideologies” — Rudyard Kipling’s “white man’s burden” takes quite a licking, for example. But towards their own ideology they are as the fish in the sea. Their ideology is to them as water to the fish: invisible.
Here is a partial list of the values that seem to be taken for granted by these authors:
1. Equality is the most important value and trumps all others. “Equality” (between the sexes, for example) is not defined but seems to amount to “identity.” Only if men and women are treated in exactly the same way in every situation can they be regarded as truly equal: “gender differentiation create[s] and reinforces[s] hostile sexism” (p. 112)
2. “Power” is important, but there is good power and bad power. “Good power” is the power associated with professional status and money. “Bad power” is the power associated with good looks, charm and sexual attractiveness. “Simply put, men typically rule, dominating the highest status roles.” (p. 110) but “Benevolent sexism is disarming” (p 111) and “men often resent women’s perceived ability to use sexual attractiveness to gain power over them.” (p. 112)
3. Gender roles are bad.
4. Stereotyping (not defined) is bad.
5. A professional career is better than being a housewife: “women who implicitly associated male romantic partners with chivalrous images…had less ambitious career goals, presumably because they were counting on a future husband for economic support.” (p. 111)
6. Sexual reproduction is problematic: “male-female relations are conditioned by sexual reproduction, a biological constant that creates dependencies and intimacy between the sexes…patriarchy, gender differentiation and sexual reproduction…create both hostile and benevolent attitudes toward the other sex.” (pp. 111-112)
7. Patriarchy (not defined) is bad.
8. Intellectual elitism: Some beliefs (mine) should be respected, others (yours) are “false consciousness,” cf. “The role of stereotyping in system-justification and the production of false-consciousness,” a paper by Jost and Banaji cited with approval by the authors.
At this point, many readers may express puzzlement, since these so-called “values” will seem to them self-evident. Who could be against equality, for gender roles, against lofty career goals, and so on? But that is not the point; the point is that these things are not scientific facts, nor will they seem self-evident to many cultures other than our own — or indeed to many subcultures within the United States. They should either be excluded from the research or (lest we abolish much of social psychology) stated in a responsible way. For example, “If you believe that women should have exactly the same social role as men, then our research shows that following things favor that objective and these other things hinder it”…and so on. First the value-dependent premises, then the data — or the reverse — the point is to separate facts and assumptions.
A conscientious effort to differentiate what is fact from what is value is essential if social-science psychology is to rise above the level of “politics by other means.”
Glick, P., & Fiske, S. T. (2001) An ambivalent alliance: Hostile and benevolent sexism as complementary justifications. American Psychologist, 56, 109-118.
Redding, R. E. (2001) Sociopolitical diversity in psychology. American Psychologist 56, 205-215.