from Making It All Up by Andrew Ferguson at The Weekly Standard
Behind the people being experimented upon are the people doing the experimenting, the behavioral scientists themselves. In important ways they are remarkably monochromatic. We don’t need to belabor the point. In a survey of the membership of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, 85 percent of respondents called themselves liberal, 6 percent conservative, 9 percent moderate. Two percent of graduate students and postdocs called themselves conservative. “The field is shifting leftward,” wrote one team of social psychologists (identifying themselves as “one liberal, one centrist, two libertarians, two who reject characterization,” and no conservatives). “And there are hardly any conservative students in the pipeline.” A more recent survey of over 300 members of another group of experimental psychologists found 4 who voted for Mitt Romney.
The self-correction essential to science is less likely to happen among people whose political and cultural views are so uniform. This is especially true when so many of them specialize in studying political and cultural behavior. Their biases are likely to be invisible to themselves and their colleagues. Consider this abstract from a famous study on conservatism [with technical decoration excised]:
A meta-analysis confirms that several psychological variables predict political conservatism: death anxiety; system instability; dogmatism—intolerance of ambiguity; openness to experience; uncertainty tolerance; needs for order, structure, and closure; integrative complexity; fear of threat and loss; and self-esteem. The core ideology of conservatism stresses resistance to change and justification of inequality and is motivated by needs that vary situationally and dispositionally to manage uncertainty and threat.
Only a scientist planted deep in ideology could read such a summary and miss the self-parodic assumptions buried there. Yet few people in behavioral sciences bat an eye. “Political Conservatism as Motivated Social Cognition,” which this paragraph is taken from, has been cited by nearly 2,000 other studies, accepted as a sober, scientific portrait of the “conservative” temperament.