Political mischief with psychology and science

Political mischief with psychology and science. By Keith Stanovich.

Imagine that you are forced to take a series of tests on your values, morals, and beliefs. Imagine then that you are deemed to have failed the tests. When you protest that people like you had no role in constructing the tests, you are told that there will be another test in which you are asked to indicate whether or not you trust the test makers. When you answer that of course you don’t trust them, you are told you have failed again because trusting the test makers is part of the test. That’s how about half the population feels right now.

In short, cognitive elites load the tests with things they know and that privilege their own views. Then when people just like themselves do well on the tests, they think it validates their own opinions and attitudes (interestingly, the problem I am describing here is not applicable to intelligence tests which, contrary to popular belief, are among the most unbiased of psychological tests).

Tests as a political weapon:

The overwhelmingly left/liberal professoriate has been looking for psychological defects in their political opponents for some time, but the intensity of these efforts has increased markedly in the last two decades.

The literature is now replete with correlations linking conservatism with intolerance, prejudice, low intelligence, close-minded thinking styles, and just about any other undesirable cognitive and personality characteristic. But most of these relationships were attenuated or disappeared entirely when the ideological assumptions behind the research were examined more closely. …

 

 

Racism:

Three types of scales (variously called racial resentment, symbolic racism, and modern racism scales) have been particularly prominent in attempts to link racism with conservative opinions. Many of these racism questionnaires simply build in correlations between prejudice and conservative views.

Early versions of these scales included items on policy issues such as affirmative action, crime prevention, busing to achieve school integration, or attitudes toward welfare reform, and then scored any deviation from liberal orthodoxy as a racist response. Even endorsing the belief that hard work leads to success will result in a higher score on a “racial resentment” scale. …

Distorted beliefs about crime and race relations in the United States are relevant to how one understands the demonstrations and the participants in them — and this misinformation is also correlated with ideology.

For example, a study conducted by the Skeptic Research Center found that over 50 percent of subjects who labelled themselves as “very liberal” thought that 1,000 or more unarmed African-American men were killed by the police each year. The actual number is less than 100 (over 21 percent of the very liberal subjects thought that the number was 10,000 or more). The subjects identifying as very liberal also thought that over 60 percent of the people killed by the police in the United States are African-American. The actual percentage is approximately 25 percent. In a different study, 81 percent of Biden voters thought young black men were more likely to be killed by the police than to die in a car accident (when the probability is strongly in the other direction), whereas less than 20 percent of Trump voters believed this misinformation. …

Both the media and pollsters throughout 2020 often labeled respondents misinformed if they indicated in questionnaires that the BLM demonstrations of 2020 involved “widespread” violence or that they were not “mostly peaceful.” …

Studies prove leftists are good. How? Easy:

The social science monoculture yields this sequence repeatedly. We set out to study a trait such as prejudice, dogmatism, authoritarianism, intolerance, close-mindedness — one end of the trait continuum is good and the other end is bad. The scale items are constructed so that conservative social policy preferences are defined as negative.

Many scientific papers are published establishing the “link” between conservatism and negative psychological traits. Articles then appear in liberal publications like the New York Times informing their readerships that research psychologists (yes, scientists!) have confirmed that liberals are indeed psychologically superior people. …

The larger problem is that psychology’s errors are always made in the same direction (just like at your local grocery, where things “ring up wrong” in the overcharge direction much more often than the reverse) …

Cherry-picking scale items to embarrass our enemies seems to be an irresistible tendency in psychology. Studies of conspiracy beliefs have been plagued by item selection bias for some years now. Some conspiracy theories are prevalent on the Left; others are prevalent on the Right; many have no association with ideology at all … It is therefore trivially easy to select conspiracy theories to produce ideological correlations in one direction or the other, but those correlations will not reveal anything about a subject’s underlying psychological structure. …

Climate and genetics:

Responses on climate and evolution items are expressive responses signaling group allegiance rather than informed scientific knowledge.

Over the years it has been common for Democrats to call themselves the “party of science” — and they are when it comes to climate science [really? I happen to know there is a major error in the climate models that invalidates the current policy settings — de] and belief in the evolutionary origins of humans. But when it comes to topics like the heritability of intelligence and sex differences, the Democrats suddenly become the “party of science denial.” …

Consider a study that attempted to link the conservative worldview with “the denial of environmental realities.” Subjects were presented with the following item: “If things continue on their present course, we will soon experience a major environmental catastrophe.” If the subject did not agree with this statement, they were scored as denying environmental realities. The term denial implies that what is being denied is a descriptive fact. However, without a clear description of what “soon” or “major” or “catastrophe” mean, the statement itself is not a fact—and so labeling one set of respondents as science deniers based on an item like this reflects little more than the tendency of academics to attach pejorative labels to their political enemies.

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