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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Blinded 'gainst the Right

Dateline: Ironyville.

Turns out social psychologists--whose job it is to illuminate all the subtle biases infecting the body politic and blinding us to the difficulties faced by those not like ourselves--are infected by bias and blinded to the difficulties faced by those not like themselves. At least, that's what University of Virginia social psychologist Jonathan Haidt says. He has found that a statistically impossible number of social psychologists (something like 536%) identify themselves as liberals. This, in turn, makes it difficult for self-identified conservatives to break in to the social psychology field. But who cares what they think, anyway?

The problem here is that liberal bias lead researchers to faulty conclusions. Let's say a liberal social psychologist examines the virtually non-existent Latino membership in the Ku Klux Klan. He (and it's always "he" because, let's face it, women aren't capable of the academic rigor demanded by the social sciences) may assume a racist explanation. In fact, once you recall that Klan meetings are always held on Tuesday evenings, a simple non-discriminatory explanation for Latino non-participation presents itself: Latinos probably just prefer to spend their Tuesday evenings drinking tequila and committing welfare fraud. QED.

We see liberal bias in the recent mini-uproar over the huge gender imbalance among Wikipedia contributors. Men make up over 85% of the contributing populace. But where a liberal may see discrimination, a cooler head may see an alternative explanation. Remember, that Wikipedia is "open source": Any yutz with a keyboard and an internet connection can pontificate on any topic. Maybe women are just less inclined than men to dilate for15 single-spaced pages on "Lord of the Rings" (which, by the way, only discusses the novel) or 23 pages on "Star Wars" (just the media franchise). When the entry on shoe designer Christian Louoboutin takes up as many pages (four) as the entry on "tribbles," we suspect the reason is less gender discrimination than admirable restraint on the part of female contributors. Maybe a disturbing proportion of men just have way too much time on their hands.

So we ask all members of Solipsist Nation--a decidedly left-leaning bunch--to analyze your own biases. Maybe there is more than one way to look at the world. Then again, that is a fairly liberal attitude, so we may be wrong about it.

"Define Gender Gap? Look Up Wikipedia's Contributor List"
"Social Scientist Sees Bias Within"

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