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Welcome to the nexus of ethics, psychology, morality, technology, health care, and philosophy

Monday, August 6, 2018

False Equivalence: Are Liberals and Conservatives in the U.S. Equally “Biased”?

Jonathan Baron and John T. Jost
Invited Revision, Perspectives on Psychological Science.


On the basis of a meta-analysis of 51 studies, Ditto, Liu, Clark, Wojcik, Chen, et al. (2018) conclude that ideological “bias” is equivalent on the left and right of U.S. politics. In this commentary, we contend that this conclusion does not follow from the review and that Ditto and colleagues are too quick to embrace a false equivalence between the liberal left and the conservative right. For one thing, the issues, procedures, and materials used in studies reviewed by Ditto and colleagues were selected for purposes other than the inspection of ideological asymmetries. Consequently, methodological choices made by researchers were systematically biased to avoid producing differences between liberals and conservatives. We also consider the broader implications of a normative analysis of judgment and decision-making and demonstrate that the “bias” examined by Ditto and colleagues is not, in fact, an irrational bias, and that it is incoherent to discuss bias in the absence of standards for assessing accuracy and consistency. We find that Jost’s (2017) conclusions about domain-general asymmetries in motivated social cognition, which suggest that epistemic virtues are more prevalent among liberals than conservatives, are closer to the truth of the matter when it comes to current American politics. Finally, we question the notion that the research literature in psychology is necessarily characterized by “liberal bias,” as several authors have claimed.

Here is the end:

 If academics are disproportionately liberal—in comparison with society at large—it just might
be due to the fact that being liberal in the early 21st century is more compatible with the epistemic standards, values, and practices of academia than is being conservative.

The article is here.

See Your Surgeon Is Probably a Republican, Your Psychiatrist Probably a Democrat as an other example.