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Saturday, October 31, 2015

Cloistering in Academia and Journalism

Arthur Brooks writes at The New York Times:
Unfortunately, new research also shows that academia has itself stopped short in both the understanding and practice of true diversity — the diversity of ideas — and that the problem is taking a toll on the quality and accuracy of scholarly work. This year, a team of scholars from six universities studying ideological diversity in the behavioral sciences published a paper in the journal Behavioral and Brain Sciences that details a shocking level of political groupthink in academia. The authors show that for every politically conservative social psychologist in academia there are about 14 liberal social psychologists.

Why the imbalance? The researchers found evidence of discrimination and hostility within academia toward conservative researchers and their viewpoints. In one survey cited, 82 percent of social psychologists admitted they would be less likely to support hiring a conservative colleague than a liberal scholar with equivalent qualifications.
This has consequences well beyond fairness. It damages accuracy and quality. As the authors write, “Increased political diversity would improve social psychological science by reducing the impact of bias mechanisms such as confirmation bias, and by empowering dissenting minorities to improve the quality of the majority’s thinking.
At The Washington Examiner, Timothy Carney writes of a "cloistering effect," which affects journalism as well as academia.  This week's GOP debate was an example:
But remember, the nature of media's liberal bias is mostly this: they are themselves liberal, and they know very few conservatives, so they find it hard to see things from the conservative perspective.
As a result, the biggest manifestation of bias in the debate: Almost no questions were asked from a conservative perspective.
This is a debate for the Republican nomination. A clear majority of GOP primary voters identify as conservatives (84 percent in Iowa, 53 percent in New Hampshire, and 68 percent in South Carolina, for three examples). Why not ask of the candidates the sort of questions the voters would ask?
They could have asked Kasich: "Why did you increase Medicaid under Obamacare in Ohio?" They could have asked Trump, "How can eminent domain for corporate gain be squared with free-enterprise views?" They could have asked Rubio about sugar subsidies, or Cruz if his "defund Obamacare" fight did any good, or Jeb Bush about his support for more immigration. They could have asked Christie about his liberal court appointments.
Conservatives are a foreign species to reporters. Some of the reporters treat conservatives with hostility, but usually, they end up just not getting us. As a result, we have a debate where most of the questions range from silly to irrelevant.