From the British Psychological Society’s Research Digest:
A new survey of beliefs held by social psychologists (335 members of the Society of Experimental Social Psychologists) has confirmed previous reports that the field is overwhelmingly populated by researchers of a left-wing, liberal bent. What’s more, David Buss and William von Hippel – the evolutionary psychologists who conducted and analysed the survey – say their findings, published open-access in Archives of Scientific Psychology, suggest that many of these social psychologists are opposed, for ideological reasons, to insights rooted in evolutionary psychology and that this is impeding them from developing a “proper science of social psychology”.
Buss and von Hippel add that compounding matters is an irony – the social psychologists’ desire to signal their ideological stance and commitment to others who share their political views, which is a manifestation of the evolved human adaptation to form coalitions. “Part of this virtue signalling entails rejecting a caricature of evolutionary psychology that no scientist actually holds,” they write.
In terms of the political bias among social psychologists, Buss and von Hippel found that 95 per cent were mostly liberal and left-wing in their views (also, among the US respondents, only 4 had voted Republican in the prior Presidential election while 305 had voted Democrat).
Quizzing the social psychologists on their views of evolutionary theory, Buss and von Hippel found that they overwhelmingly accepted the principles of Darwinian evolution and also that it applied to humans, but when it came to whether evolutionary theory applies to human psychology and behaviour, the sample was split, with many social psychologists rejecting this notion.
From Buss’s new paper:
Buss, David M.; von Hippel, William
… Impact Statement
In this paper, we argue that four interlocking barriers stand in the way of research scientists who seek to understand human social psychology. The first barrier is the political ideology of most social psychologists, which is typically on the left (or liberal) side of the spectrum. The second barrier is a view of human nature common among people on the political left, which is that we are born without any predilections to behave in a particular manner. According to this view, our mind is a blank slate at birth and is corrupted solely by the ills of bad environments or societies. The third barrier is a tendency to reject theories and findings that might contravene the “blank slate” view of human nature, particularly theories and findings that arise from evolutionary approaches to human behavior. The fourth barrier is a collection of evolved tendencies that prevent investigators from being dispassionate seekers of scientific truth. These include our evolved tendency to be more focused on persuasion than truth-seeking, to be concerned with the maintenance of our prestige as scientists, and to form and maintain coalitions that compete with each other. We provide initial evidence for some of these possibilities with data gathered from a survey of 335 established social psychologists. We conclude with the irony that our evolved psychology may interfere with the scientific understanding of our evolved psychology.