Hypothesis, Politics, Social Science

“Equalitarianism” and Progressive Bias

“In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations, and epochs, it is the rule.”
–Friedrich Nietzsche

 

“I want to understand how a normal brain becomes conservative,” my professor said. “That is the thing that most puzzles me.” At the time (I was in my early twenties) I completely agreed*. That was the question. Sometimes I would stare at a picture of G. W. Bush like Hamlet staring at a skull, pondering how any sane human could have voted for him. It just didn’t make sense. Progressivism was so obviously correct that it baffled me that anyone could deviate from its basic principles. I didn’t hate conservatives. I even knew one or two. I was just befuddled by them.

Most social scientists feel today about conservatives as my professor and I did then. Almost all social scientists (especially social psychologists) are socially liberal, and most of them voted for Barack Obama over Mitt Romney. To many of these scientists, conservatives are like eccentric antiquities that belong in a museum, where they can be carefully studied. Consequently, social psychology journals are littered with articles about conservatives. Many paint a Hieronymus Bosch-like picture of them as flawed, fallen creatures: rigid, dogmatic, close-minded, fearful, prejudiced, and inclined to authoritarianism. Scales that describe traits found among conservatives more than progressives have scary names such as Right Wing Authoritarianism, Social Dominance Orientation, and Benevolent Sexism, to name a few.

However, other researchers have expressed concern that this unflattering image of conservatives might be an unfortunate manifestation of bias from within the academy. Because most social psychologists are progressives, they simply take progressivism for granted, assuming that it is the right way to view the world and that, therefore, any divergence from its tenets is wrong and requires explanation. This leads to disparaging depictions of conservatives in the same way that having evangelical Christians study doubters would lead to disparaging depictions of atheists (imagine the scales: Unholy Skepticism Scale, Doubting Thomas Scale, et cetera). Scholars have begun to support this argument with research that suggests that progressives and conservatives are equally biased so long as scholars examine the right topics and targets. In fact, in an upcoming meta-analysis (a study that combines all effects from other studies), Dr. Peter Ditto and his colleagues found no statistically significant difference between progressives and conservatives on measures of bias.

There is reason to believe that Dr. Ditto et al.’s meta-analysis actually underestimates progressive bias (and possibly overestimates conservative bias) because it contained only a few studies that were directly about one of the most potent sources of progressive bias: perceived victims’ groups (e.g., blacks, Hispanics, Muslims, women). My colleagues and I recently wrote a manuscript that supports this speculation with a few studies, and we are conducting more as I write.

Bias

Bias is an important concept both inside and outside of academia. Despite this, it is remarkably difficult to define or to measure. And many, perhaps all, studies of it are susceptible to reasonable objections from some framework of normative reasoning or another. Nevertheless, in common discourse the term is easy enough to understand. Bias is a preference or commitment that impels a person away from impartiality. If Sally is a fervid fan of the New York Knicks and uses different criteria for assessing fouls against them than against their opponents, then we would say that she is biased.

There are many kinds of biases, and bias can penetrate the cognitive process from start to finish and anywhere between. It can lead to selective exposure, whereby people preferentially seek material that favors their preferred position, and avoid material that contradicts it; it can lead to motivated skepticism, whereby people are more critical of material that opposes their preferred position than of material that supports it; and it can lead to motivated credulity, whereby people assimilate information that supports their preferred position more easily and rapidly than information that contradicts it. Often, these biases all work together.

So, imagine Sally the average ardent progressive. She probably exposes herself chiefly to progressive magazines, news outlets, and friends; and, quite possibly, she inhabits a workplace surrounded by other progressives (selective exposure). Furthermore, when she is exposed to conservative arguments or articles, she is probably extremely critical of them. That National Review article she read this morning about abortion, for example, was insultingly obtuse and only confirmed her opinion that conservatives are cognitively challenged (motivated skepticism). Compounding this, she is equally ready to praise and absorb arguments and articles in progressive magazines (motivated credulity). Just this afternoon, for example, she read a compelling takedown of the Republican tax cuts in Mother Jones which strengthened her intuition that conservatism is an intellectual and moral dead end. (This example would work equally well with an average ardent conservative). The result is an inevitably blinkered world view.

The strength of one’s bias is influenced by many factors, but, for simplicity, we can break these factors into three broad categories: clarity, accuracy concerns, and extraneous concerns. Clarity refers to how ambiguous a topic is. The more ambiguous, the lower the clarity and the higher the bias. So, the score of a basketball game has very high clarity, whereas an individual foul call may have very low clarity. Accuracy concerns refer to how desirous an individual is to know the truth. The higher the concern, on average, the lower the bias. If a fervid New York Knicks fan were also a referee in training who really wanted to get foul calls right, then she would probably have lower bias than the average impassioned fan. Last, extraneous concerns refer to any concerns (save accuracy concerns) that motivate a person toward a certain answer. Probably the most powerful of these are group affiliation and status, but there are many others (self-esteem et cetera).

At risk of simplification, we might say that bias can be represented by an equation such that extraneous concerns (E) minus (accuracy concerns (A) plus clarity (C)) equals bias: (E – (A + C) = B).

This likely explains why political bias is such a powerful and apparently ineradicable form of bias: clarity is often low and extraneous concerns are often very high. People’s political identities aren’t like meaningless costumes that can be donned and discarded without passion. They are crucial to the self: more like skin than fabric. Therefore, people are strongly motivated to maintain positions that allow them to remain members of their preferred political coalition. Furthermore, many important political debates are about topics that are incredibly difficult to assess and study (and therefore have low clarity). What is the optimal top marginal tax rate? What is the best criminal justice policy? Will a million dollars make the local school better? This does not mean that there aren’t answers to these questions; just that the answers aren’t at all clear and allow plenty of space for bias to creep in.

If we want to understand the political biases people might have, we must understand their political commitments, and, even more so, we must understand their sacred values. Sacred values are strongly held values that one treats as inviolable. Opposition to abortion, for example, is a sacred value to many conservatives. They would not be willing to trade it for a less important value– say, tax cuts – and, in fact, would regard the suggested trade as reprehensible. We can imagine moral/political commitments on a continuum from “not important” to “sacred” (see table below). The more sacred the value, the more crucial to one’s political identity it is.

Political Orientation Not Important Moderately Important Sacred
Progressive Color of new school buildings Top marginal tax rate Protecting vulnerable minorities and other oppressed people
Conservative Height of public statues Government expenditure Sexual purity and opposition to abortion

Progressives seem to adhere to a sacred narrative about victims’ groups which goes something like this: Many groups have been abused, exploited, and oppressed by powerful European (white) men. These groups still suffer from this legacy. And society, despite modest improvements, is still sexist and racist.  Although many people proclaim their dedication to equality, they are often prejudiced, sometimes in subtle ways. Victims’ groups don’t do as well in society as privileged groups because society has set the rules against them and because many members of the privileged purposefully harass, abuse, and discriminate against them. Although many ignore or perpetuate a system of exploitation, there are some people who have realized how heinous and oppressive society can be and who are fighting back against it. If more people come to think the way they do, if more people study racism and sexism, if more people join movements and denounce all forms of discrimination, then the world will become a better place. Those who disagree with this are part of the problem. Even if they mean well, they are part of the system and will only hinder progress and abet racists and sexists.

Therefore, if we want to study progressive bias, this is exactly where we should look.

Young protestors in Los Angeles, California

Equalitarianism 

Ben Winegard, David Geary, and I wrote a comment on a Behavioral and Brain Sciences’ article about political bias in 2015, in which we forwarded what we termed the “paranoid egalitarian meliorist” (PEM) model of progressive bias. I’ve come to believe that the name is inevitably and uncharitably pejorative (“paranoid” sounds bad even though it is descriptively neutral), so my colleagues and I have renamed it equalitarianism; however, I still think the basic model is accurate.

According to the equalitarian model, progressives are dedicated egalitarians. They think that all individuals, all groups, all sexualities, and all sexes should be treated fairly*. They are also especially sensitive to potential threats to egalitarianism, so they adhere to the belief that all demographic groups are roughly equal on all socially valued traits, a belief we call cosmic egalitarianism. Perhaps the most common form of cosmic egalitarianism is blank slate-ism, or the belief that humans are nearly infinitely malleable, and that all important differences among them are caused by the environment, not genes. Cosmic egalitarianism serves as a protective buffer to egalitarianism because it contends two things: 1) Group disparities are caused by prejudice and discrimination (unfairness), not group differences; and 2) We absolutely should treat all groups the same because they are basically the same. Equalitarians fear that if we accept that some demographic differences are genetically caused, we might start treating groups differently from each other. For example, maybe we would encourage men to pursue STEM careers more often than women. (It is worth noting that most people who believe that there are genetically-caused demographic differences would not forward such a bad argument and are committed to treating people as individuals. However, equalitarians, as noted, are very sensitive to potential threats to egalitarianism, and they view this as a potential threat.)

If this model is correct, we would expect to find that 1) Progressives are more likely than conservatives to score high on an equalitarian measure (see end for the measure); 2) Progressives are more likely than conservatives to believe that victims’ groups are treated unfairly; 3) Progressives are more likely than conservatives to evince bias against threats to cosmic egalitarianism that appear to favor privileged groups over victims’ groups; and 4) That these results will be explained, at least partially, by scores on our equalitarian measure. In a series of several studies, we found exactly these results.

In Study 1, for example, we found that progressives thought many demographic groups (blacks, Hispanics, Muslims, and women) were treated more unfairly than did conservatives. And these results were partially explained (the technical term is “partially mediated”) by scores on our equalitarian measure. In Study 2, we found that progressives were more likely than conservatives to think that a cop who shot a black person who was discovered to be unarmed was more blameworthy. Similarly, progressives thought that a test in which men performed better than women (but that had high predictive validity) was more unfair than did conservatives. And, once again, these results were partially explained by equalitarianism.

So far, these results suggest that progressives are more sensitive to threats to egalitarianism and believe that certain demographic groups are treated unfairly by society. But they don’t suggest bias. In fact, it could be that progressives are correct, and that conservatives are biased. In our next two studies, therefore, we tried to detect bias. Before presenting those results, however, it is worth discussing how difficult it is to study bias.

Most bias studies rely on something called the principle of invariance: decision-irrelevant information (extraneous information) should not affect judgments; therefore, any judgment that is affected by extraneous information is biased. Abstruse enough. The basic idea is this. Suppose I give groups of people a description of research methods, but in one description the results support gun control and in the other, they do not. Then I ask them to assess the quality of the methods. The rating, according to this line of thought, should be the same because the quality of the methods is independent of the results. (See the table below for an example. The bold phrasing is changed across conditions but everything else is the same.)

Condition 1: Support Gun Control Condition 2: No Support
Researchers at a large university wanted to study the effectiveness of gun control laws. They decided to look at the gun homicide rates in two states with different gun laws. To make sure that the states were similar, they picked states next to each other (Oklahoma and Texas), and only looked at states that had recently changed their laws. They found 5 pairs of states and analyzed the data. States that had harsher gun laws had much lower homicide rates. Researchers at a large university wanted to study the effectiveness of gun control laws. They decided to look at the gun homicide rates in two states with different gun laws. To make sure that the states were similar, they picked states next to each other (Oklahoma and Texas), and only looked at states that had recently changed their laws. They found 5 pairs of states and analyzed the data. States that had harsher gun laws had the same homicide rates as states with looser gun laws.

So, suppose progressives rate the methods in Condition 1 as more sound than in Condition 2: We would call that bias. However, I want to suggest that things aren’t so simple, and concede that it is almost impossible to isolate bias in the lab. A Bayesian might reasonably argue that the results of an experiment should cause a rational person to update her assessments of the methods. My colleagues and I called this the “proof of the recipe is in the eating” (PRE) principle. If you have what appears to be a delectable recipe, but the resulting food is insipid, it is not irrational to reassess the recipe. Of course, maybe you just botched the cooking. But, maybe the recipe is actually bad. The same applies to the gun control examples. If you are convinced that gun control works, but somebody shows you that it doesn’t, it isn’t irrational to suspect that her methods were flawed.

All researchers can do is concede this point and try their best to isolate bias by using rigorous, but inevitably flawed, methods. Which is exactly what we did in Studies 3 and 4.

In Study 3, we described an entrance exam that colleges were considering using, but which favored either men or women (see below).

Condition 1: Favors Privileged Group Condition 2: Favors Victims’ Group
In the past decade, the College Entrance Exam (CEE) has been given to high school students. It has been shown to have remarkable accuracy at predicting academic performance in college.

 

However, universities have been debating whether to use the exam or not because men, on average, score much higher than women on the exam, leading to the acceptance of more men to college than women.

In the past decade, the College Entrance Exam (CEE) has been given to high school students. It has been shown to have remarkable accuracy at predicting academic performance in college.

 

However, universities have been debating whether to use the exam or not because women, on average, score much higher than men on the exam, leading to the acceptance of more women to college than men.

We then asked participants to rate the exam’s fairness, sexism, and asked how much it should be used (we turned this into one item, called “test acceptance”). As predicted, progressives were significantly less likely to accept the test when men outperform women than when women outperform men. Also, as predicted, but probably surprising to many progressives, conservatives did not differ in their responses in either condition; in other words, conservatives were completely fair, and progressives were biased (see figure below). Also, as with the other results, these results were partially explained by equalitarian scores.

In Study 4, we used the same basic methods, but examined a different scenario: potential demographic differences on IQ test scores. Again, we matched the conditions save for the group that was said to outperform the other (black versus white; see below). We told our participants this was an article in the New York Times.

Condition 1: Favors Privileged Group Condition 2: Favors Victims’ Group
Researchers from a large research institution have discovered a gene that might explain intelligence differences between blacks and whites. For many years, researchers have found that whites score higher on certain intelligence tests than blacks. Tom Berry and his colleagues have tried to find genetic causes for the disparity in intelligence scores, arguing that environmental explanations cannot explain the IQ gap. “There is simply no reasonable environmental explanation for the IQ gap that we can find or that other researchers have proposed,” Dr. Berry explained.

 

Berry and his team think they have an answer. They isolated a gene on the 21st chromosome that is reliably associated with higher IQ scores. The gene polymorphism, called THS-56RR, was first found in 1999, but researchers didn’t know that it was related to higher IQ scores. Berry and his team found that it was strongly related to IQ scores.

 

They also found that the gene is much more common in American whites than blacks. “About 93% of whites carry the gene,” Dr. Berry said, “whereas only 10% of blacks carry it. We really think this might explain the IQ gap.”

 

Researchers from a large research institution have discovered a gene that might explain intelligence differences between blacks and whites. For many years, researchers have found that blacks score higher on certain intelligence tests than whites. Tom Berry and his colleagues have tried to find genetic causes for the disparity in intelligence scores, arguing that environmental explanations cannot explain the IQ gap. “There is simply no reasonable environmental explanation for the IQ gap that we can find or that other researchers have proposed,” Dr. Berry explained.

 

Berry and his team think they have an answer. They isolated a gene on the 21st chromosome that is reliably associated with higher IQ scores. The gene polymorphism, called THS-56RR, was first found in 1999, but researchers didn’t know that it was related to higher IQ scores. Berry and his team found that it was strongly related to IQ scores.

 

They also found that the gene is much more common in American blacks than whites. “About 93% of blacks carry the gene,” Dr. Berry said, “whereas only 10% of whites carry it. We really think this might explain the IQ gap.”

We next asked participants a number of questions about the argument such as “How credible is Dr. Berry’s argument,?” “How logical is Dr. Berry’s argument,?” and again combined them into one score called “argument credibility”. As with Study 3, progressives were significantly less likely to evaluate the argument as credible when it favored a privileged group (whites) than when it favored a victims’ group (blacks; see below). And conservatives again evinced no statistically significant bias. (They were slightly biased against the privileged group, but the result was not significant). These results were also partially explained by scores on our equalitarian measure.

Taken together, these studies provide strong support for our equalitarian model of progressive bias. It also has strong prima facie validity because it would explain why so many otherwise intelligent progressive become so irrational when discussing identity issues. To take just one example, many progressives unceasingly misrepresented and excoriated James Damore’s “Google Memo” in a truly astonishing display of dishonesty. I don’t think many progressives consciously meant to misrepresent it (by calling it, for example, a “sexist screed” or an “anti-diversity memo”); I think that they are such dedicated equalitarians that they actually read a judiciously-worded memo as an attack on egalitarian principles, and pounced upon it like a lion pouncing upon an animal that threatens its cubs.

The Normal Brain is Biased

Probably all people are biased; and strong ideological commitments on either side of the spectrum heighten such pre-existing propensities. My professor should have said, “I want to understand how a biased brain becomes biased in one way and not another,” because the normal brain is a prejudiced brain. For too long, the progressives who have dominated the social sciences have taken progressivism for granted and have therefore examined conservatives as though they were aliens with a perplexing and quite possibly pernicious set of ideological preferences. I am thankful that many intrepid and avant-garde scholars have begun to challenge this comforting but erroneous narrative.

In our work, we believe we have found a deep well of progressive bias, a well that we have just begun to explore. Equally importantly, we also found a source of conservative fairness which deserves more attention that it will likely receive. I am hopeful that others will continue to study this source of bias and fairness and that we will, over the course of the next decade, begin to understand both progressives and conservatives better. And we will come to recognize and appreciate that we are all human, all too human.
Bo Winegard is an essayist and a graduate student at Florida State University.

 

* **

*I would describe myself as a pragmatic centrist these days, but I still lean more left than right.

*I am also a dedicated egalitarian and I probably share many of the biases I am studying. I don’t think they are necessarily bad. This paper is descriptive, not normative. It is unfortunate when people use the results to say, “Hahahaha! Progressives are stupid.” That is not our point at all. Our point is simply that progressives have biases just like conservatives, and that we should strive to understand them.

Equalitarianism Measure:

Instructions: Please answer the following questions as honestly as you can. Remember, all answers will be confidential. Use the following scale: 1- do not agree all, 4-somewhat agree, 7-agree completely (so 1 is the lowest level of agreement, and 7 is the highest.)

  1. The only reason there are differences between men and women is because society is sexist
  2. Differences between men and women in society are caused by discrimination
  3. Differences among ethnic groups in society are at least partially biologically caused*
  4. Most people are not biased and racism is not a problem anymore*
  5. When people assert that men and women are different because of biology, they are usually trying to justify the status quo
  6. People often try to conceal their racism and sexism, but they act that way anyway
  7. People often use biology to justify unjust policies that create inequalities
  8. Racism is everywhere, even though people say that they are not racist
  9. Sexism is everywhere, even though people say that they are not sexist
  10. People use scientific theories to justify inequalities between groups
  11. Men and women have equal abilities on all tasks (for example, mathematics, sports, creativity).
  12. All ethnic groups have equal abilities on all tasks (for example, mathematics, sports, creativity)
  13. Some differences between men and women are hardwired*
  14. Although things are unequal now, if we work really hard, we can make society better and more fair
  15. We should strive to make all groups equal in society
  16. We should strive to make men and women equally represented in science fields
  17. If we work hard enough, we can ensure that all ethnic groups have equal outcomes
  18. With the right policies, we will increase equality in society

*reverse coded items

36 Comments

  1. “In Study 2, we found that progressives were more likely than conservatives to think that a cop who shot a black person who was discovered to be unarmed was more blameworthy than did progressives.”

    I think there’s a word mix-up in here.

  2. One dynamic missing, IMO, in the discussion around bias and the political scales is that the discussion has devolved from consideration of a continuum to that of two distinct buckets. Conservatives….must be social and fiscal extreme conservatives. Progressives must be extreme social and fiscal liberals (to the point of communism/socialism and even fascism in their view of shutting down any speech they find offensive, aka triggering). That ignores, for example, the fiscal conservative hawk who really could care less about abortion with very loose bonding to any religion.

    I bring this up because I fall into that latter description and so as a result I read articles from a variety of sources and find bias on both ends. During the Obama presidency the right leaning sites were critical and the left leaning were sunshine and butterflies. The opposite holds true now with the primary difference being that n is not equal particularly now that there is a focusing of news sources on the internet down to providers with openly-stated bias.

    • Hit “post” too soon /blush

      In this context, your questionnaire may not provide the statistical value that is potentially possible. You are looking at gender and ethnicity (critical theory stuff) but omitting the other areas specific to political bias. Is that intentional? I realize you are studying bias and not specifically political bias, but ultimately that is the lead in to your motivation for the study. It could be interesting to add questions targeting fiscal/government factors in addition to the social.

      • Kain Yusanagi says

        This is more talking about the group of Progressives and the group of Conservatives (who mostly dominate the authoritarian left/right ranges of the political compass), not those with a libertarian left/right mindset, from what I can tell.

  3. Fantastic stuff Bo. You’re just a graduate student?? Sorry, don’t mean “just”. But as a professor who supervises graduate students, I can spot accomplished writing when I see it. Very well done.

    Myself and a colleague are just foraging into this area, and so will hopefully begin contributing to this literature shortly. Perhaps we’ll cross paths at some point…

  4. defmn says

    A couple of points. If you wish to understand bias you could do worse than familiarize yourself with Bacon’s ‘Idols’ in his ‘New Organon’. I have never seen a more complete list although contemporary psychologists do torture the english language trying. I realize that there is a bias amongst progressives that leads them to believe that new thought is more profound than old thought but that is just another indication of their particular bias. (That is my poor attempt at humour.)

    The 2nd point is somewhat pedantic so I apologize in advance. Defining progressives and conservatives in terms of issues is a dead end. I understand that this is how most people understand the divide but it is false. A progressive living in the 1920’s could very well find the idea of allowing women to vote to be controversial. Abortion, gay marriage, gun control, etc. are all issues that were regarded differently by those who would call themselves progressive or conservative depending on what time and place they are born into. The progressive darling John F. Kennedy’s position on abortion and gay rights would have him labelled part of the far right in today’s culture war.

    So it is incorrect to say that abortion is a sacred value of conservatives. It is a sacred value of the religious who usually think of themselves as conservative but they are intersecting circles in a venn diagram – not overlapping. The religious believe in rules that come down from long ago so tend to be conservative. There is nothing about being conservative that makes you believe in the sanctity of human life. The Spartans of ancient Greece were pretty much the epitome of conservatism but regarded infanticide up to the point of a baby acquiring speech as legitimate. The Athenians were the progressives and yet are probably the society that came closest to systemic homosexuality as the preferred ‘lifestyle choice’. 😉

    Conservatives and progressives are distinguished primarily in terms of attitudes towards change and risk. When conservatives go bad they think all change is harmful and when progressives go bad they think all change is good. Again, Bacon’s paragraphs on his Idols is a good place to start.

    You indicate that you are a graduate student but do not mention your area of study. You have wandered into political philosophy’s area of expertise but I don’t see any indication that this is the perspective you come from. Do you mind saying in what area you study?

    Thanks.

    • Bo Winegard says

      In the United States, abortion is a sacred value for many Conservatives. I simply use scales, and let my subjects tell me what “conservatism” and “liberalism” mean. The scales are predictive, and therefore the terms are useful. But, you are absolutely correct, it is a very complicated issue.

      I love Bacon’s book. You are right. Absolute classic.

  5. Santoculto says

    Many of this ”social scientists” are not scientists, period.

    They are mostly academic teachers, often the vague terminology: ”researchers”, which don’t understand the basic principles of science and of philosophy, which is, more or less, behind all scientific foundation. They think they are scientists because they work in university.

    Because their lack of reasonable thinking and self-knowledge they believe in this chronic self-deceptions.

    Conservative mind is just a product of natural selection. Nothing great there but still nothing so bad as in the so called liberal ones.

    Liberals on very avg believes they are beyond food chains/natural selection, but they are in, they are hybrid creatures who live in incurable philosophical multitask and or self-paradigm: be a food-chainer or not. They know correctly that for self-aware creatures like us, transcende natural selection blind and/OR instinctive rules is very possible, but they don’t know how to do it [believing they know], that’s the problem. They reach the sky of wisdom but their wings are not strong enough to support the high altitudes and to find this ”paradise of promissely infallible reason”.

    People can be

    MORE instinctive

    high levels of reactivity
    low levels of affectivity and reflexivity

    MORE domesticated

    low levels of reactivity and reflexivity
    high levels of affectivity

    MORE logic-rational

    low levels of reactivity and affectivity
    high levels of reflexivity

    MORE wise

    high levels on all them

    Of course most people are more a mix of one of them, but i believe many will be like the ”pure typos”.

    Alt-reichers are correct when they say ”facts don’t care about your feelings” BUT we only build our values when our feelings matter too, for some way, for some thing.

  6. This article is excellent, and if this phenomenon is as real as it seems, I hope this work can open some eyes.

    To that end, I’d wonder if you could use a subtler group of examples in the studies. Asking subjects if men are smarter than women and if Oklahoma is the same as Texas doesn’t seem like it can duck underneath the analysis and signaling that will confound the results enough to cast them into doubt.

    I’ll let you determine when the results show a bias, but I would expect that even if they do, your audience will have a lot of trouble believing that if the examples used are topics that wrap together hundreds of issues like IQ and skin color.

  7. Nyarlthotep says

    A right-winger argues right-wingers are less biased than progressives. And all without a trace of bias.

    • He calls himself a left of center pragmatist. Perhaps reading his conclusions triggered your own biases?

  8. steve says

    Argues with data and reference to data he is working on —- so that is not a fair statement then is it?

    • Nyarlthotep says

      “Most people who believe that there are genetically-caused demographic differences …. are committed to treating people as individuals.”

      There’s his right-wing bias stated glaringly in the middle of the article. In other words, most people who believe racial inequality is at least partly explained by biological factors aren’t bigoted because they treat people fairly on an individual basis. Where does he get off making such a blanket assertion? His data doesn’t speak to the committments progressives or conservatives have to ‘treating’ people. It’s a sloppy argument and ironically betrays the writer’s own internal right-wing biases.

      • james iron says

        How did you set
        “genetically-caused demographic diferrences” = “racial inequality is at least partly explained by biological factors”?

        Are you saying your restatement is the best interpretation given the context? Are genetically caused demographic differences necesarilly related to racial inequality? I don’t see how you got there without making undefended assumption.

  9. Welcome to France!

    I wish you 50 years of hardship under the PoMos rule

    Next stop for you guys:

    – Conservatives are 1) down right Nazis 2) Would anonymously report jews to the gestapo 3) starve the mankind until everybody dies 3) Traitors in bed with foreign imperialist intelligence.

    – Families are the locus of all mental disorders, hence hate your family (and report it to the government)

    – Neighbours are agents who wish you harm and/or freeloaders undermining the power of government. Thus, Hate your neighbour, he’s an enemy (and report him to the government)

    Early symptoms you’ve been brain washed: a feeling of inexplicable disgust (acute form) or queasiness (mild form) at the words “conservative, personal responsibility, law and order”.

    Early symptoms the PoMos are in power: Universities, education boards, pre-schools advisers all in line to teach SJ ideology. Wait 20 years.

    Early symptoms the PoMos are winning: the acceptance that If the ideology has failed, it’s because it wasn’t the real deal. Redo.

    Resistance through Common decency, Free Speech & reasoning is futile. PoMos have made sure that all externalities are paid for in blood and suffering by the entire nation.

    History will recon that Foucault was the most powerful man in the Western World.

  10. Let me add a book to the Bacon recommendation: Jonathan Haidt’s “The Righteous Mind”. Due to reading it and following the efforts of the Heterdox Academy, I am aware of his finding that conservatives have more principle poles in their worldview than leftists and that he consistently found that conservatives understand the positions of the left and disagree, while the left does not understand the positions of conservatives. You’ve put one foot on the path to a meaningful understanding, please consider another one.

  11. I’ve only recently discovered Quillette, and am loving the content (and the mostly constructive comments that follow – pretty rare on the old interwebs). I enjoyed reading this particular article immensely. Not only is detailed and yet accessible, it has articulated a shortcoming in my own disposition towards those with more conservative political views which, until now, I’ve been unable to pin down. Thank you very much Mr. Winegard!

  12. Was the idea considered that survey participants might try hiding bias when responding? i.e. afraid of being labeled ‘sexist’ or ‘racist’ if they answer a certain way. In some, that fear is so strong it can cause a deceptive response even in a anonymous situation.

  13. Your exploratory studies #3 and 4 have real potential as designs. Now go after some funding to try to replicate them with some healthy sample sizes and get the results published with peer review etc. But the results seem entirely plausible (at least to this jaded centrist).

    You might want to combine them with some items measuring intellectual laziness to check out the likely correlation with “equalitarianism”….

    1. When I’m short of time in completing a term paper, I stretch my limited material with opinions that accord with the known political biases of my professor.
    2. When I’m arguing with classmates but I can’t think of an actual argument, I usually just string together words such as “problematic”, “privilege”, “violence” and “patriarchy.” 😉

  14. jason bahr says

    Great work. I have a point about question 15. We should strive to make all groups equal in society? When you say “equal” . What does that mean exactly? Equal outcomes or equal opportunities? Something else?
    Also you stated “According to the equalitarian model, progressives are dedicated egalitarians. They think that all individuals, all groups, all sexualities, and all sexes should be treated fairly*”
    I think conservatives (at least the thinking ones) want this too. They are just more sensitive how we get there. i.e. not being fair to make up for past.
    I truly believe conservatives and liberals ( i wont say progressives because some are heading too socialist) want the same thing. Honest, open discussions are what is needed and everyone needs to lower their bias as much as possible. (this is difficult as google, facebook etc use algorithms to feed us info to reinforce our opinions as you mentioned. We must also drop the name calling and really listen to what eachother are saying.
    Thank you for this, I enjoyed it immensely.

  15. Scott Lilienfeld has a commentary about the fact that liberalism is treated as a baseline state and conservatism a state in need of explanation:

    “Lack of political diversity and the framing of findings in personality and clinical psychology”

    Scott O. Lilienfeld (a1)
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S0140525X14001253
    In response to: Political diversity will improve social psychological science

    I extend the arguments of Duarte et al. by examining the implications of political uniformity for the framing of findings in personality and clinical psychology. I argue that the one-sided framing of psychological research on political ideology has limited our understanding of the personality correlates of liberalism and conservatism.

  16. Colagirl says

    One comment – you said:

    Equalitarians fear that if we accept that some demographic differences are genetically caused, we might start treating groups differently from each other. For example, maybe we would encourage men to pursue STEM careers more often than women. (It is worth noting that most people who believe that there are genetically-caused demographic differences would not forward such a bad argument and are committed to treating people as individuals. However, equalitarians, as noted, are very sensitive to potential threats to egalitarianism, and they view this as a potential threat.)

    The equalitarians’ fear did not come out of nowhere. Treating groups differently and justifying it by pointing toward differences, either assumed or real in the two groups, was done in the past. One of the reasons equalitarians have swung so hard toward blank-slatism is precisely because of this history. I would have liked to see that acknowledged,

    Other than that,good article.

    • Bo Winegard says

      That is a very good point. I agree. And, as I said somewhere, I am something of an equalitarian myself. I just want to study the bias. Not judge it.

  17. Patrick Debous says

    I discovered Quillette through Jordan Peterson. There’s a video about Jordan and Progressive Bias that keeps popping up on Twitter and I’m surprised I haven’t seen any coverage of it.

    1) Way of the World’s analysis of the Cathy Griffith Gotcha moment, which got his whole channel on youtube banned. Here it is on bitchute

    https://www.bitchute.com/video/kLQ0XFkc3zGy/

    2) Jordan at a recent Q & A:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CJJUdAXoP-Y

    3) Jordan at a recent Q & A (a mirror on PewTube)

    https://pewtube.com/user/CustomerService/rdw36SM

  18. You use the word equality quite often, whereas, in many of those situations, I would have used the phrase “equality of opportunity”; which in case then, we would have been in agreement on a particular subject.

  19. ccscientist says

    Because progressives tend to view traits as fixed within a group (like a racial group), their reaction to a claim that some inequality is not caused by prejudice is to assume it is being claimed that it is innate–that blacks are genetically inferior, for example. But what they miss is that it could be cultural. Thomas Sowell’s book Race and Culture is a great example of this. Every ethnic group has some differences in what they value, how they act, how families act, what they believe. Does anyone not understand that Mafia culture is different from Hamptons culture and more likely to lead to prison? Gansta culture differs also and does not predispose to success. The many successful blacks I have known were all characterized by predominantly middle-class culture (with some black overtones). The idea that culture is fixed and is linked to race is in itself pure bigotry.

  20. Bubblecar says

    What puzzles me most about conservatives is their seeming inability to learn very much from the history of conservatism itself. This is of course littered with examples of conservatives proving to be “on the wrong side of history”, resulting in the next generation of conservatives holding quite strongly modified views, but they’re seldom able to perceive the same fate for the less rational of their own causes.

    The marriage equality debate here in Australia was a good case in point. None of the prominent conservatives pushing the NO case actually put forward the position of their conservative grandparents – that homosexuality should be a criminal offence, and that homosexual expressions and tendencies in the general culture should be strongly suppressed.

    The public were expected to believe that “of course” today’s conservatives disowned such homophobic views (even though not long ago they constituted the official position of the same conservative institutions – such as the Churches – now campaigning against marriage equality).

    But they seemed unable to discern the fact that their current views are “informed” by the same groundless anti-gay prejudices as their grandparents’ views, and doomed to the same fate. Their own conservative youth groups are more likely to be in favour of marriage equality, and it won’t be long before the next generation of conservatives are quick to disassociate themselves from today’s “wrong-headed” opponents of marriage equality.

    This sort of historical blindness to the fate of conservative causes tends to make conservatism seem almost fatalistically intuitive, a mindset lacking in critical introspection and rational and empirical rigour in general.

    When we face conservatives in debate we expect to have to contend with many simple errors of logic, much silly misinformation and layers of irrelevant emotional defensiveness. But also a kind of deep-seated desire to place themselves “heroically” on the losing side.

  21. Rhoeo says

    @Bubblecar

    Well, “egalitarians”, for lack of a better word, have been on the wrong side of the history too (communism, anyone?), resulting in the next generation of them adopting vastly adjusted values, maybe you just don’t tend to remember when conservatives were right when they cautioned “don’t go too radical, you may cause unintended consequences”, but only remember when liberals were right when they say “you are holding back the rights of people”?

    Just a thought.

    • Bubblecar says

      I was really discussing conservatives within the spectrum of ordinary democratic politics, and from the point of view of a centre-left liberal within the same context.

      Since the general worldview of conservatives inevitably changes from generation to generation (except at the extreme fringe, where they never learn anything at all), you’d think they’d accept that conservatism as a general philosophy is actually an imprudent and highly error-prone approach.

      Better to be a cautious progressive than an obstinate conservative.

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