By virtue of working in a discipline that focuses on individual and group differences, psychologists are inclined think seriously about and espouse the value of diversity across domains and contexts. The American Psychological Association (APA) has official guidelines on multiculturalism, and cultural competence is an increasingly prominent aspect of predoctoral clinical training.
A new paper by Inbar and Lammers for Perspectives on Psychological Science asks whether psychologists “walk the walk” when it comes to practicing tolerance and advocating diversity. Following the unsurprising finding that the vast majority of psychologists surveyed held liberal social, political, and economic views, the authors reported on evidence of a distinct prejudice among respondents against conservative values. For instance, liberal respondents were more likely to report that they would discriminate against a conservative colleague in the context of paper or grant reviews; and conservative respondents were more likely to report feeling that worked in a hostile academic environment.
Though the study particularly targeted social psychologists, their findings are likely applicable to a broader range of scientists, scholars, and practitioners working in a variety of settings. Psychological science is a subjective science, and we are committing the gravest hypocrisy if we claim to be free of our own subjectivity in evaluating the values of others. Conservatism threatens the worldview and professional goals of many liberal psychologists, and so they are inclined to be biased against colleagues who value those opposing views. The same could likely be said about attitudes towards wealth and privilege. These subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) biases are real issues that need to be addressed openly in academic and other professional environments. If we claim to be eternally open-minded, tolerant, and objective — which is impossible — then we close off the possibility of any dialogue surrounding these taboo realms of sociopolitical diversity.