Hey y'all... If you see weird text formatting on this site, like enlarged text sizes for specific words or phrases, that's not me — it's a Weebly technical error that just randomly enlarged portions of old content on the site.
I would never litter a post or essay with enlarged words or phrases — I'm not a crazy person. I've fixed a couple of spots I noticed (e.g. on my About page, which was so embarrassing...), and please email me at email@example.com if you notice any others.
Note: I am not talking about my haiku about Dobby. The variation in text size there is deliberate, carries substantive meaning, and I see it as a breathtaking innovation in haiku construction... (I assume it's not my innovation.)
Again, please let me know if you see anything – thanks!
I have a new essay up at Heterodox Academy discussing the claim that science is self-correcting. I also dig a bit more into what we mean by "bias".
As a reminder, Heterodox Academy is a motley crew of scholars concerned about ideological conformity and intolerance in modern academia. We're privileged to have Jon Haidt, Steven Pinker, Phil Tetlock, Judith Curry, Scott Lilienfeld, Amy Wax, Lee Jussim, Jarret Crawford, and many other outstanding scholars.
I offer some 3 am musings on the possibility.
I wrote this essay last night after reading about survival-relevant memory research (within the broader affective memory paradigm.)
Angela Chen wrote a nice article on our BBS paper over at Pacific Standard Magazine. The article digs into some specific issues that have not been discussed before in general media, like bias in how we measure openness to experience and other variables.
This is the biggest thing I've been working on this year. Read about it here.
I'm happy to announce Heterodox Academy.
We are a group of scientists and scholars, mostly in the social sciences, who have come together to advocate more intellectual diversity in academia. We include Jonathan Haidt, Steven Pinker, Charlotta Stern, Dan Klein, Jarret Crawford, Lee Jussim, Scott Lilienfeld, April Kelly-Woessner, Gerard Alexander, Judith Curry, and many others. We launched the website roughly in concert with my and colleagues new paper in Behavioral and Brain Sciences (older preprint here for those without journal access.)
In recent decades, our academic institutions have become strikingly ideological. It would be one thing if we saw competing ideologies battling each other in a war of ideas – it would be disappointing that scholars were sorted into ideologies, rather than looser commitments, but at least different systems and ideas would be in play. The problem in our era is not just that academics are excessively ideological, but that almost all of them subscribe to the same ideology.
This place, this time, is but one place, one time, in the broad sweep. We're part of a story, an enterprise, that began thousands of years ago, and will continue for thousands of years after we're dust.
It would be foolish of us to assume that whatever ideology or philosophy that happened to be popular when we came of age was the last word, or even particularly impressive. It would be lazy and incurious of us to assume that the political landscape of our day should bind us, or should give us the answers to our questions. I think it's time for scholars to realize that the nostrums of the early 21st-century academic left, the cobwebs of Marxism, and the various iterations of structuralism are all well and good, but there is much more between heaven and earth than all of that.
Thus, Heterodox Academy. This isn't particularly about the heavy discrimination against conservatives in academia, though we would certainly benefit from having far more of them in the academy, and certainly in social psychology. We have little hope of achieving a reliability valid social science when its researchers are so invariant and narrow in their culture and politics, as social psychologists are.
This is about bringing in more non-leftists, an unbounded and multidimensional category that extends far beyond one side of a left-right line. It would be a mistake to assume that the only challenge the left faces is from the right. This is about bringing in more moderates, libertarians, idiosyncrats, and perhaps most precious of all, non-political scholars and scientists.
Social psychology in particular would benefit from more researchers who do not derive so much of their identities from their (uniform) political ideology. Leftist activists are using social psychology as a vehicle to wage larger, crass political campaigns. I would not want their opposite numbers on the right to flood into the field – I'd want an influx of sober scientists.
I recently heard a story that reminded me of how much graduate students can suffer.
Some graduate students out there suffer enormously and needlessly because of unprofessional and untrained mentors. To be fair, scientists in academia wear lots of hats. They typically have to do all these things:
Unfortunately, faculty tend not to have any training in management, leadership, or mentorship. In the private and public sectors, managers and leaders are trained, and in the best organizations their training never ends – they might have new training every year, perhaps a week-long seminar focused on a different aspect of management or leadership. Just as importantly, managers are often selected for their management ability to begin with.
Some faculty are naturally good at mentorship, and many are passable, but this is mostly due to luck and the sheer decency of these people. Since academic culture doesn't train people in mentorship, and doesn't reward good mentors or police bad ones, we'd expect, as social scientists, to see a lot of bad mentorship – and we do.
At its worst, it's absolutely heartbreaking to watch. I've never seen suffering like grad student suffering – not anywhere I've been, any job I've had, any organization I've experienced, not even the Navy.
I've never seen so many people in therapy, or so many people on anti-depressants. I've seen people ground into nothing, having been convinced that they were worthless and hopeless, quitting their programs two years in.
The emotional beating some people take from their mentors and programs is not functional. There is zero evidence that it works. Much of what we see in academia is unnecessary and unscientific torture. Much of it is simply a function of psychologically imbalanced and unprofessional faculty.
Yes, many of us suffered greatly in graduate school and emerged from it fine. Perhaps we can trace episodes of professional growth to times we suffered, times when they told us we weren't good enough or our work wasn't good enough. That does nothing to empirically bolster anything I'm talking about. We can tell people that their paper sucks or their idea sucks without telling them that they suck, or that they'll never make it. It's not clear why anyone would think that the global, essentialist you suck judgment is functional, or does any mentorship work.
I wish I could bring some of these people back, people who left their programs and advisors in a trail of tears. I wish I could mentor them myself, show them their strengths, flood them with optimism and support, and build, step by step, week by week. Maybe some of them would end up being titans in the field – I wouldn't rule out the possibility. (I just finished graduate school and am on the faculty job market, so here I'm taking liberties and fast-forwarding to a Joe-as-faculty universe. I used to manage teams of software professionals before grad school/social psychology, so I'm fairly confident in my mentorship skills.)
If you're in graduate school now, if you're suffering badly and need someone to talk to, I'm more than happy to talk, to give advice, to listen. If you're reading this, you're probably in social psychology or related fields, but your field doesn't really matter. Maybe a therapist would be better than a Mexican, but I'm not too sure – the evidence for therapy is mixed and exquisitely complicated, and therapists and Mexicans are not mutually exclusive anyway.
In any case, I'm here, I'm a good listener, and I care. There's too much needless suffering out there, and if I can help one person, or even half a person, this post will have earned its keep. Hit me up. Now, I know some grad students who never use their phones for talking, and even find it awkward to talk to someone on the phone. I'm open to all mediums, but if you haven't experienced long, unhurried conversations with other humans, I highly recommend it. firstname.lastname@example.org