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Research Summary: The Wisdom of Polarized Crowds

Sean Stevens is HxA’s Research Director The founding of Heterodox Academy had roots in a collaboration between five social psychologists and one sociologist that produced a featured paper, and 33 responses to it, in Behavioral and Brain Sciences.  A number of specific recommendations to improve social psychology were made, but the main thesis was that..

I Don’t Care if Amy Wax Is Politically Incorrect; I Do Care that She’s Empirically Incorrect

I was one of the 33 members of the University of Pennsylvania Law School faculty to sign a letter criticizing Amy Wax’s (joint with Larry Alexander) op-ed and subsequent comments regarding the decline of bourgeois culture and its role in America’s perceived social ills. Was this the predictable response of a morally squishy, politically correct, ivory tower academic lefty who is unwilling to endorse unspeakable truths for fear of being bounced from faculty cocktail parties? I can understand this presumption, but, in my case, I prefer going to my kids’ football games to chatting about Derrida over wine and cheese anyway… [I believe that] Wax’s arguments come up lacking when judged by rigorous empirics.

The Most Authoritative Review Paper on Gender Differences

By Sean Stevens (HxA Research Director) and Jonathan Haidt (HxA Director) This blog post is a supplement to our main post: The Google Memo: What Does the Research Say About Gender Differences? Please do read at least the introduction to that post before continuing. As we have scanned the literature to find the major meta-analyses..

The Google Memo: What Does the Research Say About Gender Differences?

The recent Google Memo on diversity, and the immediate firing of its author, James Damore, have raised a number of questions relevant to the mission of Heterodox Academy. Large corporations deal with many of the same issues that we wrestle with at universities, such as how to seek truth and achieve the kinds of diversity we want, being cognizant that we are tribal creatures often engaged in motivated reasoning, operating within organizations that are at risk of ideological polarization.

In this post, we address the central empirical claim of Damore’s memo, which is contained in its second sentence.

The Fearless Speech Index: Who is afraid to speak, and why?

Norms about speech seem to be changing rapidly on many college campuses. Universities are offering or requiring training in recognizing “microaggressions,” and they are creating “bias response teams” to make it easy for students to report professors and fellow students who commit microaggressions. In response, many students and professors say they now feel like they are “walking on eggshells”, not just in the classroom but in informal interactions as well.

But how do we know that these changes are real? Might the stories just be a collection of anecdotes from a few disgruntled people who are over-reacting to being censured for a rude remark? Where is the data showing that students are afraid to speak their minds?

We know of no good survey to measure this phenomenon, so a group* of social scientists at Heterodox Academy created one – the Fearless Speech Index. This post explains the first draft of the survey and reports preliminary results obtained from an internet sample.