Report from the First Conference of the Society for Open Inquiry in the Behavioral Sciences
Samizdat and Speakeasy
Most of the conference described here was funded by a generous grant from The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. However, there was some cost overruns. As promised, the paid subscribtion income from Unsafe Science was used to backstop anything we could not cover from grants.
It is no exaggeration to say that paid subscriptions ensured that this event would happen. I hope you consider this worthwhile. Thank you.
The Society for Open Inquiry in the Behavioral Sciences (SOIBS) held its first conference on Friday, February 24, in direct competition with that of The Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP). This entry provides a summary of events at the SOIBS conference. After doing so, I provide some additional commentary about SOIBS and SPSP.
Cory dubbed the conference the Behaviorial Science Speakeasy, to capture two ideas:
It was quasi-underground. By invitation only (even mere attendance). We did this not to be exclusive but because our venue and resources were limited, and we had to keep the crowd down to about 75 (I think 60-80 people attended but not all at the same time)
At The Speakeasy, one could literally “speak easy”; present, participate, or socialize without fear of being denounced or demonized, as is now commonplace in academia, and did indeed happen at SPSP:
Ok, maybe there was a third reason. The events were interspersed with a lot of informal socializing, the venue was amazing, and SOIBS provided food and drink to lubricate the conversations and warm the spirit.
From my opening comments:
Welcome to the First Social Psychology Samizdat. If you are not familiar with the term, it referred to groups of Soviet dissidents holding clandestine meetings for the sharing of ideas and literature banned by the State. Now, in fairness, its not really a samizdat. None of the ideas here have been banned by the State, though quite a few have been effectively banned by SPSP. Everything here is not only public, its really more of a conference. For those of you who wish to list presentations on your vitas, rather than “Presented at the Behavioral Science Speakeasy” you can list it as presented at the Conference of the Society for Open Inquiry in the Behavioral Sciences.
I note here that several attendees specifically requested that we post no photos or public statements that would implicate them in the thought crime of attending the Speakeasy/Samizdat. Given that we did nothing but share research, perspectives, and ideas, and a little food and drink, samizdat may not be that far off after all.
The Samizdat Church of Evidence-Based Blasphemy
The venue was amazing — an old converted church in Atlanta. The ironies of this, e.g., the infusion of a quasi-religious form of social justice throughout academia; that I am actually an ordained minister via The Open Ministry were delicious. Some people wanted to be there but did not want to be outed as such (did someone say “samizdat”?) so these are stock photos:
Cory did a terrific job of strategically organizing it. It opened with food and drink and socializing around 3pm. By 415, people were warmed up and ready for some intellectual fireworks.
The Great DEI Debate
The Question: Are Mandatory DEI Statements at SPSP Good or Bad?
Anne Wilson from Wilfred Laurier, staunch advocate of both academic freedom and social justice, took the Mandatory DEI Statements are Good side. (I know some of you who follow me think this is not possible but, with all due respect, you are wrong. Freddie de Boer comes to mind as another counterexample).
Me and my racist mule take the Mandatory DEI Statements are Bad side (so to speak).
Coming soon: The entire debate with some modifications for print will be posted here. I am sorry, though — there were no fireworks. Anne is a delight to do this sort of thing with, and I came away thinking we both did pretty good jobs in a short time communicating the merits of our views.
This was another of Cory’s excellent strategic decisions. We did not have posters and we did not have longwinded talks by stars or would-be stars that were just draining to sit through.
Instead, we had a series of short talks, 10min or so each. Boom boom boom! Here are some of them along with brief summaries. Reports describing some of these may be presented here at Unsafe Science as guest posts.
Would People Agree with Hitler When his Statements are Directed Against Whites Instead of Jews? Michael Bernstein, Brown University, and April Bleske-Rechek, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire
College students and college graduates (n=428) indicated whether they agreed with a total of 9 statements; all comprised of real quotes from Nazi leader Adolf Hitler (3 statements), White Fragility author Robin DiAngelo (3 statements), and 19th century pro-slavery advocate Stephen Douglas (3 statements). All statements were adapted at random to an anti-Jew, anti-White, or anti-Black frame. Agreement was significantly higher for 7 of the 9 statements in the anti-White frame compared to the anti-Jew or anti-Black frame. Of note, 55% of college students agreed with at least one of the three Hitler statements applied to White people.
Taboos and Self-Censorship Among Psychology Professors. Cory Clark, University of Pennsylvania.
We found: (1) professors radically disagreed on the truth status of 10 candidate taboo conclusions–for each conclusion, some professors reported 100% certainty in the veracity and others 100% certainty in the falsehood; (2) professors who saw the claims as truer were likelier to self-censor, a pattern that inevitably biases professional discourse and perceived scientific consensus toward rejecting controversial conclusions; (3) almost all professors were worried about social sanctions if they were to express their personal beliefs about these claims; (4) a majority of professors opposed suppressing scholarship and punishing scholars based on moral concerns about research conclusions; (5) a majority was also very contemptuous of peers who petition to retract papers on moral grounds; (6) professors were moderately inclined to prioritize academic freedom and truth discovery over social equity; (7) faculty that were female and further to the left were more inclined in the opposite direction and also more supportive of punishing peers who publish morally objectionable findings.”
Stereotypes as Bayesian Predictions, Joseph Cesario, Michigan State University
Description: Three studies (total N ~ 2500) tested whether people's stereotype representations follow Bayesian reasoning, in matching the appropriate calculations of the relevant conditional probabilities (e.g., the probability that someone is efficient given that they are German). They did.
Left-Wing Authoritarians Report Aversion to Collaboration with Masculinized Male Faces, Mitchell Brown, University of Arkansas
When tasked with reporting their interest in collaborating with male and female targets whose facial features connoted either masculinized or feminized features, heightened levels of left-wing authoritarianism led individuals to report an aversion to men, especially those with masculinized structures.
The Catch-22 of Organizational and Institutional Politicization. Calvin Isch, University of Pennsylvania.
A survey asked an ideologically balanced American sample about their trust, perceptions of ideological slant, and politicization in dozens of different organizations. We found that perceptions of politicization (letting political values influence decisions) was associated with lower trust, though ideological slant (percentage Democrats/Republicans), was not.
Some Sex Differences are More Problematic Than Others, April Bleske-Rechek, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and Michael Bernstein, Brown University
In two studies (Study 1 = 810 college students; Study 2 = 612 community adults), we investigated men’s and women’s reactions to jobs of equivalent annual salaries that are over-represented by either men (e.g., electricians, internal medicine physicians) or women (e.g., event planners, pediatric physicians). Men and (especially) women perceived male-dominated jobs more than female-dominated job as problematic and more due to sexism and discrimination, even though they generally perceived male-dominated jobs and female-dominated jobs (of the same salary) as similar in status.
Pouring Cold Water on Hot cognition: Why Politically Motivated Reasoning isn't All It's Cracked Up to Be, Gordon Pennycook, Soon to be at Cornell.
The evidence that political ideology plays a direct causal role in the way that people reason is actually fairly weak. Some - perhaps many - things that appear to be due to partisan hackery may instead be genuine disagreements that emerge from a fractured information environment.
SOIBS vs. SPSP
SPSP typically has thousands of attendees, though unconfirmed rumors have suggested that attendance was down this year. We had probably 60-80, but because there was no formal registration, we did not have a head count.
SOIBS was launched in the Summer of 2021 as a professional refuge for those who resist the politicization of academia. I provided an overview of SOIBS here. The capture of academia by radicals and activists has meant that strong social science that contests left sacred values often has difficulty finding a platform for expression, whether at conferences or the peer reviewed journals. It also means that those who contest those values risk denunciation, ostracism, and censorship (go here for a readable essay documenting many such cases, go here or here for peer reviewed journal articles reviewing similar patterns).
Inclusion by Exclusion at SPSP
The difference between a professional organization that embraces politicizing science and one that does not is captured by the differing standards for presenting at the two conferences:
Indeed, DEI statements, which are considered by many (such as The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) to be political litmus tests mandating endorsement of and indoctrination into far left, even revolutionary, politics, were required simply for submissions to the SPSP conference. Anyone who refused to bend the knee to this demand for political conformity was could not even submit to the conference. To be fair, the former President of SPSP stated that one could submit a DEI statement that said some version of “This project was unrelated to DEI.” However literally true that may be, if SPSP used them at all to accept presentations, then, at minimum, anyone who wrote “no DEI here” would be at a disadvantage; it inherently builds in a systemic and institutionalized politically exclusionary bias into the selection system.
I have always hated the big 4000 attendee conferences, even way back in the 1980s, for reasons having nothing to do with politics. They were too big, and mostly involved parades of stars and would-be stars. Most academic talks are a waste of time.
Maybe it was just flattery, but several people urged us to do it again next year or praised the conference in other ways. Of course, they self-selected into this conference, so I doubt we’d get many reactions like that from a representative sample of SPSP attendees. But that’s fine. The point of doing things differently is so that different people can find a place that suits them.
And the whole point of doing this type of conference was to provide a forum for ideas and data that might otherwise be choked off from ever seeing the light of day.
I did not attend SPSP this year. But really. If you did, I have a question for you: Did you hear anything at SPSP like “lots of college students and people with college degrees actually endorse the actual Hitler’s actual rhetoric (when applied to White people)”?