Which disciplines are the most and least politically correct?

by on July 25, 2008 at 7:25 am in Education | Permalink

Here are the data, based on one study; I am surprised that psychology is "tops," with a 58.7% rate of political correctness.  The other "winners" are not hard to predict, though "art" comes in at a surprisingly low 14.6%.  Economics is rated at 4.7%, noting that beneath us lie Marketing, Accounting, Computer Science, Biology, and now into the zero percent category, Finance, Management Information, and Mechanical and Electrical Engineering.  OK, wise guys, give the best single sentence (you are allowed one comma) account of these numbers that you can.

1 Ian Tindale July 25, 2008 at 7:46 am

Was this all cooked up by statisticians, hmm?

2 nate July 25, 2008 at 8:11 am

The value of your marginal product is inversely proportional to your political correctness.

3 Zacharij July 25, 2008 at 8:31 am

Rich people just don’t care, except for psychologists who are paid to care.

4 DK July 25, 2008 at 8:43 am

Careers for professors in some fields is driven by surprising your peers, in others by agreeing with your peers.

5 Ironman July 25, 2008 at 8:52 am

Rephrasing nate’s suggestion:

The lower the perceived marginal value of the discipline, the greater the academic department’s rent seeking-based “political correctness.”

6 wallywabash July 25, 2008 at 9:05 am

The authors of the study clearly haven’t hung around with enough economists at bars.

7 Alex Tabarrok July 25, 2008 at 9:16 am

Nate wins.

8 Zach July 25, 2008 at 9:36 am

OK, wise guys, give the best single sentence (you are allowed one comma) account of these numbers that you can.

Political activism can serve as a substitute for scholarly activity, particularly in fields where productivity is hard to measure.

9 Tyler Cowen July 25, 2008 at 9:55 am

Not one of you has stumbled upon my thought…

10 rickm July 25, 2008 at 10:34 am

“If you look at “articles published” as your metric of productivity, he was a star. Of course, the quality of the scholarship was terrible, but that’s much harder to measure.”

Quite frankly, I’ve never heard of anyone from, say, an Ph.D admissions committee or a hiring committee for a professorship use “number of articles published” as a metric. Quality of articles isn’t difficult to measure at all. For one, the can be read. The more efficient method is to see what journals are publishing the author being considered. Top journals don’t publish crap.

11 k July 25, 2008 at 10:46 am

the PC rate is directly proportional to the uselessness of your discipline/knowledge

12 Steve R July 25, 2008 at 10:53 am

Objective outputs require objective inputs.

13 sort_of_knowledgeable July 25, 2008 at 10:58 am

The engineers are reported to be 0% politically correct, but they also have a high non-commital rate.

14 Ironman July 25, 2008 at 11:13 am

sort of knowledgeable:

Engineers are trained to solve problems….

15 Jim Gwyn July 25, 2008 at 11:21 am

Reality isn’t politically correct.

Political correctness is the institutionalized belief that 1+1 doesn’t have to equal 2.
As Kipling put it in the secret of machinery:

But remember, please, the Law by which we live,
We are not built to comprehend a lie,
We can neither love nor pity nor forgive.
If you make a slip in handling us you die!

16 Skorri July 25, 2008 at 11:31 am

How they define politically correct: “The views are the belief that gender gaps in math and science fields are largely due to discrimination; support for affirmative action; and belief that discrimination is a key cause of racial inequities in American society.†

So basically they’re just using this as shorthand for “more likely to be republican† or “more likely to be democrat.† It doesn’t really measure PC-ness at all, depending on how you define PC.

p.s., as I believe was mentioned in this blog at some point, the gender gap in math doesn’t seem to be primarily discrimination *or* biological – it’s economic. Comparative advantage, and all that.

17 JSK July 25, 2008 at 11:41 am

By the way, the measuring of polical (in)correctness by looking only at the “Politically Correct” and “Politically Incorrect” columns is way off. For example with the above metric Psychology comes in most correct of all. However, taking ‘Moderately Correct’ into account, Sociology, English, History and even Criminal Justice ‘beat’ Psy.

18 Lee A. Arnold July 25, 2008 at 11:45 am

I reported the same general tendency among the disciplines from my own experience at Overcoming Bias a few weeks ago; but (trying to get it all in one sentence legally) forgive my denseness, I haven’t kept up with the lingo, and these should be separated: does “political correctness” here in this study mean that everybody is supposed to have the same political views, or does it include “U.S. liberalism” as the political view you’re supposed to have, in addition?

19 Steve July 25, 2008 at 12:00 pm

Since political correctness in this case was defined based on perceptions of discrimination & affirmative action, the fields with the highest proportions of women & african americans would be measured as being the most politically correct

20 Mario July 25, 2008 at 12:13 pm

People who use numbers have an inherent bias in believing that everything can be quantified, and therefore give less weight to unquantifiable data like discrimination.

21 shecky July 25, 2008 at 12:48 pm

Expanding on Skorri’s point, this was an interesting point:

“Simmons acknowledged that many people use “politically correct† to imply more than just shared political beliefs, but also an intolerance of other views.”

Sounds like “politically correct” can have a wide range of meanings, including contradictory ones.

22 James July 25, 2008 at 12:54 pm

Economists have the second-highest rate of political incorrectness; many scientific fields simply don’t care about political correctness, but economists are engaged in a sin of commission.

23 Will Chamberlain July 25, 2008 at 1:57 pm

Where bias is expensive, PC doesn’t last.

24 josh July 25, 2008 at 2:08 pm

The people who are most likely to deny the bias are the alleged beneficiaries of the alleged bias.

25 Ron Hardin July 25, 2008 at 2:21 pm

Love of soap opera.

26 Nadya July 25, 2008 at 3:01 pm

The people at the top of the political correctness scale are the folks who have learned that the way things are worded changes the way they are perceived.

27 Andrew July 25, 2008 at 4:20 pm

“Whose bread I eat, his song I sing.”

28 Sean Cooksey July 25, 2008 at 4:34 pm

The quality that is most vital to political correctness is an openness to differing and sensitive viewpoints like that which are found in humanities and certain areas like psychology and sociology, while disciplines like engineering and economics require more definitive and concrete statements and answers.

29 Brian July 25, 2008 at 6:10 pm

Hippie fascists.

30 Michael F. Martin July 25, 2008 at 6:46 pm

Re the booby prize going to mechanical and electrical engineering — kind of hard to offend girls that aren’t around.

31 Gill Winograd July 25, 2008 at 7:15 pm

PC only appears in disciplines with no discipline.

32 srp July 25, 2008 at 8:27 pm

The superior performance of the politically incorrect among the professoriate proves the existence of discrimination against them–the marginal PI academic has to be better than the marginal PC academic.

33 Eric H July 25, 2008 at 11:02 pm

Aspies* are not socially adept. Duh.

(People with Asperger’s Syndrome)

34 Mark Harrison July 26, 2008 at 3:42 am

The spread is rational if you assume that the act of being Political Correct consumes resources, disciplines in which there is more likely to be a backlash against non-PC statements spend more resources being PC than those where the outputs are less politicized.

35 rorkesdrift July 26, 2008 at 9:28 am

The more your career requires you to react to the realities of life the less PC matters.

36 jorod July 26, 2008 at 12:40 pm

The politically correct areas are about control. The least correct are about finding real solutions to real problems. This may lead to freedom, not control.

37 Jason Malloy July 26, 2008 at 6:23 pm

professors that do the best work are overwhelmingly politically incorrect

Scratch that. Clumsy phrasing.

Almost all the politically incorrect faculty at top universities (73.3%) are superstar scientists. In other words mediocre professors with the “correct” PC viewpoints get hired or get to keep their jobs, while rightwingers get fired or rejected unless they are at the very top of their game.

Yet the article claims the study shows there is no discrimination because politically correct professors say they are fine with political diversity. Uh huh.

38 Jason Malloy July 26, 2008 at 6:39 pm

By the way, the same logic applies to other groups where discrimination is said to exist. Steven Pinker nailed Elizabeth Spelke on this exact point in their post-Summers debate over females in science and engineering:

SPELKE: In the athletic cases where discrimination disappears quickly, there are clear, objective measures of success… That is not the case in science.

In science, the judgments are subjective, every step of the way. Who’s really talented? Who deserves bigger lab space? Who should get the next fellowship? Who should get promoted to tenure? These decisions are not based on clear and objective criteria. These are the cases where you see discrimination persisting.

PINKER: But that makes the wrong prediction: the harder the science, the greater the participation of women! We find exactly the opposite: it’s the most subjective fields within academia — the social sciences, the humanities, the helping professions — that have the greatest representation of women. This follows exactly from the choices that women express in what gives them satisfaction in life. But it goes in the opposite direction to the prediction you made about the role of objective criteria in bringing about gender equity. Surely it’s physics, and not, say, sociology, that has the more objective criteria for success.

39 crimm July 27, 2008 at 5:15 am

Smarter people refuse to believe things that aren’t true.

40 Eddy Elfenbein July 27, 2008 at 10:46 pm

The more feelings matter, the more it’s a matter of feelings.

41 MSS July 28, 2008 at 1:53 pm

Can’t explain the pattern, but I take (some) comfort from being in the median PC discipline.

42 Angus July 28, 2008 at 4:15 pm

I think it’s pretty self absorbed and foolish to quip that the average Economics professor has a greater marginal value than the average Mechanical or Electrical Engineering professor.

Most economists just parrot basic ideas about effects of incentives on behavior, and the bulk of research seems to be about clever application of these ideas to non-traditional situations. It’s all quite interesting and while I certainly enjoy it, even many Nobel-prize winning Economists didn’t actually yield results that changed people’s lives, just provided interesting and maybe compelling explanations for things we saw, and mostly continued to see (e.g., public choice explanations for lobbying didn’t curtail wasteful lobbying behavior).

On the other hand, even a mediocre engineering professor has probably done something that someone use to make a better product that was sold in the marketplace to somebody who appreciated the improvement. For example, the computer that you’re reading this post on is probably the result of a bunch of electrical engineers making small contributions to heat removal and transistor miniaturization. By the way, measuring the PC-ness of a heat-removal design seems like a fools errand too.

In a nutshell, this whole discussion about discipline PC-ness should focus on the Social Sciences, since those are the disciplines that operate in an arena where PC-ness germane to research content. I would imagine that Accounting, and MIS, and (I know) Engineering find the whole topic annoying, as the only time it shows up is when they want to hire a professor who’s a white guy.

Full disclosure: I’m a white guy with an MA in Economics whose pursuing a PhD in Materials Science and Engineering.

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44 micky May 14, 2009 at 10:54 pm

Is it realistic?

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