News & Politics

Conservatives Should Worry About the American Psychological Association

A 2014 New Yorker article asks: “Is Social Psychology Biased against Republicans?” The question arose after Dr. Jonathan Haidt spoke to an audience of psychologists and asked attendees to share their political affiliations by a show of hands. The results were extreme:

[On the Left, a] “sea of hands,” comprising about eighty per cent of the room, Haidt later recalled. Next, the centrists or moderates. Twenty hands. Next, the libertarians. Twelve hands. And last, the conservatives. Three hands.

Despite voicing multiple reasons why psychology might skew somewhat left, Dr. Haidt questioned the magnitude of the discrepancy, stating:

I submit to you that the underrepresentation of conservatives in social psychology, by a factor of several hundred, is evidence that we are a tribal moral community that actively discourages conservatives from entering.

Rebuttals swiftly followed. In Psychology Today, Dr. Alice Eagly concluded:

[C]ritics such as Jonathan Haidt fall into the postmodernist trap of believing that social psychology mainly reflects the political attitudes of its researchers and theorists. They are wrong.

Dr. John Jost added:

By focusing on scientists’ personal beliefs rather than the quality of their work, Haidt perpetuates the myth that social scientific research simply exemplifies the ideological biases of the researchers.

Given the newly issued “Guidelines for the Psychological Practice with Boys and Men” by the American Psychology Association, it’s appropriate to re-examine whether the political leanings of psychologists impacting their work is myth or reality.

When the issuance of guidelines was reported in the media, it created immediate controversy. A number of mental health professionals publicly criticized the guidelines, including Dr. Leonard Sax, Dr. Michael Gurian, Dr. Helen Smith, Dr. Jordan Peterson, Dr. Chris Ferguson, Dr. Sally Satel and Dr. David Ley. In addition, Quillette shared critical evaluations by Dr. John Wright, Dr. Keith Campbell, Dr. Christopher Frueh, Dr. Pamela Peresky, Dr. Clay Routledge, Dr. Shawn Smith and Dr. Deborah Soh.

While some differences emerged, there was also commonality among the critiques, including the belief that the guidelines will make men less likely to engage in therapy. But chief among the similarities was the belief the guidelines were not scientifically sound, but instead pursued a political agenda. For example, Dr. Sally Satel stated:

[W]hen the APA encourages practitioners to engage in vaguely defined activities — “address issues of privilege and power related to sexism” or “help boys and men, and those who have contact with them become aware of how masculinity is defined in the context of their life circumstances” — it seems more focused on a political agenda than on the patient.

Dr. Chris Ferguson went further, identifying the political ideology by name:

[T]he guidelines appear to push clinicians to challenge traditional masculinity or challenge “male privilege.” But this appears to be a progressive advocacy agenda, not a clinical goal.

Few would question that progressives have now fully adopted intersectional theory. Further, intersectionality is now included on the website of Division 51. The Student Special Interest Group section shows two lecturers using a slide titled “Intersectionality” with the sub-headings “racism,” “sexism,” “heterosexism,” “classism,” “colonialism,” and “ableism.” Further, their guidelines suggest, they view men as oppressors.

The demographics of psychologists are also rapidly changing, with significant differences between psychologists nearing retirement and the younger practitioners replacing them. While there is gender parity among psychologists 55 and older, practitioners 35 and younger are 84% female.

In addition to the significant gender gap, since the early ‘90s psychology has become further skewed to the Left. Dr. Haidt studied this phenomenon, finding the zeitgeist of the ‘60s and ‘70s generated an influx of individuals who came to pursue social justice. This created a climate which was both hostile to conservatives and allowed selection bias. Indeed, a 2012 study found only 6% of social psychologists identified as conservatives — and 37.5% of respondents declared their willingness to discriminate against hiring conservatives.

There’s also evidence of a hostile climate within Division 51. Tom Golden shared his experience, stating:

I was part of the mailing list of Division 51 about ten years ago and was ejected from that group for what they claimed was being “hostile.” The man who was thrown out before me was ejected for the stated reason that he mentioned male victims of domestic violence too often. Both of us had one thing in common: we were interested in men from a perspective that was not a feminist perspective and for that reason we were both disdained and exiled.

The questions asked of practitioners pursuing continuing education credits allow further insight. In a very effective critique, Dr. Shawn Smith shared several APA test questions, since “they are a reasonable indication of what they want clinicians to walk away with.” They included these:

  • As of 2018, what percentage of chief operating officers at Fortune 500 companies were men?
  • In the 115th Congress of the U.S., what percentage was male?
  • Men commit ___ percent of the homicides in the US and represent __ percent of the homicide victims.

Are these questions designed to help men in therapy, or to present men as oppressors?

Dr. Ryon McDermott, who helped draft the guidelines, explained their motivation by stating: “If we can change men, we can change the world.” Why should the APA be allowed to pursue Male Conversion Therapy? Indeed, Dr. Leonard Sax stated:

Stetson University psychologist Chris Ferguson notes that the guidelines’ emphasis on trying to get traditionally masculine men to become something other than what they are is reminiscent of the “conversion” therapies of decades past, which sought to convert homosexual men into heterosexual men.

For psychologists to use their position of power to pursue a progressive agenda with their patients is ethically repugnant. Therapists doing so should face a complaint against their license.

To date, Division 51 has avoided invitations for debate, opting to post only positive reviews of their work. Their evasion on these issues should raise further concern among conservatives. For psychologists to show they are willing to consider dissenting opinions and not hostile to conservatives, debating those who have denounced their new guidelines should be required by the APA.

Follow Terry Brennan on Twitter: @TerryBrennan211