Profs Deem Scholar’s Work Centrist – Didn’t Know it Was Written by Charles Murray

Source: Profs Deem Scholar’s Work Centrist – Didn’t Know it Was Written by Charles Murray

We sent this transcript to 68 faculty members in the United States and Canada. … We did not tell these faculty that the transcription was a talk by Murray nor that it was connected to the disturbance at Middlebury College. We asked them to rate it on a 9-point scale (1 = strongly liberal, 5 = middle-of-the-road, 9 = strongly conservative). Fifty-seven of the 68 faculty members responded (plus two spouses, one of whom we included because she is also a professor). Their median rating of Murray’s talk was 5 (mean = 5.02, SD = 1.34). The most liberal rating was 2.5, and the most conservative rating was 8; of the 58 faculty ratings, 37 were between 4 and 6, or middle of the road. Thus, faculty in this convenience sample did not view Murray’s comments as dangerously conservative, and none of their written comments suggested anything remotely oriented toward hate speech.

… Of the 58 faculty members who were unaware that the talk was by Murray, 26 accompanied their ratings with comments. They frequently viewed the talk as a list of descriptive facts that were neither controversial nor conservative but mainly centrist or liberal:

“I see it as mostly apolitical (apart from a couple of opinionated words). I would rate it a 5”;

“If the author is taking an ideological position, I can’t see it. I see nothing pro/anti rich/capitalism, there is no ‘signaling’ that I can see. And the person does not even take a stand on whether the development described is good, bad, or some mix. It’s just descriptive of a social phenomenon”;

“I’d have to say 5 non-partisan. He or she is not talking politics or policy”;

“5. It seems more a series of observations than a political statement of any kind”;

“Mostly just using data to make a set of observations. 5”;

“A 5. It is more or less a recitation of well-known trends in education and the economy; nothing very controversial there”;

“I give it a 4. Mostly because I associate the topic with liberals. But the passage is rather descriptive. I don’t see an action agenda that could be more revealing.”

When Williams and Ceci conducted their experiment using a different set of peers — this time telling fellow scholars the transcript came from Murray — many, but not all, found itright-of-center. And a group of random nonacademics found it centrist.

We also asked another group of 68 faculty to do the same rating, with one difference: We told them the text was from a speech by Charles Murray. This information made a statistical difference. The 44 who responded knowing it was written by Murray rated it as more conservative than did their blinded counterparts (M = 5.74, SD = 1.21), two-tailed t(96) = 2.74, p = .007. However, even this group’s mean was close to middle of the road. In sum, neither faculty group saw anything about Murray’s talk that deserved to be banned.

… In light of social psychologists’ liberal tendency, it was of interest to determine how a nonacademic sample would view Murray’s talk. Would they share the faculty belief that it was middle-of-the-road? To find out, we paid 200 Amazon Mechanical Turk workers (mean age = 32 years) to do the rating. They rated their own political orientation on the 9-point scale, and the mean was 4.22, slightly to the liberal side of the scale. To insure they carefully read the transcript of Murray’s talk, we included two factual questions related to the talk at the end of the MTurk survey that they had to answer correctly. Their mean rating of the Murray text was 5.22 (SD 1.17), which is squarely centrist. Thus, all three groups of adults rated the Murray talk as centrist, ranging from 5.02 to 5.74 on a 9-point scale.

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