July 25, 2009

Bouchard on Groupthink

Nicholas Wade on John Tierney's NYT blog writes:

“Academics, like teenagers, sometimes don’t have any sense regarding the degree to which they are conformists.”

So says Thomas Bouchard, the Minnesota psychologist known for his study of twins raised apart, in a retirement interview with Constance Holden in the journal Science.

Journalists, of course, are conformists too. So are most other professions. There’s a powerful human urge to belong inside the group, to think like the majority, to lick the boss’s shoes, and to win the group’s approval by trashing dissenters.

The strength of this urge to conform can silence even those who have good reason to think the majority is wrong. You’re an expert because all your peers recognize you as such. But if you start to get too far out of line with what your peers believe, they will look at you askance and start to withdraw the informal title of “expert” they have implicitly bestowed on you. Then you’ll bear the less comfortable label of “maverick,” which is only a few stops short of “scapegoat” or “pariah.” ...

The academic monocultures referred to by Dr. Bouchard are the kind of thing that sabotages scientific creativity....

What’s wrong with consensuses is not the establishment of a majority view, which is necessary and legitimate, but the silencing of skeptics. “We still have whole domains we can’t talk about,” Dr. Bouchard said, referring to the psychology of differences between races and sexes.

The 100 or so comments are pretty amusing since only one (mine) picks up what Bouchard and Wade are actually primarily talking about -- the crushing of James Watson, Larry Summers, and the like. Everybody else rushes off to talk about global warming or Kuhn v. Lakatos or whatever they haven't shoved down the memory hole.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

17 comments:

Anthony said...

Yes, Wade nicely tucked that Bouchard sentence at the very end. Talk about burying the lede. :)

milam command said...

"The 100 or so comments are pretty amusing since only one (mine) picks up what Bouchard and Wade are actually primarily talking about -- the crushing of James Watson, Larry Summers, and the like. Everybody else rushes off to talk about global warming or Kuhn v. Lakatos or whatever they haven't shoved down the memory hole."

Cheap shot. Just because global warming is the first thing to come to mind when most of us contemplate groupthink, doesn't mean that we've "shoved [the subject of HBD] down the memory hole." It just means that we're less race-obsessed than Steve Sailer. Hey, you're entitled to be race-obsessed; you've said that it's your "market niche" and you write well on the subject. But it's a bit unfair to smear others as down-the-memory-hole cowards 'cause we're not.

keypusher said...

The Bouchard interview is behind a subscription wall. Does anyone have it?

Anonymous said...

--Cheap shot. Just because global warming is the first thing to come to mind when most of us contemplate groupthink, doesn't mean that we've "shoved [the subject of HBD] down the memory hole." It just means that we're less race-obsessed than Steve Sailer. Hey, you're entitled to be race-obsessed; you've said that it's your "market niche" and you write well on the subject. But it's a bit unfair to smear others as down-the-memory-hole cowards 'cause we're not.--

The point is that global warming and other such subjects are easy and take nothing by way of intellectual courage. People focus on them because they are too cowardly to focus on the biggest issues in front of them; the obvious issues.

Tom Regan said...

Groupthink infects American journalism to an even greater degree than it does science.
While many in the media are politically left, there are great swathes who feel they have to be seen to support that opinion.
Any journalist who questioned global warming, said "I kinda like Sarah Palin", suggested HL Gates was in the wrong, or failed to swoon or get moist when Obama or Jon Stewart came on the TV, would have no chance of ever getting anywhere in their career.
A lot of journalists go along with the bourgeois leftism to promote their own careers, rather than because they agree with it per se.

Nanonymous said...

The Bouchard interview is behind a subscription wall. Does anyone have it?

Steve Hsu has most of it posted.

Here is the rest:

Q: What are you working on now?

TB: I'm studying what I call the traditional-values triad: religiousness, conservatism, and authoritarianism. They correlate with each other. In our most recent paper [based on Minnesota twin data], we showed that the same genes affect all three traits. The superfactor [the underlying trait they share] is traditionalism; I think the underlying psychological process is the notion of obedience. It's exactly the same trait that Stanley Milgram studied in the '60s [when students willingly administered electric shocks to unseen victims]. Most researchers talk about obedience as being a bad thing. But it's also the glue that holds societies together.

Q: Anything you would have done differently?

TB: Bouchard has gotten everything he wanted from day one. ... I've led a charmed life. ... If I had it to do all over again, I would do almost exactly what I've done. I know there are people who really dislike what I do. ... But look, I'm retired—they're not going to take my skis away.

Melykin said...

The Steve Hsu link says "bad gateway"

Nanonymous said...

The Steve Hsu link says "bad gateway"

Yeah, an extra "http//". Sorry. Here is the corrected link

Outland said...

@Milam Command

"It just means that we're less race-obsessed than Steve Sailer. Hey, you're entitled to be race-obsessed; you've said that it's your "market niche" and you write well on the subject. But it's a bit unfair to smear others as down-the-memory-hole cowards 'cause we're not."

The whole tone of your comment reveals one thing (and one thing only): yes, you are cowards.

Anonymous said...

Cheap shot. Just because global warming is the first thing to come to mind when most of us contemplate groupthink, doesn't mean that we've "shoved [the subject of HBD] down the memory hole." It just means that we're less race-obsessed than Steve Sailer. Hey, you're entitled to be race-obsessed; you've said that it's your "market niche" and you write well on the subject. But it's a bit unfair to smear others as down-the-memory-hole cowards 'cause we're not.

Hilarious! Please tell me it's deliberate?

~Svigor

Anonymous said...

The superfactor [the underlying trait they share] is traditionalism; I think the underlying psychological process is the notion of obedience.

This doesn't make sense. If these people were obedient, they'd be good little leftists.

Obedience and traditionalism are currently more opposite than not. Today's arch-rebellion is traditionalism.

~Svigor

Anonymous said...

Steve, of course, is innocent of all group think, particularly when it comes to certain wars.

Anonymous said...

milam command,
sneaky attempt to get around being labeled as using the race-card.

Melykin said...

Thanks Nanonymous. I should have noticed the extra http// myself.
The new link works.

A quote from Bouchard:

"...psychologists believed correlation is causation, ... and many still do...."

Truer words were never spoken.

Dutch Boy said...

Scientists are no more virtuous than journalists when it comes to goosestepping to the prevailing march (how many of them sprang to the defense of Watson or Summers?).

keypusher said...

Thanks, Nanonymous!

For example, when I was a student, it was widely accepted that black self-esteem was much lower than white self-esteem, and that was a cause of differences in achievement between the two groups. Now that's been completely overturned—there is virtually no racial difference in self-esteem.

I think this is widely believed outside the university even today.

Thanks also for quoting the bit about obedience. Bouchard is right; it's considered almost a pathology. But you can't have a functioning society without it.

Anonymous said...

Before the "breaking" of Larry Summers and James Watson, a very
significant event was the "depublication" of Chris Brand's THE "G" FACTOR (Wiley, UK,
February 1996--jerked from retail
bookstores in mid April 1996 by Wiley New York. Brand has managed to put a slightly revised version of this "bannished" book online for free download (see specific instructions at the site ). When the book is read, the inevitable question is "What is it in this text that Wiley (or anyone else) found unprintable?" Brand's book to the fair minded reader establishes that yes, indeed, it would be possible to have a national discussion about the topic complex of race, gender, evolution, genetics, and group differences in learning potential and culture-building, culture-propagation protential. High voltage? Certainly. But possible and quickly of less and less voltage than is the subterranean accumulation of tense lip biting and monumental hypocrisy now obtaining. But, then, one ponders,
as a national dialogue unfolds, carefully disciplined by the inhibitions long in place, a great storm cloud arises as we marvel, in great relief, that yes, we can discuss it openly and productively if at times somewhat heatedly. The storm could, Why was it impossible for us to be at this deacdes ago? Answering that question is where you get into the
r e a l taboo. And where "all hell can break loose".