Profs: politically correct speech promotes free expression of ideas

Campus Reform Reporter

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  • The study indicates that politically correct speech encourages free expression of ideas, provides men and women with clear expectations as to their interaction.
  • Mixed-sex groups apparently increase creativity and production when speaking in PC terms.
  • Political correctness promotes free expression of ideas and provides clear expectations as to how men and women should interact with one another according to a new study.

    The research—conducted by Jack Goncalo of Cornell University; Jennifer Chatman of the University of California, Berkeley; Michelle Duguid of Washington University in St. Louis; and Jessica Kennedy of Vanderbilt—was comprised of 582 participants, divided into mixed-gender groups of three.

    "The data suggest that PC norms are helpful to idea quantity and quality in mixed gender groups but harmful to quantity in same gender groups."   

    Groups were told they had ten minutes to discuss various business scenarios and were judged on the number of ideas generated and on their “novelty.” Some groups were told they had to exchange ideas in a “polite” or “politically correct” manner while other groups were told nothing.

    “Departing from the assumption that normative constraints necessarily stifle creativity, we develop a theoretical perspective in which creativity in mixed-sex groups is enhanced by imposing a norm to be politically correct (PC)—a norm that sets clear expectations for how men and women should interact with one another,” reads the study.

    “We present evidence from two group experiments showing that the PC norm promotes rather than suppresses members’ free expression of ideas by reducing the uncertainty they experience in mixed-sex work groups.”

    When asked if there were alternatives to restrictive speech that might enhance social interactions between men and women, Prof. Kennedy told Campus Reform that she thinks it’s a great idea to compare the effectiveness of a PC norm to techniques that might otherwise encourage respect and positivity between different demographics.

    “The paper is descriptive, not prescriptive. It looks at only one outcome - idea generation. The data suggest that PC norms are helpful to idea quantity and quality in mixed gender groups but harmful to quantity in same gender groups,” Kennedy told Campus Reform in an email. “Organizations that rely heavily on group brainstorming - such as consulting firms - might find these data useful.”

    Researchers claim the results indicate that politically correct language provides a “normative foundation” for heterosexual groups to freely exchange ideas, even when they are “under conditions of uncertainty.”

    Kennedy told Campus Reform that the group’s manuscript is still waiting upon its final acceptance.

    Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @MaggieLitCRO