REPORT: Psych prof revises lecture after categorizing conservatives as ‘guilty, anxious, and unable to handle stress’

A Wake Forest University psychology professor updated her language about conservatives after calling them 'guilty, anxious, and unable to handle stress well as children' during a fall 2022 lecture.

She says that her original slides on political orientation and personality were 'not well presented,' and 'the studies in the textbook' that informed the slides 'were not compelling.'

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The original version of this article can be found in The Wake Report.

A Wake Forest University (WFU) psychology professor has updated course language about conservatives after calling them “guilty, anxious, and unable to handle stress well as children.” 

In a video obtained by The Wake Report during the fall 2022 semester, assistant professor S. Mason Garrison lectures on political orientation for her online Personality course. Her presentation says that, compared to conservatives, liberals are generally “resourceful, independent, self-reliant, and confident as children.”After The Report contacted Garrison for comment in Mar. 2023, she removed the lecture from YouTube and updated the presentation slides to depict different personality traits for liberals and conservatives. 

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She shared the new slides with The Report, which include a description of conservatives’ tendencies to “develop strong family ties and community involvement” and “[e]mphasize the importance of tradition, stability, and order.”

In a statement to The Report, Garrison writes, “I apologize if my statements were interpreted as negatively characterizing conservative students. I was unaware that my comments had caused any feelings of marginalization, and I sincerely regret any harm or discomfort they may have caused.”

When asked for comment, Department of Psychology Chair Christy Buchanan pointed The Report to the department’s mission and values. As per its website, the department has a “deep commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion” that “plays out through coursework, programming by majors, and research.” 

Buchanan says that the “commitment to diversity includes respect, concern, and support for conservative and liberal students alike.”

“Sometimes misunderstandings occur in the course of human interactions, including those that occur in the classroom,” she continues. “I trust that both the department’s and Dr. Garrison’s responsiveness to the concerns brought forth in the current situation demonstrates the department values of and commitment to creating a safe and inclusive experience for all students.”

Garrison told The Report that she is “a member of the Heterodox Academy” and, in a reference to the organization’s mission, says that she “support[s] open inquiry, viewpoint diversity, and constructive disagreement in research and education.” 

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In another interview with The Report, she agreed that her original slides on political orientation and personality were “not well presented.” 

“Frankly, I spent some time diving into the evidence from the textbook I used,” she writes. “My conclusion was that the studies in the textbook were not compelling.”

The Report contacted all relevant parties listed for comment and will update this article accordingly.