Study: psychology textbooks have PC bias

Introductory psychology textbooks are rife with factual errors and often present information in a way that is politically correct, a new study discovered.

The peer-reviewed study "Education or Indoctrination: The Accuracy of Introductory Psychology Textbooks in Covering Controversial Topics and Urban Legends about Psychology” was published by Professor Christopher Ferguson of Stetson University this December.

Ferguson and his team analyzed how 24 commonly assigned intro-textbooks presented 12 issues to their readers, including such potentially controversial subjects as “media violence,” “stereotype threat,” and “evolution and mating choices.”

Researchers then analyzed whether the textbooks provided fair and accurate information on these topics. In particular, for controversial topics, researchers sought to determine whether “the textbook provided fair, comprehensive and accurate coverage of both sides of the debate.”

“[T]extbooks had difficulty covering controversial areas of research carefully, often not noting scholarly debate or divergent evidence where it existed” the study found.

For example, one of these controversial topics is the relationship between evolution and mating choices. Ferguson found “that textbook authors may shy away from discussing evolutionary influences in favor of standard socialization models of such behaviors.”

The study concludes by noting that the textbook writers are often eager to give “the answer that is politically correct in the field.”

In an interview with Campus Reform, Professor Ferguson said that he was inspired to investigate the accuracy of introductory textbooks after becoming interested in “unintentional misinformation” that could be found within.

“Authors [of psychology textbooks] spend a lot of time talking about issues they frankly know nothing about” he said.

Misinformation isn’t just found in intro-textbooks, he says, but across the psychology field; he cited abnormal psychology and social psychology textbooks as examples. Moreover, Ferguson charged that political correctness had an influence on misinformation.

“A lot of issues psychology covers are politically loaded...whether gender, race, child development, parenting practices, intelligence, aggression, etc...and often the real answers are complicated or aren't what people want to hear,” Ferguson told Campus Reform.

Ferguson also lamented the politicized nature of the field, including

“[P]sychology as a discipline leans heavily liberal,” Ferguson said. “I don't mean that's unfortunate in the sense it would be better to lean conservative, but simply that the intellectual diversity isn't there. The result is endemic biases that inevitably reach down into textbooks and make them political statements, not always science texts.”

He also suggested that the science behind psychology may be corrupt.

“If science is honest, odds are that oftentimes it will reveal things that are politically unpopular...if a field seems to always return politically expedience results...particularly for one political view, it's a safe bet that the science has been corrupted.”

However, the professor plans to explore this issue in more depth by looking “into a much broader scope of issues, particularly now that psychology's ‘replication crisis’ has mushroomed,” he said.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Toni_Airaksinen