Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Psychologists: ‘There is no alternative to free speech’

Colleges and universities across the country are struggling with the question of who decides what is acceptable speech on campus. When does a controversial topic become hate speech? When should it be allowed as free speech?

Two Cornell researchers say psychological science’s extensive study of bias offers an important lens through which to view these conflicts, as we strive to understand and reduce them.

There is no alternative to free speech, say co-authors Stephen Ceci and Wendy Williams in “Who Decides What Is Acceptable Speech on Campus? Why Restricting Free Speech Is Not the Answer.” Their analysis appeared May 2 in Perspectives in Psychological Science as the lead article in the issue.

“There is no alternative to free speech, because every controversial topic has a substantial group of people who view it as hate speech,” said Ceci, the Helen L. Carr Professor of Developmental Psychology. “If we define unacceptable speech in terms of topics students say should be banned because they make them feel marginalized or uncomfortable, then we remove all controversial topics from consideration.”

Added Williams, professor of human development: “Feeling discomfort and angst at hearing words is not a legal reason to shut down other people’s rights to say those things.”

Since the 1950s, psychological science has demonstrated that many types of bias can prevent opposing sides from accepting the validity of each other’s arguments, the authors say.

Selective perception makes opponents on an issue literally see things differently. In 1954, researchers showed a film of a 1951 football game – Princeton versus Dartmouth, well-known for its competitive, rough play – to two groups: one of Princeton fans and the other of Dartmouth boosters. Each team’s supporters saw the majority of flagrant violations as having been committed by opposing players.

For people with selective bias, “it’s not just that they interpret their perceptions differently; they actually see different things,” Ceci said.

In “myside” bias, people look for evidence that supports their opinions and ignore or downgrade evidence that contradicts them. “Blind-spot bias comes from deep identification with a cause. We believe we are especially enlightened, while our opponents’ affiliation with the opposite side leads them to be biased,” Ceci said. Similarly, naïve realism makes people feel their views are grounded in reality but their opponents’ are not.

These and many other biases explain why a sizable percentage of students favor banning nearly every controversial topic, the authors said.



Anonymous said...

Students are still children and do not have mature understanding.

Bird of Paradise said...

If those collage knownothings think Free Speech hurts the sensitive little feelings then they can just go and Soak their Heads in a wash basin full of their own tears

Dean said...

I'm big, you're little,
I'm smart, you're dumb,
I'm right, you're wrong,
and there's nothing you can do about it.
So there. tbtbtbtbtbtbtb

Typical political argument. Except when I am involved. I am totally rational, have looked at all sides of the issue, and know for a fact that I am right and my opponent is a lying liberal snow flake. (sarcasm off)

Actually, I have been guilty of defending an indefensible position at times, and have had to eat crow.

Anonymous said...

Can we force all college administrators to read this?

Stymphalian Bird the man eating bird witha brass beak and shoots his feathers said...

Collage administrotors should be made to Read the U.S. Constitution instead of the Communists Manifesto