Motivated Reasoning in the Social Sciences

This article is an example par excellence of politically motivated reasoning in the social sciences.

“Everything else being equal,” they conclude, “demographic shifts toward increasing diversity may increase people’s pro-sociality.”

a) With regards to the first experiment, people who elected to donate to the Boston Marathon Bombing victims could be from an incredibly skewed sample. For example, they might all be affluent urban whites who feel beholden by ideology. That is, this absolutely does not imply that “diversity” makes people’s altruism swell.

b) With regards to the second experiment, seeing a “diverse” variety of residents may indeed motivate feelings of generosity — that is, responding affirmatively to being “asked how likely they would be to offer help to victims, including shelter, food, and transportation” — because we are conditioned, on fear of being labeled with the Scarlet R for racist, to click our heels and bow down before the God of racial diversity.

The article goes on to discuss this in light of evidence for the persistence of white flight from diverse neighborhoods, suggesting that whites are “fleeing from their better selves”.

What, then, are we to do? Imprison whites in diverse neighborhoods? Engage in Stalinesque social engineering? Teach white people that they are morally inferior in spite of evidence to the contrary?

One thought on “Motivated Reasoning in the Social Sciences

  1. Don’t forget to mention that throwing money at Boston Bombing victims is, in any case, a very poor indicator of communal bondedness, connectedness, etc. It is just an act of generosity to very unfortunate strangers, not an indication that we are good at making strangers our friends and brothers.

    I mean, from the moralist perspective, I suppose it doesn’t matter, as long as you are a “good person.” From my anti-moralist perspective, of course it matters.


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