A psychological profile of the alt-right; authors include new UA prof | Arkansas Blog

A psychological profile of the alt-right; authors include new UA prof

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LOUD AND PROUD: Inside the heads of the alt-right, researchers find a willingness to talk about their beliefs.
  • LOUD AND PROUD: Inside the heads of the alt-right, researchers find a willingness to talk about their beliefs.
Vox reports on a work of psychological science in progress by researchers including a new member of the University of Arkansas faculty, Patrick Forscher. He and Nour Kteily of Northwestern are endeavoring to examine the outlook of the alt-right — the white nationalists and similar conservatives who, for example, drove the demonstration in Charlottesville.

They've published their work so far, which hasn't been peer reviewed and which they acknowledge has limitations, but Vox terms the findings "unsettling."

A lot of the findings align with what we intuit about the alt-right: This group is supportive of social hierarchies that favor whites at the top. It’s distrustful of mainstream media and strongly opposed to Black Lives Matter. Respondents were highly supportive of statements like, “There are good reasons to have organizations that look out for the interests of white people.” And when they look at other groups — like black Americans, Muslims, feminists, and journalists — they’re willing to admit they see these people as “less evolved.” [I note a chart that seems to put Hillary Clinton at the absolute bottom of the chain.]

But it’s the degree to which the alt-righters differed from the comparison sample that’s most striking — especially when it came to measures of dehumanization, support for collective white action, and admitting to harassing others online. That surprised even Forscher, the lead author and a professor at the University of Arkansas, who typically doesn’t find such large group difference in his work.

There was a time when psychologists feared that “social desirability bias” — people unwilling to admit they’re prejudiced, for fear of being shamed — would prevent people from answering such questions about prejudice truthfully. But this survey shows people will readily admit to believing all sorts of vile things. And researchers don’t need to use implicit or subliminal measures to suss it all out.
There's much, much more in the article. But it reminds me:

A French journalist called me yesterday. He's planning a visit to Harrison, Ark. He seemed surprised that there were places that members of the KKK could march and speak openly about their racial beliefs without being silenced. The demonstrators in Charlottesville, espousing racial, religious and sexual biases, seem to have shocked him.

Not me so much, I told him. While good manners might discourage many from speaking openly about what they believe, there are abundant markers that the feelings don't lie far beneath the surface. And, yes, there are some happy to speak openly. What I'd like to see studied by the scientists is whether Donald Trump has empowered more of these public displays — less political correctness, you might say, to use Trump's framing. I think so. But I'm no scientist.




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