SAGE Journals

Exploring the Great Schism in the Social Sciences: Confirmation Bias and the Interpretation of Results Relating to Biological Influences on Human Behavior and Psychology

Posted on 2023-09-18 - 08:06

The nature–nurture debate is one that biologists often dismiss as a false dichotomy, as all phenotypic traits are the results of complex processes of gene and environment interactions. However, such dismissiveness belies the ongoing debate that is unmistakable throughout the biological and social sciences concerning the role of biological influences in the development of psychological and behavioral traits in humans. Many have proposed that this debate is due to ideologically driven biases in the interpretation of results. Those favoring biological approaches have been accused of a greater willingness to accept biological explanations so as to rationalize or justify the status quo of inequality. Those rejecting biological approaches have been accused of an unwillingness to accept biological explanations so as to attribute inequalities solely to social and institutional factors, ultimately allowing for the possibility of social equality. While it is important to continue to investigate this topic through further research and debate, another approach is to examine the degree to which the allegations of bias are indeed valid. To accomplish this, a convenience sample of individuals with relevant postgraduate degrees was recruited from Mechanical Turk and social media. Participants were asked to rate the inferential power of different research designs and of mock results that varied in the degree to which they supported different ideologies. Results were suggestive that researchers harbor sincere differences of opinion concerning the inferential value of relevant research. There was no suggestion that ideological confirmation biases drive these differences. However, challenges associated with recruiting a large enough sample of experts as well as identifying believable mock scenarios limit the study’s inferential scope.


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