We judge each other all the time because of our own biases. In an ideal world scientists would be judged by the quality of their research. In reality it should be no surprise that internal biases affect how scientists view each other. Researchers from the University of British Columbia are soon to publish a study called “What Makes Professors Appear Credible: The Effect of Demographic Characteristics and Ideological Beliefs”. The study looks at how people judge researchers based on their gender and race.
The researchers conducted a survey of 900 participants, asking them questions that revealed whether they had elitist or egalitarian views. Next, the participants read scientific papers that included photos of the researchers themselves and were asked to judge their credibility.
We all like to think we can judge researchers on their work alone but we can never really escape our belief systems. The study found that elitists were more likely to judge white males as more credible researchers. The opposite was found for egalitarians, who were more likely to judge women and people of colour as more credible.
These results were most pronounced at either extreme of the spectrum. It was the extreme elitists or extreme egalitarians that were most affected by their own biases when judging credibility, while people with less extreme views were less influenced by gender or race. The interesting result is that extremists at both ends of the spectrum are just as likely to judge credibility by race or gender but in totally different ways.
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