In the academy(1), research is not always a collaborative experience, but rather, competitive, more like a World Series or Super Bowl championship game. All season long, even the players on the same team compete amongst each other for a chance to start and be noticed. This makes for a very interesting tension. I call this “collaborative competition.” We assume that each research practitioner is working in concert with others in a quest to uncover scientific truths, achieve superordinate goals(2); challenging assumptions, validate and confirm, thus, adding to the field of inquiry something new and important, a revelation or paradigm shift. The truth is, this rarely ever happens. Yes, as many of you have pointed out in prior blog posts, some researchers do develop interesting insights that help validate existing studies but, most researchers simply focus on the results that merely reflect their bias. And… here is the rub, researchers don’t play well together. Unlike professional team sports, researchers are biased and prefer to play only with those that agree with their findings and perspectives, (Kuhn, 1962). Some researchers have observed that this particular pattern of interaction, working with only people that think alike, often leads to collaborative cheating (Ariely, 2012).
Indeed, philosopher Thomas Kuhn (1991) captures this interesting dynamic in his classic book, The Structure of Scientific Paradigms. Research bias is the seeds of group think and functional fixedness. How can we break away from this academic echo chamber? How and where can one find the truth? Unbiased researchers will challenge assumptions and carefully and precisely reconstruct an experiment or study to see if the results hold up over multiple trials? This is called construct validity. It rarely ever does (Lash, 1999).
The epistemic challenge for researchers is to seek the Spirit of Truth without wavering or pandering to a particular group’s perspective or bias. I believe, researchers, everyone really, tend to fall into one of two camps, group think (everyone thinks alike) or, seekers of the Truth. The later group respects the First Amendment, diverse opinions, different perspectives and actively engaging in inspired conversations. The prior group shuts down thought and free speech. To illustrate this dynamic, think of a normal distribution bell curve. After all, God loves the bell curve. Everything in God’s creation fits into the normal distribution. Take all the leaves on any tree as example. You will have a small percentage of very large leaves and a small percentage of very small even tiny leaves. Overall, the vast majority of leaves will fall into the middle of the bell curve, thus, normal distribution. But, group thinkers, want to draw a skewed curve, over representing a very small sample of the population. I’ll say it again, God loves the bell curve. Think about that profound statement. Sadly, many academics, those teaching in higher education institutions today cluster together around group think and the functional fixedness of their own biases. They kick out anyone that does not agree with their opinions and perspectives. This is perhaps why there is so much division between alternative perspectives on research or anything for that matter. Remember, God loves a bell curve. What does this mean? It means that the normal distribution represents the vast majority which fall in-between either/or thinking. This is what some call the “moral majority” or, “independent”. From a biblical perspective, we might recognize this as more integral. It is indeed ironic that progressives, those that hold a more radical group think perspective, fit more neatly in the extreme pinch points (ends) of the bell curve. Yet, they will argue for “inclusion” which represents the average or, normal distribution. Another example would be advocating for radical changes in the Constitution–a “living document” perspective–while at the same time arguing for “impeachment” based on the original framers intent of the document. You can’t have it both ways unless, of course, you are a liberal progressive. Unfortunately, the constructivist’s narrative seems to gain more traction than the truth. But, I believe people are smart and can see through this cruel ruse. Only through authentic, honest and open (AHO) inspired conversations can we have the opportunity to break free from the bondage of liberal progressive social-constructivism. We represent the next generation of research practitioners that are committed to seeking the truth. What is your perspective?
Ariely, D. (2012). The honest truth about dishonesty: How we lie to everyone–especially ourselves. New York: Harper Press.
Kuhn, T. S. (1996). The structure of scientific revolutions. (3rd ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Lash, S. (1999). Another modernity: A different rationality. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
- A society or institution of distinguished scholars and artists or scientists that aims to promote and maintain standards in its particular field.
- In social psychology, superordinate goals are goals that are worth completing but require two or more social groups to cooperatively achieve.