Let’s talk about diversity in personality psychology

In the latest issue of the ARP newsletter, Kelci Harris writes about diversity in ARP. You should read the whole thing. Here’s an excerpt:

Personality psychology should be intrinsically interesting to everyone, because, well, everyone has a personality. It’s accessible and that makes our research so fun and an easy thing to talk about with non-psychologists, that is, once we’ve explained to them what we actually do. However, despite what could be a universal appeal, our field is very homogenous. And that’s too bad, because diversity makes for better science. Good research comes from observations. You notice something about the world, and you wonder why that is. It’s probably reasonable to guess that most members of our field have experienced the world in a similar way due to their similar demographic backgrounds. This similarity in experience presents a problem for research because it makes us miss things. How can assumptions be challenged when no one realizes they are being made? What kind of questions will people from different backgrounds have that current researchers could never think of because they haven’t experienced the world in that way?

 In response, Laura Naumann posted a letter to the ARP Facebook wall. Read it too. Another excerpt:

I challenge our field to begin to view those who conduct this type of research [on underrepresented groups] as contributing work that is EQUAL TO and AS IMPORTANT AS “traditional” basic research in personality and social psychology. First, this will require editors of “broad impact” journals to take a critical eye to their initial review process in evaluating what manuscripts are worthy of being sent out to reviewers. I’ve experienced enough frustration sending a solid manuscript to a journal only to have it quickly returned praising the work, but suggesting resubmission to a specialty journal (e.g., ethnic minority journal du jour). The message I receive is that my work is not interesting enough for broad dissemination. If we want a more welcoming field on the personal level, we need to model a welcoming field at the editorial level.

This is a discussion we need to be having. Big applause to Kelci and Laura for speaking out.

Now, what should we be doing? Read what Kelci and Laura wrote — they both have good ideas.

I’ll add a much smaller one, which came up in a conversation on my Facebook wall: let’s collect data. My impressions of what ARP conferences look like are very similar to Kelci’s, but not all important forms of diversity are visible, and if we had hard data we wouldn’t have to rely on impressions. How are the members and conference attendees of ARP and other personality associations distributed by racial and ethnic groups, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, socioeconomic background, and other important dimensions? How do those break down by career stage? And if we collect data over time, is better representation moving up the career ladder, or is the pipeline leaking? I hope ARP will consider collecting this data as part of the membership and conference registration processes going forward, and releasing aggregate numbers. (Maybe they already collect this, but if so, I cannot recall ever seeing any report of it.) With data we will have a better handle on what we’re doing well and what we could be doing better.

What else should we be doing — big or small? This is a conversation that is long overdue and that everybody should be involved in. Let’s have it.

All the personality blogging you could ask for

Want to see what’s new in personality research? Check out the new ARP Personality Meta-Blog that Chris Soto just set up. (That’s ARP as in Association for Research in Personality). It’s a blog aggregator that pulls from a bunch of different personality blogs. The Meta-Blog posts titles and excerpts, with links that you can follow to the original blogs for the full posts.

By and large these are blogs written by researchers for researchers, though some also mix in more outwardly focused content (particularly at Psych Your Mind). From my perspective this is a great thing. When I started The Hardest Science it felt like psychology had plenty of general-interest blogs (like those at Psychology Today) but relatively few blogs written with a researcher audience, especially compared to fields like economics and neuroscience. So I’m happy to see that changing.

Right now the Meta-Blog is pulling from 6 blogs. They are Tal Yarkoni’s [citation needed], David Funder’s funderstorms, Brent Roberts’s pigee, the collaborative Psych Your Mind, Brent Donnellan’s Trait-State Continuum, and yours truly. If you know of a blog that should be added, please contact Chris.

A job for a personality psychologist

August has been a busy month for me, with lots of travel and now preparations for a sabbatical. Hoping to pick up the blogging pace after I’m resettled. In the meantime (and apropos of an earlier post and commenter’s request for info about finding academic jobs in personality psychology), here is an ad for a job at Washington University at St. Louis:

WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY IN ST. LOUIS, Department of Psychology is seeking candidates for an Assistant Professor position in the area of personality psychology with strong quantitative skills, to teach psychology or related courses, conduct research, publish in peer-reviewed journals, advise students and participate in faculty meetings.  A primary teaching responsibility for the candidate will be in the graduate statistics curriculum in the psychology department. Any area of personality psychology will be considered, though preference will be given to candidates with a strong quantitative background.  The primary qualification for this position is a doctorate and a demonstrated excellence in research and teaching.  We especially encourage applications from women and members of minority groups.

Please email a curriculum vitae, reprints, a short statement of research interests and teaching experience, and three letters of reference to Cheri B. Casanova at cbcasano@wustl.edu.  The Search Committee will begin the formal review process Nov. 1, 2010; applications will be accepted until the position is filled.  Washington University is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer.  Employment eligibility verification is required upon hire.

Note that WUSTL has another job in behavior genetics, which may overlap substantially with personality psychology.