Conservatives have known this intuitively for years: Political correctness doesn’t work! As described in great detail in my post Several Reasons Why We “Resist” Political Correctness, some major reasons for backlash against it has to do with the Left’s double standards and hypocrisy in applying it, the denial of safety issues, attacks on our identity and culture, and simply the fact that many people are fed up with the constant edicts and demands that never seem to stop! Now, scientific studies have given us yet another reason why we don’t respond to PC demands: They don’t appeal to our internal motivations to change.
Many on the Left emphasize actions they feel ought to be taken to create a less prejudiced society. Don’t say these words. Don’t say this as a compliment. Don’t ask that question. Don’t wear that outfit. Don’t listen to that music, watch that show, read that book. Shun anyone who thinks differently and declare them persona non grata. Put this sign on your yard. Vote for these candidates. Use this hashtag. Boycott this store, or that brand. Say these catchy slogans and buzzwords. Hold these ideologies and don’t deviate from their worldview. Think conservatives are backwards. You see this repeated in workplaces and schools through every class “dialogue” (which is really a Leftist monologue) sensitivity training, diversity orientation, safe space training, racism seminars promoting white guilt, among others.
Yet, does this even work? It certainly doesn’t for us conservatives! The Left declares you a racist, sexist, homophobe, etc. if you aren’t fully into their little teaching sessions as many have experienced. We’re not any of those things they accuse us of, yet we don’t embrace their narrow view of how “good” people should act. Sadly, to protect our careers, reputations and social connections, sometimes, we play along and parrot their edicts back to them while holding true to our own views privately. In essence, the Left’s indoctrination sessions in the classroom or the workplace merely foster social pressure to conform rather than internalized beliefs that they are correct, and morally superior.
This is where the science comes in. We all have intrinsic and extrinsic reasons for why we believe in and conform to certain things. Intrinsic motivators are our deeply held values. If we do something for intrinsic reasons, we want to do it. If we do something for an extrinsic reason, it is often because we want to conform out of social pressures or fear of some imposed consequence, or conversely, have an external reward to gain from it. Research shows what conservatives knew already: Appeals to extrinsic motivators to be more “woke” or PC such as intense social pressure and cancel culture does not work. Nor does giving out a laundry list of arbitrary rules make anyone more desiring to become less prejudiced.
In a paper published in 2011 called “Ironic Effects of Antiprejudice Messages: How Motivational Interventions Can Reduce (but Also Increase) Prejudice” by Lisa Legault, Jennifer Gutsell, and Michael Inzlicht, they studied the effects of more extrinsic, or “controlling” messages and more intrinsic, or “autonomy focused” messages on reducing prejudice. Controlling messages do just as expected, they are meant to control one’s actions. Autonomy focused messages also as expected, focus more on the person’s autonomy to make a choice not to be prejudiced as a personal moral value. The researchers hypothesized that autonomy focused messaging would have a greater effect at reducing prejudice than controlling messages.
To test this, Legault and her research partners designed two experiments. In the first experiment, participants read a brochure on the topic of prejudice. They assigned the participants to one of three conditions:
- Read an autonomy focused brochure.
- Read a controlling brochure.
- Read a neutral brochure to use as a control group.
Those assigned to read the autonomy-brochure read information emphasizing one’s choice to embrace values of non-prejudice. Those assigned to the controlling-brochure read the message that one needs to comply with social norms, (a.k.a political correctness) to fight prejudice. The control group only read about defining the concept of prejudice.
Afterward, the researchers used surveys to measure prejudice and screen for intrinsic or extrinsic motivations. Results showed those who read the autonomy-brochure had decreased prejudice, and those who read the controlling-brochure emphasizing social norms had increased prejudice. Even more shocking, those in the controlling-brochure condition had more prejudice than those in the control group!
Believe it or not, their second experiment had even more striking results! In the second experiment, they used surveys to measure participants’ agreement with statements about prejudice that were either more autonomy focused or controlling in nature. After, participants were asked to write a few sentences with prompts that emphasized an autonomy focused approach or a controlling approach depending on which condition they were assigned to. Results showed the same pattern as the first experiment, but even more dramatically, as there was a greater difference between the autonomy condition and the other two. Legault’s research clearly supports evidence that extrinsic motivators are not effective, and may actually decrease motivation to become less prejudice than having no motivation at all!
A second study published more recently in 2017 called “Training away bias: The differential effects of counter stereotype training and self-regulation on stereotype activation and application” by Mason D. Burns, Margo J. Monteith and Laura R.Parker reinforced Legault’s findings about intrinsic motivation being a stronger force for less prejudice. Burns and his team researched whether conscious means to retrain the mind to associate counter-stereotypical words with certain groups instead of associating them with negative words would reduce implicit bias. Counter stereotype training consists of learning to pair positive words such as “intelligent” or “competent”, with various races that are often negatively stereotyped with negative words such as “unintelligent” or “incompetent”. The goal is to eventually out compete the negative implicit associations by retraining one’s mind to associate new positive words with various racial groups. Burns hypothesized that counter stereotype training would reduce implicit bias more than having received no training.
The experiment was to have participants look at a computer screen with pictures of either white or black people and click on words that were counter stereotypical for them as fast as possible. Participants were assigned to three conditions:
- A group who read a list of counter stereotypes before doing the task.
- A group who was only warned to be aware of stereotypes but received no counter stereotype list.
- A control group who just did the online task with no further instructions.
Results showed that despite some positive effects of counter stereotype training, it was not effective overall contrary to Burns and colleagues’ initial hypothesis. Those who were given the warning not to think stereotypically but not trained had less biased responses than the counter stereotype condition. The researchers theorized this was because the warning was a prompt to activate participants’ intrinsic motivation not to be biased through increasing their awareness of how bias conflicts with their values. The implications of Burns’ research is that those mind-control training seminars at work or in the classroom the Left likes impose on us don’t work!
The findings of these two studies easily highlight yet another reason we resist political correctness and the Left’s agenda. In addition to being hypocritical, a threat to safety in some cases, an attack on our culture and values, and simply annoying, scientific evidence shows the Left has gone about it all wrong. If they truly wanted to make change, they would have more luck appealing to our values over dictating what we must do to appease the Left. Then again, what values do they really have? From what I’ve seen, it definitely is not about equality for all, just who they pick and choose.
This is just my own theory, but perhaps they don’t appeal to our values because we’d discover theirs and ours are not alike at all! The evidence the Left gives for their arbitrary pronouncements points to a different motive: Power and control.
So when do we decide it’s time to act on our internal values, and not their external pressures?