By ANDREW FERGUSON, Weekly Standard
Every few weeks, it seems, a new crack appears in the seemingly impenetrable wall of social-science dogma. The latest appeared last month with the publication of a paper by the well-known research psychologist Scott Lilienfeld, a professor at Emory University and coauthor of the indispensable primer 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology. Among other things, he is a great debunker, and he has trained his skeptical eye on “microaggressions.”
Sophisticated, affluent people in the United States (SAPs) have been trained through years of education to respect whatever is presented to them as “science,” even if it’s not very good science, even if it’s not science at all. Their years of education have not trained them how to tell the difference. Sophisticated and affluent Americans, as a group, are pretty gullible.
So when their leaders in journalism, academia, and business announce a new truth of human nature, SAPs around the country are likely to embrace it. The idea of microaggressions is one of these. It was first popularized a decade ago, and now the pervasiveness of microaggressions in American life is taken as settled fact.
We could have seen it coming. Already, by the time microaggressions became widely known, social scientists had invented the Implicit Association Test (IAT). The test, administered online and to college students throughout the country, pretended to establish that anti-black and anti-Latino prejudice among white Americans was ever-present yet, paradoxically, nearly invisible, often unrecognized by perpetrator and victim alike. Even people who had never uttered a disparaging remark about someone of another color were shown by the IAT to be roiling cauldrons of racial animus. You know who you are.