Monday, April 23, 2007

Peer Opinion of the Behavior of Ethicists: Results by Academic Rank

As regular visitors to this blog will know, survey data Josh Rust and I collected at the Pacific and Eastern meetings of the American Philosophical Association suggest that philosophers don't think ethicists behave much differently than philosophers who aren't ethicists.

Results from the Eastern division meeting suggested the possibility of a U-shaped curve based on rank. Students and full professors seemed to think better of ethicists than did professors around tenure time. Was this trend borne out by the Pacific Division data?

Not at first glance. Here are the Pacific results broken down by rank. Q1 is whether ethicists on average behave better than non-ethicists in philosophy. Q3 is whether specialists in metaphysics and epistemology (including philosophy of mind) behave better than philosophers who are not M&E specialists. The scale ranges from 1 (substantially morally better) through 4 (about the same) to 7 (substantially morally worse).

Q1 (ethicists vs. other philosophers):
Undergraduates: 3.7
Graduate students: 3.5
Adjuncts: 3.9
Assistant Profs (tenure track): 3.8
Associate Profs: 3.8
Full Profs: 3.7
Distinguished Profs: 3.9

Q3 (M&E specialists vs. other philosophers):
Undergraduates: 3.5
Graduates: 4.0
Adjuncts: 4.2
Assistant Profs: 4.3
Associate Profs: 4.1
Full Profs: 4.3
Distinguished Profs: 4.1

No striking trends here. Of course, if one has a generally low opinion of philosophers, that might not show up in these questions, which only ask to compare philosophers of one group with philosophers as a whole. More telling perhaps are Q2 and Q4, which are identical to Q1 and Q3 except that the comparison group is "non-academics of similar social background".

Q2 (ethicists vs. non-academics):
Undergraduates: 3.6
Graduate students: 3.5
Adjuncts: 4.0
Assistant Profs (tenure track): 3.6
Associate Profs: 3.5
Full Profs: 3.5
Distinguished Profs: 3.2

Q4 (M&E specialists vs. non-academics):
Undergraduates: 2.9
Graduates: 3.9
Adjuncts: 3.8
Assistant Profs: 3.9
Associate Profs: 3.8
Full Profs: 3.8
Distinguished Profs: 3.4

There is a weak but not statistically significant trend here toward the students and full professors thinking better of philosophers than do adjuncts, assistants and associates (mean 3.6 vs. 3.8, p = .16).

As these numbers also suggest, there was a general tendency for Q1 & Q3 to have lower numbers than Q2 & Q4 -- implicitly suggesting that philosophers think philosophers behave morally better than non-academics (mean 3.9 vs. 3.6, p = .003). That trend is largely, but not entirely, driven by the tendency of ethicists to rate ethicists as morally better than non-philosophers (mean 3.1).

When asked to compare the behavior of a particular ethicist or M&E specialist in the department to that of other members of the department and to non-academics of similar social background (Version 2 of the questionnaire), the breakdown by ranks looks rather different, with a general tendency for higher rank to correlate with a lower opinion of one's colleagues and a lower opinion of ethicists in particular.

For example, when asked to compare the moral behavior of the ethicist in your department whose name comes next in alphabetical order after yours (looping around from Z to A if necessary) to others in your department and to non-academics of similar social background, here's the the breakdown by rank:

That particular ethicist in your department vs. others in your department:
Undegrad: 2.9
Grad: 3.5
Adjunct: 3.6
Assistant: 3.0
Associate: 3.8
Full: 4.1
Distinguished: 4.1
(ANOVA, p = .03)

That particular ethicist in your department vs. non-academics:
Undegrad: 2.6
Grad: 3.2
Adjunct: 3.5
Assistant: 3.0
Associate: 3.4
Full: 3.9
Distinguished: 4.2
(ANOVA, p = .07)

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