BehaviorismPosted: July 11, 2012
It’s easy to make fun of mid-20th century style behaviorism (Two behaviorists meet in a bar, one says to the other, “You’re doing well, how am I?”). But my recent sociological research into the machinations of academic search committees has turned me totally to the perspective that our subjective narratives are nothing but post-hoc and self-serving rationalizations that are utterly irrelevant to understanding the mechanisms of any decision making process.
I’ve been asking lots of PIs I know how short lists are made. They squirm. Then they say things like “it’s the whole package,” or “we want to see a couple good papers and a solid proposal.” References, of course, matter, but most deny that who wrote it matters very much.
Then, I review the short lists that, you know, actually get made. Pedigree, pedigree, and…oh, looky-loo…pedigree. I mean seriously, check these guys for hip dysplasia, because whatever is going on with their papers (or lack thereof) they are thoroughfuckingbreds of the Bio-Aristocracy. So I do some back-of-the-napkin calculations. How many jobs are there in my field each year? How many living Nobel prize winners and other top dogs in my field who are writing letters of reference for my competition? I have good papers and a brand name postdoc institution but no heavy-weight references, so I’m guessing my fate is to be strung along as an also-ran on a handful of shortlists before the blue ribbon goes to some puggle who, between his/her PhD and postdoc advisors, unites two large branches of the Neurotree.