Tribal Politics and the Liberal Psychologist

The day after the 2016 election, psychologists went to work and met with patients, silently questioning who was sitting across from them.  Is this a Trump voter? A Clinton voter? Third party? Did they even vote? Politics of the therapy room became quite personal on November 9, 2016. And we are a big part of the problem.

The majority of psychologists are liberal (Duarte et al., 2014; Heflick, 2011; Inbar & Lammers, 2012; Konnikova, 2014). Graduate school and CE courses on multicultural issues may have helped us understand ethnicity and microaggressions (kind of); however, most of us never really learned to co-mingle with others of different political persuasions and tax brackets. If you voted for Clinton and do not know someone who voted for Trump, you are living in a bubble. I don’t mean your best friend’s uncle that voted for Trump, but someone that you would go out to coffee with or someone you just had over for dinner.  

During an interview with Charlie Rose on 11/17/2016, Jon Stewart, formerly of the Daily Show on Comedy Central, said, “America is not natural. Natural is tribal. We’re fighting against thousands of years of human behavior and history. ... That’s what’s exceptional about America. This ain’t easy.”

Ravi Iyer, Ph.D., is a social psychologist and executive director of, a website that supports research on intergroup relations. In the January 2017 edition of the APA Monitor, Iyer spoke on tribal politics. Iyer said that people are increasingly surrounding themselves with like-minded neighbors, both in their real life neighborhoods and online communities. In order to meet others that are different from us, it takes intention and effort. Furthermore, when asked what psychologists can do to bridge these divides, Iyer said, “… relationships can change people.” Relationships, rather than policy arguments, tend to help people understand differing political views.

We have become complacent. Too comfortable. However, relationships are what we do best. As American Psychologists, we need to be in the business of being more intentional in bridging political and social divides in our personal lives. This will ultimately help us in the therapy room.

If you are like most psychologists, you live in a liberal urban or suburban community. You are likely more comfortable checking out the new Indian restaurant in Uptown than going to a small town diner. Challenge: take a road trip to a diner in a small town. Eavesdrop on conversations. Chat up the waitstaff. Talk about your children and their behavior problems, your bad knee, how you paid too much for car tires. Ask about their community, favorite restaurants, their schools, their kids. Mention that you are a psychologist. Chances are, there are few psychologists in this rural community and, if asked about famous psychologists, they will name Fraser or Freud.  On your way out, smile, say something nice about their town, the food, leave a big tip. As you leave, walk across the new bridge that you just built.

Restaurant recommendations:

  • Jac’s Bar and Grill, Chatfield, MN
    129 Main Street, Chatfield, MN 55923
    Try the Irish nachos. 
  • Merlin’s Family Restaurant, Princeton, MN
    504 19th Ave. N., Princeton, MN  55371
    Breakfast served all day; try the strawberry or butterscotch malt.
  • Village Square of Fountain, Fountain, MN
    99 Main Street, Fountain, MN 55935
    No website
    Try the rhubarb pie

Yasmine Moideen, Ph.D., LP, is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Shoreview, MN. Dr. Moideen specializes in working with children and consults to Central Pediatrics clinic. She is active on the Minnesota Psychological Association as Secretary of the Governing Council and as interim co-chair of the Multicultural Committee and Division. Dr. Moideen is an adjunct faculty member at St. Mary’s University Doctoral Counseling Psychology Program. To find out more about Dr. Moideen, please visit


Duarte, J. L., Crawford, J. T., Stern, C., Haidt, J., Jussim, L., & Tetlock, P. E. (2014). Political Diversity Will Improve Social Psychological Science. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 1-54. doi:10.1017/s0140525x14000430

Heflick, N. A. (2011, March 09). Does psychology have a liberal bias? Retrieved from

Inbar, Y., & Lammers, J. (2012). Political Diversity in Social and Personality Psychology. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 7(5), 496-503. doi:10.1177/1745691612448792

Konnikova, M. (2014, October 30). Is Social Psychology Biased Against Republicans? The New Yorker.

News, C. (2016). Jon Stewart on why Donald Trump is a "repudiation of Republicans". Retrieved January 01, 2017, from

Winerman, L. (2017). 5 Questions for Ravi Iyer. Monitor on Psychology, 48(1), 27-28.


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Michael Hunter - Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Maybe instead of us not being tribal enough we are being too tribal; maybe instead all of us thinking of ourselves primariy as fellow Americans we have made our tribe so much smaller.

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