- Becky R. FordBecky R. FordDepartment of Communication, University of California, Santa Barbara
The term political correctness (PC) has been used since the 1930s in Maoist China, where it meant fall in line with the Communist Party’s politics. In the 1980s, there was a revival of the use of the term. For some, PC now primes the prohibition of speech that is seen as derogatory toward historically marginalized groups, and well as the encouragement of more multicultural perspectives. Others see PC in a pejorative sense, thinking of liberal extremism. Since the start of the liberal PC movement in the 1980s, people ranging from sensationalist conservative politicians to serious and thoughtful academics have raised concerns about the negative consequences of PC. Those in support of PC claim that using more inclusive language representing more diverse voices in college classrooms helps improve the lives of members of marginalized groups. On the other hand, many professors and university health professionals have raised concerns that PC culture is too extreme, and the norms are preventing students from developing critical thinking skills. Despite the fact that the debate has being going on for nearly 30 years, little has been resolved.
Though many have written their opinions of PC, few have theorized about why it exists or how it functions. Furthermore, although empirical research has peripherally examined the effects of some PC-related issues, very little empirical research has explicitly tested the effects of PC. In order to encourage further theorizing and empirical research about this topic, a short history of the PC movement is presented, a background on social norms and ideology helps provide useful insight for understanding PC, and the small amount of empirical research that explicitly examines PC, such as research on language and the pressure to appear PC, is presented to help with ideas for future research.