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Thread: Politicology

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    Utisz's Avatar
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    Politicology

    This article talks about a new paper claiming/reaffirming that conservatives are psychologically/physiologically different to liberals:

    A large body of political scientists and political psychologists now concur that liberals and conservatives disagree about politics in part because they are different people at the level of personality, psychology, and even traits like physiology and genetics.
    Not so surprising in terms of differences in personality and psychology, but physiology is an interesting one (politics is nature, not nurture?) ...

    The occasion of this revelation is a paper by John Hibbing of the University of Nebraska and his colleagues, arguing that political conservatives have a "negativity bias," meaning that they are physiologically more attuned to negative (threatening, disgusting) stimuli in their environments. (The paper can be read for free here.) In the process, Hibbing et al. marshal a large body of evidence, including their own experiments using eye trackers and other devices to measure the involuntary responses of political partisans to different types of images. One finding? That conservatives respond much more rapidly to threatening and aversive stimuli (for instance, images of "a very large spider on the face of a frightened person, a dazed individual with a bloody face, and an open wound with maggots in it," as one of their papers put it).

    In other words, the conservative ideology, and especially one of its major facets—centered on a strong military, tough law enforcement, resistance to immigration, widespread availability of guns—would seem well tailored for an underlying, threat-oriented biology.
    I haven't read the paper yet myself but I'm guessing it might hold some valuable clues as to why Madrigal is such a Marxist.

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    Limber Member floid's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Utisz View Post
    This article talks about a new paper claiming/reaffirming that conservatives are psychologically/physiologically different to liberals:



    Not so surprising in terms of differences in personality and psychology, but physiology is an interesting one (politics is nature, not nurture?) ...



    I haven't read the paper yet myself but I'm guessing it might hold some valuable clues as to why Madrigal is such a Marxist.
    The study would be more informative if tests for the "negativity bias" were done on children too young to have formed political opinions and then later see if those who did turned out to be politically conservative.

    This doesn't distinguish whether ideology is the cause of the psychology or the psychology is the cause of the ideology as those tested were likely already invested in theirs.
    Society is like a stew. If you don’t stir it up every once in a while then a layer of scum floats to the top.
    -- Edward Abbey

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    Utisz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by floid View Post
    The study would be more informative if tests for the "negativity bias" were done on children too young to have formed political opinions and then later see if those who did turned out to be politically conservative.

    This doesn't distinguish whether ideology is the cause of the psychology or the psychology is the cause of the ideology as those tested were likely already invested in theirs.
    Very good point, yes: the old correlation versus causation problem. However, if the negativity bias were even just a good predictor for political leaning (as opposed to a cause), I think that would be an interesting (weaker) result of itself.

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    Hasta Siempre Madrigal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Utisz View Post
    Not so surprising in terms of differences in personality and psychology, but physiology is an interesting one (politics is nature, not nurture?) ...
    I read the article and it isn't as long as it seems - 80% of that is peer review (which I like to think I'll read, but probably won't). I don't think they established that political conservatism can be attributed to nature at all. Especially not genetics. Check the "causal order" part on page 8 and it doesn't really say anything except that there is evidence (albeit scant) to support the idea that strong tendencies influencing political opinions later in life are formed in early childhood. Even if this is true, it does not mean there is anything genetic about political orientation, since psychology has studied personality traits in children and their relation to events dating all the way back to fetal development.

    I can certainly believe that certain personality traits may be more inclined to one or another political orientation. The question, I think, is how immutable that is. Not only whether it is something you can change later in life (as in, do political debates make any bloody sense?), but also whether certain inclinations can actually be prevented through an adequate environment (both on an individual and social level). I think that's what interests us, at least as a species that fancies itself smart enough to influence minds in order to change the course of events at will and ultimately guide human history. This is a fantasy both liberals and conservatives share equally. Cynicism (and fear) before the idea of change is a conservative trait, but they too wish to win hearts and minds for their (often reactionary) causes.

    I thought this was an interesting thing to note:

    Quote Originally Posted by article
    Another approach to learning more about the nature of the relationship between elevated negativity bias and political conservatism is to note the instances in which it may not apply. Several examples come to mind. Conservatives are eager for protection from out-groups, criminals, and pathogens but less concerned with accidental shootings, environmental degradation, and poverty. Liberals' positions are just the opposite. It may be the case that conservatives are particularly attuned to threats by an identifiable, malevolent, volitional force such as a bad guy with a gun. Or, perhaps attitudes toward longer term and arguably more amorphous threats such as climate change, pollution, and income inequality are not as connected to negativity biases.
    Heh.

    Here's another bit I think is interesting and which is also mentioned in the newspiece:

    Quote Originally Posted by article
    Apparently, being responsive and attentive to negative aspects of the environment does not lead to depressive personalities. In fact, it may be that limiting the consequences of threats is a more manageable and defined goal than is pursuing novel experiences.
    That has got to be true. It should be safer - and therefore more conducive to happiness - to limit oneself to what is familiar than to explore the unknown. There is a reason why intellectuals are portrayed as depressive people by popular culture. The question is whether we are here to be happy.

    I haven't read the paper yet myself but I'm guessing it might hold some valuable clues as to why Madrigal is such a Marxist.
    I dunno, it seems like I'd be lumped with the conservatives on "need for closure" and "rejection of ambiguity". There is a question they asked test subjects: would they feel enthusiastic about exploring other points of view after they've made up their mind on an issue? My answer would be "not really." I could enjoy a debate but I'll already "know" I'm going to be right. The article does explain the contradictions in conservative ideologies though (not being consistently conservative on every issue, such as libertarians, according to them). I should think the left also englobes its contradictions, especially if we're talking about the, uh, bountiful Lord's vineyard that is Marxism.
    Quote Originally Posted by Hephaestus View Post
    Heh. We've been here years now.

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    Persona Oblongata OrionzRevenge's Avatar
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    Hmmmm, Geno-political Research.

    It reminds of the great fun we had elsewhere last week when a conservative member, that I debate AGW with a lot, posted a thread about this article:

    Liberalism Caused By Defective Chromosome
    http://witscience.org/liberalism-cau...ve-chromosome/

    ...and was totally oblivious to the fact that it was outlandish and Onion-ish satire.

    The new disease, Blacks Disorder, is named after Dr. Amanda Black, who first discovered the chromosomal replication abnormality and later headed the research project at W.I.T.’s applied genetics department...
    I think it is worth noting that Hibbing et. al. are three guys working in the Political Science Department (2 @ Nebraska, 1 @ Rice) and not Psychology, or god forbid, Genetics or Evolutionary Biology. The Paper is mostly 9 pages of supportive historical research (what one might expect from a Political Science orientation) and a page where they draw conclusions from those prior efforts.

    Mother Jones being Mother Jones, picked up on this:

    Ultimate Causes?
    ...
    One possibility is that a strong negativity bias was extremely
    useful in the Pleistocene. Compared with the modern
    era, existence then was much more likely to be terminated
    prematurely at the hands of other human beings or by accidents
    involving wild animals or natural disasters (Pinker
    2011). Threats were palpable and medical treatment for
    pathogens and injuries was ineffective. In such an environment,
    a heightened negativity bias would be advantageous.
    In modern life, on the other hand, threats are less immediate
    and the selection pressures for elevated negativity
    biases have likely been reduced, opening the door for substantial
    genetic variation at relevant loci...
    The remaining 44 pages of the PDF document are devoted to Open Peer Commentary that, overall, is not a standing ovation.

    And therein you can't help but smell the reek of Liberal Elitism perverting science to political ends. The spin being that conservatives are our Paleolithic Ancestors still in the gene-pool.

    Let science be un-bashful in looking at all things, but not encumbered by the shackles of Political Agenda that it has so often been enslaved by.

    People are People are People, and if you honestly look, you see just as much fear and reactionary knee-jerks coming from the left.
    These conclusions also do not explain the very common human coin of the realm of oft seen transition to a more conservative frame of mind as we age.
    Creativity is the residue of time wasted. ~ Albert Einstein

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    Meh, political views seem to be relatively predictable in the U.S. based on demographic groups (and of course there are outliers, but there are definite trends). An even better predictor (which seems true all across the globe) is whether or not someone grew up in a rural area.

    I can pull up some statistics for sure if anyone doubts me, although they will only include mainstream politics.

    To me, this points to nurture. I think if it were nature, we would be seeing more variation across demographic groups and in urban and rural areas.

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    Mens bona regnum possidet ferrus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Madrigal View Post
    I dunno, it seems like I'd be lumped with the conservatives on "need for closure" and "rejection of ambiguity". There is a question they asked test subjects: would they feel enthusiastic about exploring other points of view after they've made up their mind on an issue? My answer would be "not really." I could enjoy a debate but I'll already "know" I'm going to be right. The article does explain the contradictions in conservative ideologies though (not being consistently conservative on every issue, such as libertarians, according to them). I should think the left also englobes its contradictions, especially if we're talking about the, uh, bountiful Lord's vineyard that is Marxism.
    There is something suggestive about the fact thought that the hard-line Stalinists in the later days of the Soviet Union were often regarded as 'conservatives' including by their rivals within the party - the 'liberals' - terms which are kind of semantically suggestive. They were often people who had a lot of psychological investment in the Stalinist bureaucratic mechanisms despite being very anti-tradition insofar as that represented the Burkean model of it. Which to me points to conservatism being as much a psychological tendency rooted in social and political circumstances more than a coherent set of beliefs. What are now regarded as conservatives were the 'bourgeois radicals' of the early 19th century.
    Die Logik ist keine Lehre, sondern ein Spiegelbild der Welt. Die Logik ist transcendental. - Wittgenstein

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    What are now regarded as conservatives were the 'bourgeois radicals' of the early 19th century
    Well, nationalism in the 19th century was considered to be a radical ideology.

    This is one example:

    Giuseppe Garibaldi

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    The Pompatus of Love C.J.Woolf's Avatar
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    Another approach to learning more about the nature of the relationship between elevated negativity bias and political conservatism is to note the instances in which it may not apply. Several examples come to mind. Conservatives are eager for protection from out-groups, criminals, and pathogens but less concerned with accidental shootings, environmental degradation, and poverty. Liberals' positions are just the opposite. It may be the case that conservatives are particularly attuned to threats by an identifiable, malevolent, volitional force such as a bad guy with a gun. Or, perhaps attitudes toward longer term and arguably more amorphous threats such as climate change, pollution, and income inequality are not as connected to negativity biases.
    Perhaps it's because liberals are better at judging risk than conservatives?
    Your gardening sucks and your avocados ain't fruitin'. -- Sappho the Maestro

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    Tawaci ki a Gnaska ki Osito Polar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Slab_Bulkhead View Post
    To me, this points to nurture. I think if it were nature, we would be seeing more variation across demographic groups and in urban and rural areas.
    Actually, if you stop thinking of it just as a physiological phenomenon specific to humans, the urban/rural difference is evident in other organisms as well such as mice, bats and dogs. Urban ones develop in a way that's more neurologically complex.
    "I don't have psychological problems." --Madrigal

    "When you write about shooting Polemarch in the head, that's more like a first-person view, like you're there looking down the sight of the gun." --Utisz

    David Wong, regarding Chicago
    Six centuries ago, the pre-Colombian natives who settled here named this region with a word which in their language means "the Mouth of Shadow". Later, the Iroquois who showed up and inexplicably slaughtered every man, woman and child renamed it "Seriously, Fuck that Place". When French explorer Jacques Marquette passed through the area he marked his map with a drawing of a brownish blob emerging from between the Devil's buttocks.

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