April 5, 2014

"This Machine Can Tell Whether You're Liberal or Conservative."

"John Hibbing and his colleagues are pioneering research on the physiological underpinnings of political ideology."
It all adds up, according to Hibbing, to what he calls a "negativity bias" on the right. Conservatives, Hibbing's research suggests, go through the world more attentive to negative, threatening, and disgusting stimuli—and then they adopt tough, defensive, and aversive ideologies to match that perceived reality.
ADDED: The term "negativity bias" reveals Hibbing's own bias, because one could just as well characterize the same phenomenon as positivity toward the world one lives in and has known over time. Why stress the negativity toward threats to one's normal world rather than the love for what one seeks to protect?

52 comments:

Michael K said...

All I had to do was look at the source,

Godot said...

So Harry Reid's a conservative?

MnMark said...

"John Hibbing and his colleagues are pioneering research on the physiological underpinnings of political ideology."

Adolf Hitler would have approved. Surely there is some sort of defect in the brains of people who disagree with our progressive fundamentalism! Let us *scientifically* establish their inferiority!

carrie said...

Gee, I never thought that having a strong sense of what was right and wrong was negative. I always considered it positive and as the basis for a happy, ordered life.

Fritz said...

Another way of saying a conservative is a liberal who's been mugged by reality.

ddh said...

So many American liberals these days are reactionary bluenoses interested in old-fashioned mid-20th century centralization of power. Mother Jones seems to be reassuring its baby boomer readers that they are still up to date. Free thinkers, every one of them, all thinking alike--or else.

Ron Nelson said...

Seems like hogwash (a negative feeling). Freedom, independence, personal (not collective) accountability, etc seem very positive to me.

It is true that I have negative feelings toward utopianism, command economies, borrowing money from future generations to pay current entitlements, having others decide how money I have earned should be spent.

PB Reader said...

I read that yesterday, but I can't evaluate a study discussed in the popular press. It seems like it has the characteristics of liberal hogwash.

However, I'm not sure why being threat-aware is a "negative" characteristic and paying more attention to possible danger as opposed to peaceful children is a bad thing. It kind of keeps those peaceful children safe.

jr565 said...

So are liberals the people walking through tough neighborhoods looking at the buildings oblivious to the fav that they are about to get mugged?

jr565 said...

Conservatives, Hibbing's research suggests, go through the world more attentive to negative, threatening, and disgusting stimuli—and then they adopt tough, defensive, and aversive ideologies to match that perceived reality.

so republicans are attentive and liberals are oblivious to harsh realities?

Skeptical Voter said...

Well you might say that a conservative mind (a) recognizes that there actually is Evil in this world; or (b) takes a tragic view of life; or (c) has come to terms with the fact that some people in this world are just no damned good.

Anyone of the three characteristics above might lead a person to become more cautious, more defensive, or perish the thought "negative".

OTOH he or she is not going to go through life with a Lucky Chucky Smiley Idiot Face. Pollyanna was a moron.

MnMark said...

Gee, I never thought that having a strong sense of what was right and wrong was negative. I always considered it positive and as the basis for a happy, ordered life.

It depends on what you think is right and wrong. If your vision of the right involves forcing your vision on others, it's not a positive for anyone else.

However if your vision of the right involves freedom as the highest value, as the moral good, then that automatically leaves space for those who disagree. A country that puts freedom first, for example, leaves the option for those who value equality to form voluntary communes and work out their socialist utopias there without taking away everyone else's option not to participate.

Hagar said...

Conservatives think this is a sinful world; a vale of tears, man goes from the stench of the didie to the stench of the shroud, and it takes all we can do with prayer and hard work just to get through it with our shirts on and perhaps leave a little for our children.

Liberals think that, except for a few kulaks - which they can find and re-educate if they just try a little harder - this is the best of all possible worlds, so let us eat drink and be merry and the Good Lord will take care of us tomorrow. (And if He doesn't, we can always tax the savings of the Republicans!)

Big Mike said...

The term "negativity bias" reveals Hibbing's own bias

Damn right!

Malesch Morocco said...

Because we have to read conservatives out of the human race, you know.

cubanbob said...

It all adds up, according to Hibbing, to what he calls a "negativity bias" on the right. Conservatives, Hibbing's research suggests, go through the world more attentive to negative, threatening, and disgusting stimuli—and then they adopt tough, defensive, and aversive ideologies to match that perceived reality."

These guys would have fit in perfectly in the 1970's Soviet Union.

Joe said...

Phrenology revisited.

madAsHell said...

Does it count the bumper stickers on the rear bumper?

The Godfather said...

Gee, here I've spent over 5 decades reading, thinking, talking, listening about politics (in the broadest sense) and believe that I've come to some reasonable, although tentative, conclusions about how our society ought to be governed, how freedom and order should be balanced, etc., and now this guy says none of this matters, I'm just hard-wired to believe what I believe because I have an averse reaction to a spider on someone's face, or a picture of someone eating worms. How handy for Hibbing! He doesn't have to engage my arguments, or present evidence to refute my conclusions: It's all just physiology.

If these arguments were accepted, it would be the end of (classical) liberalism, and indeed of democracy -- why count votes if they are nothing but the product of mindless physical impulses?

rhhardin said...

He sort of right.

The problems that respond well to direct action have already been solve.

What's left is problems that respond to direct action with perverse consequences.

The left believes in direct action, the right believes in perverse consequences.

By evolution, the right is nearly always right.

Kids don't know about perverse consequences yet.

"If everybody stands on their toes, everybody can see better."

Rusty said...

Did they get a grant for this?

Beta Rube said...

Thank God the lefties were not being tough, defensive, and aversive when they purged the Mozilla guy and demanded compliance from the florists and bakers.

wildswan said...

This is the same phony science as from the group saying that there is such as thing as a "red brain", (Republicans)and a blue brain, (Democrats).

My whole family was Democratic from the day they got off the ship from Ireland in Boston in 1858 till the 1970's. Now it's divided. I myself used to be a Democrat, then an anarchist, now a conservative. So that is why I regard all these genetic "discoveries" as phony science. In some cases that I know of these "scientists" are epidemiologists who have had a PhD for less than ten years and who have published more than fifty peer reviewed articles plus several books plus speeches, lectures and posters at annual meetings of scientific societies. This is very common among those linking race and crime. The tenure committee at their university is probably impressed. To me it just seems very questionable.

And by the way this same group of epidemiologists has "found" that there is a gene for someone who will get mugged more than once. But they haven't looked to see whether the victim gene goes with being a liberal or a conservative. Watch that space.

Rose said...

So conservatives look at a series of pictures, register the good and happy ones and say, "Cool," Then see the messed up, damaged or dirty ones and say"Let's fix this."

I'm not sure what the take-away is what Liberals see - - they're just ok with it? They shrug and have no incentive to get to work fixing things? I guess that's it.

Makes me glad to be conservative, and to side with conservatives, who are the kind of people who looked at the impossible and said, we CAN do this, and carved their way across a continent. The libs look at it and say, no we can't. But they loved being told they were a yes we can group, thus, Obama.

LarsPorsena said...

Political phrenology.

Paul said...

"So many American liberals these days are reactionary bluenoses interested in old-fashioned mid-20th century centralization of power. Mother Jones seems to be reassuring its baby boomer readers that they are still up to date. Free thinkers, every one of them, all thinking alike--or else."

Yep. "Liberals" are conservative reactionaries clinging to a failed twentieth century model of social and political order, unable to adjust their views in spite of overwhelming empirical evidence that their models have failed catastrophically, and full of righteous fury towards anyone who challenges them or their worldview.

Conservatives are interested in conserving the classical liberal model of individual liberty and minimally obtrusive government.

Liberals are really the conservative reactionaries, fearful and authoritarian, totalitarian even.

Conservatives are the true liberals whose overwhelming concern is...liberty.

Black is white and white is black. Up is down.

And we are, in a word, screwed.

Ambrose said...

Seems like every two years or so some idiot publishes a study showing that conservatism is a mental disability.

damikesc said...

Want to know why sciences like psychology are held in incredibly low-esteem? BS like this.

ken in sc said...

This is not new. Leftists have been engaged in pathologizing their opponents since forever. I remember reading articles in Psychology Today back in the 60s about the Authoritarian Personality disorder exhibited by so-called right-wing politicians, like Barry Goldwater. They'd lock us all up if they could.

Anglelyne said...

Was Haidt's The Righteous Mind ever discussed around here? One of his observations was that while conservatives can understand and empathize with the liberal views they disagree with, liberals don't "get" why conservatives think as they do.

My daughter told me that this book was assigned in one of her college classes. By her report, the only insight about differing thought processes that her (liberal) professor gleaned from the book (or wished to discuss, at any rate) was that "conservatives are fearful paranoids and liberals are curious and open-minded".

Lol.

Drago said...

Ambrose: "Seems like every two years or so some idiot publishes a study showing that conservatism is a mental disability."

It's nothing less than what the Soviet psychologists and Cuban psychologists did with those who wanted greater freedoms.

They basically came up with a diagnosis of mental defect for those individuals.

After all, who could be against what the left is peddling?

Why, you'd have to be an idiot to turn down the enlightened leadership of a Nancy Pelosi and obama and, for that matter, Stalin.

Tyrone Slothrop said...

The left owns negativity. One of the things that drove me away from liberalism was the incessant, knee-jerk activism, the perception that something was terribly wrong with everything, and everything needed to be changed immediately. I started to ask myself, if traditional values are so terrible, how did they get to be traditional? Change will happen, but it is better to fight it. It is the only way to ensure that what changes come will have been tested.

jr565 said...

carrie wrote:
Gee, I never thought that having a strong sense of what was right and wrong was negative. I always considered it positive and as the basis for a happy, ordered life.


How can you say soemthing is right without at the same time also saying things are wrong? So youd be "imposing your morality on others" if you declared right to be right.
OF course,liberals have no problem imposing their morality. Look at gay marriage and shunning people who give money to promote traditional marriage. They just like to pretend that they're not doing it.
Their bugaboo is Christian morality. (Even though they always use christian morality to justify their own) not liberal morality. All should be on the same page as them, because they believe it to be so. Otherwise your head goes on the chopping block.

Anonymous said...

I've heard these tired descriptions of conservatives being "fearful" and "negative" many times before. In my experience Conservatives (especially the more libertarian leaning ones) tend to value independence, self reliance, responsibility, and personal accountability for one's actions. They don't expect or feel they're entitled to handouts from a government. They dislike laws and regulations that needlessly limit the personal freedom of themselves as well as all decent people. They trust regular people to do the right thing more often than not whether a large overreaching government is telling them to or not.

While liberals on the other hand tend to mistrust other people. They want laws and regulations to protect them from their fellow man because they don't trust them by and large. They don't trust regular people with guns, only a sanctioned few. They don't believe that regular people will help each other out during tough times without the coercion of a big government.

So which group do you think is truly "fearful" and "negative" and which group is trusting and positive?

David said...

So liberals, then, are inattentive to negative, threatening, and disgusting stimuli? That ... seems about right.

Birches said...

Riddle me this: If this is true, why are conservatives consistently measured happier than liberals?

Junk science.

ronalddewitt said...

On the other hand, there is Jonathan Haidt who claims that the distinguishing feature between conservatives and liberals is that the conservatives have a more balanced set of values.

Anonymous said...

and then they adopt tough, defensive, and aversive ideologies to match that {perceived) reality.

As usual there is problem with the paradigm and conservatives do nothing to address it.

Get rid of one word "perceived" and see how much better it is.

Of course conservatives look at all sides of a problem and weigh the pros and cons before jumping off the cliff in the dark into the unknown......

Anonymous said...

"Liberals" (and by "liberals" I mean of course "tax-happy coercion-addicted State-humpers" seem to store up a lot of negativity when it comes to individual liberty, and those of us who value it.

Big Mike said...

It's pretty simple, actually. If you believe in junk science and theories that are at variance with real world experience but nonetheless are cloaked in pseudo-scientific jargon, then 9 to 1 you're a liberal. Things like Anthropogenic Global Warming, Keynsian economics, Marxism, flat earth.

If you tend to believe the evidence of your eyes and are mistrustful of glibness, then you're probably a conservative.

Anonymous said...

And the liberals? Ahh, who do you think is in charge of producing the negative, threatening, and disgusting stimuli?

ALP said...

"This Machine Can Tell Whether You're Idealistic or Realistic."

FIFY

Gahrie said...

This is not new. Leftists have been engaged in pathologizing their opponents since forever. I remember reading articles in Psychology Today back in the 60s about the Authoritarian Personality disorder exhibited by so-called right-wing politicians, like Barry Goldwater. They'd lock us all up if they could.

And the country would grind to a halt within six months.

Anonymous said...

Sorry for the long post.

I remember Martha Nussbaum's work on disgust a while back, and subsequent work by others tying neuroscience to our direct experience of the world and back to a Humean empiricism (all of our knowledge arises from experience).

Our disgust response should not be taken as grounds for genuine knowledge, is the idea, or not mistaken for it.

One example might be while sitting in a room smelling of shit, we're more on edge, and liable to be affected by our sensory information to misuse our capacity for judgment.

So if I flash you a picture of someone while flies are buzzing around and there's an awful smell and you will associate those sensory experiences with that picture.

Clearly, one application of this idea is against the disgust response people use against homosexuality (or outcasts, or poor, smelly people), and justification enough for one's beliefs and/or current law. Proponents argues such a response should be overcome by our commitment to other more established products of our reason.

I should note that Nussbaum also argues against religion as a source for the moral laws and laws of man (homosexuality is a sin), but places the burden upon herself to come up with a rational and/or philosophical platform upon which we would derive our moral and 'regular' laws.

In the halls of popularization, poly sci psy, I can easily see some ideas becoming a reaffirmation of one's own experience as 'positive' when one's own experience is already guided and confirmed by a set of principles one hasn't examined.

In other words, this can easily devolve into a 'dog people are dirty and cat people are clean' type of thing', or a reassertion of disgust upon different grounds.

So, liberals are 'open' to experience, and conservatives are 'closed, or vice versa.

Yeah, yeah. That just sounds dangerous. Imagine people have this kind of justification for their established political affinities.

'Those people were born that way, Johnny.'

And psychology and political science are actual sciences....

***My own reading has led me to develop (reaffirm?) my own skepticism towards any rational justification of universal moral laws derived from reason, or rational thought etc.

This usually makes me skeptical of the entire liberal project, for what it's worth.

tim in vermont said...

Liberals are gullible easy prey to demagogues. They accuse the right of wanting strong man leaders, but is a strong man really required to make the govt leave us alone?

tim in vermont said...

Lefties even write academic papers that purport to show that the end justifies the means and liberals swallow the output from these self confessed liars like so much unicorn crap. (You know unicorns crap cotton candy.)

"It appears that news media and some pro-environmental organizations have the tendency to accentuate or even exaggerate the damage caused by climate change. This article provides a rationale for this tendency by using a modified International Environmental Agreement (IEA) model with asymmetric information. We find that the information manipulation has an instrumental value, as it ex post induces more countries to participate in an IEA, which will eventually enhance global welfare."

http://ajae.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2014/02/24/ajae.aau001.abstract

Anonymous said...

Did they try measuring disgust sensitivity to things like environmental pollution? Haidt defines his "purity" axis in religious and sexual terms; but it should not be forgotten that the word "pollution" has a long history—to the Romans it meant desecration, and to the Victorians it meant masturbation (desecrating the shrine of one's body). Now it's used for things like leaving rubbish by the roadside. I wonder whether liberals would show stronger aversive reactions to that particular stimulus? It may be easier for liberals to think of stimuli that offend conservatives irrationally then of stimuli that offend liberals irrationally.

I wonder what the machine says about libertarians? I seem to recall that Haidt found that libertarians had exceptionally low disgust reactions.

mtrobertsattorney said...

Nussbaum "...places the burden upon herself to come up with a rational and/or philosophical platform upon which we would derive our moral and 'regular' laws."

And, of course, she failed miserably, abandoned her burden, and quickly moved on to another project.

kcom said...

"It may be easier for liberals to think of stimuli that offend conservatives irrationally then of stimuli that offend liberals irrationally."

Perhaps a picture of the Chief Justice with his family would be a good test. They seemed to have an irrational reaction of disgust to that, if I recall correctly.

Rusty said...

I got a machine that can tell if you're a douchebag or not.
Guess what john Hibbing.

Fernandinande said...

The "studies" are worthless; first they define "conservative" as some collection of negative traits, then they claim conservatives have negative traits.

Anonymous said...

But if the machine finds out you're conservative, can it punish you for it? That's what matters now.