December 6, 2015

In the middle of a NYT column explaining research into human psychology: "It had no effect on people who identified as liberal."

So there's this supposedly serious research into how the mind works, explained by an academic, Jessica Stern, a professor at Boston University’s Pardee School of Global Studies:
[T]he experimental psychologists Tom Pyszczynski, Sheldon Solomon and Jeff Greenberg are known for having developed what’s called terror management theory, which which suggests that much of human behavior is motivated by an unconscious terror of death. What saves us from this terror is culture. Cultures provide ways to view the world that “solve” the existential crisis engendered by the awareness of death.

The theory says that when people are reminded of their mortality — especially if the reminder doesn’t register consciously, as happens after a brutal act of terror — they will more readily enforce their cultural worldviews. If our cultural worldview is xenophobic, nationalistic or moralistic, we are prone to become more so. Hundreds of experiments, all over the world, have confirmed these findings.

If we believe guns will protect us from harm, a terrorist strike will further strengthen our views. If we blame Muslims or white supremacists or the government for whatever is wrong in our world, we will become more fearful and more certain about who is to blame. For example, psychological experiments found that being reminded both of one’s own mortality and the attacks of Sept. 11 increased support for military interventions in the Middle East among people who identified as politically conservative. It had no effect on people who identified as liberal.
The column goes on to other subjects, so I was brought up short. What kind of serious scientific research — hundreds of experiments, all over the world — produces a finding about how the human mind works and sees a complete exemption for liberals? No effect!

I haven't read the research, but it's possible that the liberal mind is fundamentally different from the rest of us humans.

Maybe whether or not you are liberal is the most basic thing going on inside us. The unconscious terror of death, the instinctive resort to cultural worldviews, the hardening of resolve to protect and fight — maybe that happens in some people and not others and the others are those who identify as liberal.

Maybe that's how you know you're a liberal: You watched the planes hit the towers, the people hanging out the windows begging for help, the horrible collapse, and you thought, this is a complex phenomenon, and we must contemplate the reasons why this is happening and take care not to do anything rash.

150 comments:

Laslo Spatula said...

"Maybe that's how you know you're a liberal: You watched the planes hit the towers, the people hanging out the windows begging for help, the horrible collapse, and you thought, this is a complex phenomenon, and we must contemplate the reasons why this is happening and take care not to do anything rash."

Walk-Off Home Run, that.

Because Althouse's baseball knowledge may be incomplete: a walk-off home run is a game-ending home run by the home team. So called because the losing team ( the visiting team) then has to walk off the field.

Figured I'd explain so Meade didn't have to.

I am Laslo.

amielalune said...

What are you if you watched the towers coming down, etc. and were just PISSED? Other women in my office were literally sobbing but I wanted to go kill some terrorists. And I have never seriously wanted to kill anyone in my life. Until then.

Ann Althouse said...

"Other women in my office were literally sobbing..."

At least you didn't have to listen to coworkers discussing why America brought this attack on herself.

Ann Althouse said...

She was asking for it. Wearing those tall towers.

Laslo Spatula said...

"and take care not to do anything rash."

I'm curious if this can be boiled down to the classic 'fight or flight' dynamic, being that "a finding about how the human mind works and sees a complete exemption for liberals" removes nuance from the process.

This would possibly include 'flight' as standing stock still in indecision, not able to fight: the mouse cornered by the cat.

...I fear, though, that this will dissolve quickly into a debate on Iraq.

Bring back the Guillotine.

I am Laslo.

Tregonsee said...

Apparently the "study" shows that Liberals are lacking in an essential survival characteristic: the ability to recognize danger as, well, dangerous. Not a problem for society as long as they are in a minority, but deadly when allowed to propagate without natural limits. No doubt there is some genetic marker which can be screened for to allow removal of this defect from the gene pool. ;)

hoyden said...

This research is what passes for serious research in academia? Universities have devolved into little more than high priced, under performing Blab Schools teaching hard core liberalism.

sykes.1 said...

It seems like a pretty good bet that liberalism is, in fact, sociopathy.

F. A. Alsbach said...

Clearly this means that it's all our fault, every evil human deed and foolish act since Adam and Eve left Eden and their bad seed Caine killed Able are all our (Conservative and ever so slightly right leaning Libertarian) fault. We must surrender our obviously weaker, less agile minds to the superior abilities of our Homo-Sapien-Sapien-Sapein-Sapein (you get the idea) betters. We the foolish remnant of our Cro-Magnon forefathers are simply not worthy of their awesome greatness. Simply put we just are not smart enough to understand the depth of their sophistication and we will just have to accept that fact.
Heck, we should be grateful!

JCC said...

"...no effect on...liberals..."

Once again, the irony escapes those writing the article.

Quite amazing.

"She was asking for it."

Captured precisely.

MikeR said...

Probably just bad research. There's lots of it.

Saint Croix said...

It had no effect on people who identified as liberal.

The question itself suggests bias. If my doctor, in the middle of my exam, asked me what political party I belonged to, I would be suspicious. Why do you want to know that?

Why are you politicizing medical research?

And if politics is part of your study, if you are attempting to study politics and the dynamics of fear within political ideology, you have to be on guard against your own bias. For instance, and this is rather obvious, you have to make sure you have people from both parties doing the research. If liberals are testing people and finding that conservatives are fearful and liberals are not, how can you possibly think that's valid?

Ann Althouse said...

"I'm curious if this can be boiled down to the classic 'fight or flight' dynamic, being that "a finding about how the human mind works and sees a complete exemption for liberals" removes nuance from the process."

Yeah, I thought about that as I was writing the post. Animals — and we are animals — evolve their strategies and pass them on when they can survive to reproduce. Fight and flight are the 2 main strategies (crudely divided into 2 things, perhaps because the difference between fighting and running is so conspicuous), and we must all contain some mix of those 2 alternatives.

But fight or flight is the response to an immediate personal threat. What are the relevant strategies when the threat is more distant or is currently aimed at others in your group? Ignoring threats and continuing to live in your normal successful day-to-day fashion really is one choice. Something will kill you in the end — the linked column refers to the greater risk of dying in some non-terrorism-related way — so just keep going as if the threat is nothing. Another alternative is to hide or lie low and maximize the chance that the enemy will aim at somebody else. Or hold back and wait for somebody with a stronger fight instinct to step up and fight for you. Or reach out to the enemy and appease and please. Surrender and accept what you can get from your conquerer. Not everyone believes the old motto "Live free or die." Some think: Okay, so I'll have no freedom. At least I'm alive. And I wasn't doing much of anything with that freedom anyway. I'll be fine. Too much choice is actually something of a burden. Tiny house, a nourishing bowl of whole grains 3 times a day, free medical care. What was supposed to be so terrible about slavery? I can rock slavery.

tim maguire said...

So many things wrong with this. Maybe not the study, but the interpretation of the results. Liberals responded exactly the same way conservatives did--they hardened their cultural worldview. It just happens that their cultural woeldview is that we will be safer if we punish ourselves. The conservative view is supposedly that guns protect us, so exposure to danger increases the desire for guns. The liberal worldview is supposedly that guns endanger us so exposure to danger increases the desire to ban guns.

Do the kids still say, "derp"? Because right now I want to.

Bob Boyd said...

Perhaps the liberal mind is not fundamentally different, but merely insulated from these effects by the sand.

Grackle said...

Smells like bullshit research to me.

False Grackle

Ann Althouse said...

I agree that the research sounds ludicrously biased, but not: "Hundreds of experiments, all over the world, have confirmed these findings."

Now, maybe it's all biased. That's one theory. An alternative is: The liberal mind is actually structured differently. I wouldn't have believed that. But I'm just seeing it as one explanation.

Diogenes of Sinope said...

If these researchers,Tom Pyszczynski, Sheldon Solomon and Jeff Greenberg, have found something which "had no effect on people who identified as liberal." but effected all other people then they should abandon their "research" on the effects of terror on beliefs and publish their startling result indicating the different workings of the liberal brain. Of course they didn't peruse that finding since they were working toward the result they wanted.

But, since psychological research is mostly unreproducible fabrication used to further the beliefs of the researchers and or gain them notoriety, it should not be used to determine policy.

Scientists Replicated 100 Psychology Studies, and Fewer Than Half Got the Same Results
http://www.sciencemag.org/content/349/6251/aac4716

Anonymous said...

Yes Althouse, it is fight or flight.

r/K selection explains much of politics and the sides people take.

Liberals have a prey mindset, and their survival is dependent on abundance of resources, because they cannot compete. That is why they view economics as zero sum, and are constantly terrified of the status quo changing, from climate change to many other things. They feel helpless with the weight of the world on them. Prey.

It's why they herd together in safe spaces. Strength in numbers for prey mindsets.

Diogenes of Sinope said...

Bottom line almost all psychological research is bullshit.

CStanley said...

As ridiculous as that study's conclusion is, I'm tempted to accept rather than contest it because it's an admission that liberals lack a basic survival instinct. This deficiency renders them incompetent so that they must recuse themselves from making policy regarding national defense and individual self defense,

Laslo Spatula said...

" What was supposed to be so terrible about slavery? I can rock slavery."

Althouse is rockin' this morning.

Love it.

I am Laslo.

Ipso Fatso said...

“It had no effect on people who identified as liberal.”
What is interesting and telling is that this finding, such as it is, had no effect on the researchers efforts to try to dig deeper and find out why or what was actually taking place with these findings. So every single person who was “liberal” in the studies reviewed showed no effect from the events that caused conservative to react? I have a hard time believing that. Group think, in my opinion, is one of the hallmarks of left wing thinking. But even given that, most liberals I know reacted very strongly (negatively) to the 9-11 attacks, for instance. All you have to do is look at Bush’s approval rating in the aftermath of 9-11 to believe that. I think they were around 90% favorable.

My guess is, is that each of these researchers identifies as a “liberal” and sees themselves as being someone who takes a measured approach to catastrophic events under all circumstances (which in their view is the correct approach) and views those who react more strongly or negatively (conservatives in this case) as not as intelligent or mature. This strikes me as a similar result to reports of “studies” in the press in the last year or so that showed that liberals were more inherently intelligent than conservatives. My experience living in an overwhelmingly left wing area for many years, doesn’t bare this out.

CStanley said...

The liberal mind is actually structured differently. I wouldn't have believed that. But I'm just seeing it as one explanation

I have no doubt that is so, and if you haven't read Jonathan Haidt yet I'd wager that you will be convinced after reading his political psychology book.

The problem with the way this author is presenting the research isn't that she draws conclusions that the liberal minds are different- it's the way she's biased to see that difference as superior. People who are confronted with mortality and lethal threats and react with a desire to retaliate and neutralize the threat are being rational. That's not to say that all potential reactions are justified or will continue to be rational on further introspection, but if you lack the basic reaction to initiate a desire to respond in self defense, then that is clearly a deficiency and not an advantage. Liberals might believe that they can operate more in the realm of the higher brain, avoiding that knee jerk primitive brain response- but only a fool would think that we don't need those protective instincts.

traditionalguy said...

Psychologists are observers. They are not fighters.

Fighters were needed to win the fight for North America and they started the true first world war when a Virginia Militia Colonel named Washington using guns captured and killed some French troops ten miles east of Pittsburgh. His men brought rifles to shoot the savages allied to France that were protecting the prized Ohio River valley.
He started the whole thing that he ended 27 years later at Yorktown.

Psychologists observe. Men in a well armed Militia of citizens of the 13 Colonial States won North America and plan to keep it. The British Empire and the Spanish Empire and the French Empire and the Algonquin Empire all wanted it too, but armed Americans killed them over and over and kept it.

The "We win and They Lose" motto is the traditional one. Mullah Obama's "We surrender" is only foreign empire psyops running out of 1600 Pennsylvaniaa Ave hoping to take North America back.

clint said...

I'd want to see that sentence expanded.

Perhaps they're just saying that although Liberals also see confirmation of their preexisting beliefs, the preexisting beliefs of the liberal are already rational beliefs, so it's totally different.

Or perhaps liberals already opposed military intervention in the Middle East overwhelmingly, so there was no "range" in the experiment to measure their increasing certainty. If that support was already within the error bars of zero, there would be no way to observe "an effect" on liberals. (e.g. Before: 20% of conservatives and 2% of liberals support a middle-eastern war, After: 40% of conservatives and 1% of liberals support a middle-eastern war. Result: Huge increase in support among conservatives, no change (within error bars) among liberals. All consistent with what "hundreds of experiments" have confirmed applying to both groups. (NB: completely made-up numbers, purely for illustrative purposes) )

Laslo Spatula said...

"The liberal mind is actually structured differently. I wouldn't have believed that. But I'm just seeing it as one explanation."

You had a previous post that referenced scientists saying there was no difference between the female and male brain.

This post's scientists are saying there is a difference between the liberal and the conservative brain.

Perhaps these are not in conflict.

Perhaps our society associates female with liberal, and male with conservative. A stereotype of a woman = a stereotype of a liberal.

Yet we all know people of both (all?) sexes that align across the ideology spectrum; the ones of the opposite sex that agree with us are often seen to be outliers.

Place 'Pajama Boy' in this context.

Thus, a liberal female feminist condemns a conservative female because the ideology trumps gender, even if the subject IS gender.

Or we are all making it up as we go along.

I am Laslo.

Mazo Jeff said...

Maybe the liberal mind has not come to accept mortality? Maybe it is a deep seated belief that "we" (liberals) are smarter and better than the unwashed masses and "we" (liberals) will find a way to live forever?

Virgil Hilts said...

Change the context and the conclusions might not sound so good to the authors:
"For example, psychological experiments found that being reminded both of one’s own mortality and Germany’s establishment of concentration camps in 1933, passage of the Nuremberg Laws of 1935, march into the Rhineland in 1936, and the Kristallnacht pogrom of 1938, increased support in 1938 for standing up to the Nazis among people (such as Churchill) who identified in Britain as politically conservative. It had no effect on people who identified as liberal."

DavidD said...

"Liberal" means whatever will advance the liberal agenda at the time.

Ann Althouse said...

"So many things wrong with this. Maybe not the study, but the interpretation of the results. Liberals responded exactly the same way conservatives did--they hardened their cultural worldview."

Yes, I thought about that too when I was writing the post. And yet the author said "no effect." That could be misreported or it could be that no effect was perceived because the mindset of the subject of the experiment was the way the researcher also felt and so what was something just looked like nothing (like the fish not noticing the water).

ddh said...

Here's another way of putting the results of the study, dubious as they are:

Liberals lack empathy. They are unable to place themselves in the position of the people in the twin towers, and they feel not much of anything when they see falling bodies. Some liberals realize that about themselves, especially those who want power in democracies. All the gibbering about "the children" and "the war on women" and the unwillingness to prosecute their side's politicians is just cover for their lack of empathy and their lust for power. The lack of empathy also would explain why so many liberals are indifferent to the consequences of the policies they advocate.

who-knew said...

" If our cultural worldview is xenophobic, nationalistic or moralistic, we are prone to become more so." And the liberals world-view is that every evil in the world is America's (or the West, or capitalism/globalism/G.W.Bush) and those views certainly and very publically became "more so" on the part of liberals, so maybe the claim is just that events didn't increase their desire for military action. Without knowing how the "hundreds of experiments" were structured in is impossible to know the level of bullshit being foisted on us, but bullshit it is.

clint said...

Prime example of this effect: the San Bernardino shooting.

Conservative reaction: Still think we can vet those Syrian refugees? (aka: See? We were right!)
Liberal reaction: Gun Control!!!!111eleventy!! (aka: See? We were right!)

The NYT editorial board was *so* strongly reinforced in their view of gun control that they dedicated the front page to an editorial for the first time in a century. So don't tell me that emotional confirmation bias doesn't affect liberals.

SJ said...

I think the editor missed something here.

For example, psychological experiments found that being reminded both of one’s own mortality and the attacks of Sept. 11 increased support for military interventions in the Middle East among people who identified as politically conservative. It had no effect on people who identified as liberal.

The word It appears to refer to one of these phrases from the previous sentence:
(A) psychological experiments
(B) being reminded of one's own mortality
(C) being reminded of one's own mortality and the attacks of Sept. 11
(D) being reminded of the attacks of Sept. 11

I find it not immediately obvious which of the four was intended by the author.

I find it highly probable that the author intended meaning (C). There is a lower probability that the author was referring to (B) or (D).

It's possible, but not probable, that the author intended (A).

And the editor didn't feel that this needed to be clarified.

Amadeus 48 said...

I suggest that Jessica Stern is repeating something that she read on the internet that sounds right to her but counter-intuitive if not preposterous to other people. This sounds like a bad mash-up of social psychology research of a dubious kind--reductive statements drawn from research involving fewer than fifty subjects most of whom are graduate students in social psychology.
Or maybe liberal minds are different. Now, if I just could define "liberal", I'd know what we are talking about. My own definition is a bit out-dated--a liberal is someone who believes in individual autonomy and freedom of thought and action to the maximum extent consistent with an orderly society. What do you think a liberal is? Is it someone like Woodrow Wilson who believes that society is best when it is run by experts with knowledge superior to that of the average person and who will may superior decisions with little input or consent from a typical citizen? Is it someone who believes that a small group of decision makers can more fairly and justly reallocate wealth among a society than the outcomes resulting from voluntary actions among individuals and firms? I think we have some definitional issues here that I doubt Jessica Stern has mastered.

Anonymous said...

So the liberal media personalities who were freaking out about anthrax in 2001 and are freaking out about AR-15s now are closet conservatives? Good to know.

M Jordan said...

I've always thought of liberalism as an imperviousness to seeing ones own self clearly. Obama, for example, is utterly impervious to events which reveal the weakness in his ideas as well as his own nature. This was on glorious display the day the camera caught him missing 20 out of 22 basketball shots. Rather than accept the fact that he really isn't much of a b-baller, he doubled down again and again. Finally, having made one, he turned on his heel and skulked away in total anger.

This is why no jokes have been allowed to be made on this president. The comedians, like the camera at the b-ball court, should be recording truth ... that's what the court jesters do. But the jesters have been banned for seven years. No cameras allowed. It's been an effective ban because racism.

By the way, Obama has not played basketball since that tragic day. He golfs ... sans cameras.

exhelodrvr1 said...

Liberal women also make better ISIS wives.

David Begley said...

So if liberalism is a brain thing couldn't a drug company develop a product to cure cut?

A company like, say, Koch Brothers Pharma?

Anonymous said...

Prey species in the wild also express lower loyalty, to both peers and their children, abandoning or eating them if more convenient. (How many has PP aborted? The morality of it isn't even a question for them.)

The diminished loyalty explains the lack of anger at 9/11, etc. In an abundant environment where the prey mindset thrives, it can simply run somewhere else.

It also explains the revulsion the opposite mindset has at abortion. Since quality types must spend time raising the best children, they are disgusted by the callow disregard for them.

Barry Dauphin said...

It is hard to believe the comment about hundreds of studies supporting their interpretation. That is pure exaggeration on the face of it. The folks who write sentences like that most definitely have a hardened worldview. There are plenty of things they did not try to measure as responses to their reminders about mortality. If Liberals are reminded about mortality, does it increase the likelihood to blame Bush?

exhelodrvr1 said...

Yes - the thought of mortality doesn't bother liberals, but these same minds need "safe spaces" to protect them from differing opinions on college campuses,

exhelodrvr1 said...

I suppose it could be that liberal brains are incapable of interpreting events accurately. That would explain both this study and an lot of other things.

Skipper said...

I guess the science is settled.

exhelodrvr1 said...

So why is it the liberals who attempt to overreact to events such as shootings, and "events" such as global warming?

Henry said...

Sounds like a true Scotsman theory.

Paul said...

Maybe liberals are stuck on stupid and just deliberately close their eyes to what is going on around them.

Big Mike said...

I haven't read the research, but it's possible that the liberal mind is fundamentally different from the rest of us humans.

Ya don't say!

Actually, I think exhelodrvr1 has it right. There are plenty of people who can reason from A to B, and from B to C, and therefore reason from A to C. But I've yet to meet a liberal in that group.

Skeptical Voter said...

Well Obama said 99.5 % of psychiatrists and psychologists agree with this clap trap so it must be true!

Steve M. Galbraith said...

Old story: Two liberals are walking down the street. They come across a battered man, laying on the ground, with bruises all over his face.

"What happened to you?" they ask him.

"Some guy jumped me and hit me and stole my wallet."

"That's terrible" said the liberals. "We must immediately find that man, he must be in desperate need of help."

n.n said...

Homo liberalis is an unprincipled species predominantly of the pro-choice cult that respects neither individual dignity nor acknowledges intrinsic value. Without coercive conversion a la Islam, it would also be an endangered species.

Anonymous said...

Just think of how the liberal progressive thinks about economics. Soak the rich, give us more. All problems are solved with more money. This is a prey mindset, because it evolved to take advantage of abundant resources. They cannot help themselves from consuming, and cannot conceive of their status quo of abundance coming to an end, but they are simultaneously terrified of it. Their greatest enemy are Republicans, not America's enemies, because they are feared just the same way as a predator threatening the tranquil, abundant field of food they found to consume until it is gone. They see the ones who want to stop the party as the epitome of evil. But, if they are not stopped, they will eat all the substance out of where they reside, and bring ruin to us all.

Milwaukee said...

I heard a liberal on a talk radio call in and explain he didn't need guns. He was absolutely positive that if a person broke into his home in the middle of the night, his powers of speech and persuasion could disarm that intruder. He could talk a home invader into peaceably leaving without harming anyone.

Liberals are the ones eaten by lions whilst on African safaris because they leave the car windows open. They have become detached from reality.

mikeyes said...

The study, done in 2008, posited that people who voted for George Bush after 9/11 had "insecure attachment processes" which lead them to not think through the issues while those who voted for Kerry had "secure attachment processes." Before you get all atwitter abouit this finding, it was only a preliminary study with a few subjects and they proposed right off the bat that liberals were open mindied thoughtful people while conservatives were absolutist and rigid. Those assumptions in themselves probably disqualifies the study as objective since it is hard to imagine that half the voters mentioned (the Bush voters) are all that way.

This study is a cause celebre' with liberals but as science, it sucks. The author of the Times article, not a social psychologist as far as I can see, cherry picked this idea for political reasons. Terror management theory is based on a 1973 book that proposed that humans are able to think and abstract thus have a fear of death. That fear, in turn, drives all of our motivations and that when faced with the prospect of death, people tend to fall back on their beliefs. Further development of this idea lead to the attachment studies which stated that securely attached people had better defenses against death but the most often cited cultural aspect was religion. This theory makes some sense, especially if you ignore the other theories that try to explain human behavior, but it, like Freudian psychology, is a tautological exercise because it always comes back to the same answer if applied to inidvidual situations. Also like Freud's work (which the initial 1973 work (Ernest Becker's Denial of Death was partially based on), the theory has been hijacked for political purposes and many of the authors of the theory have specific leanings.

The Times article seems to have thrown the gun control stuff in just as a political comment. Most of the theoretical work on terror management theory is just that, a way for professors to keep writing papers and keep their jobs. There are a lot of interesting insights there but they can be explained by a number of theories. None of the original authors are going to change just because there are alternative explanations for social behaviour.

JPL17 said...

It's like Goof Gas, you know, from the Rocky & Bullwinkle cartoon show.

As some of you will recall, Goof Gas was developed by evil masterminds Boris and Natasha. When administered to Rocky and all normal people, Goof Gas makes them stupid. But it has no effect whatsoever on Bullwinkle, because, well ... in the immortal words of Boris Badenov:

"NO BRAIN ... NO EFFECT!"

(For those of you too young to remember this, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goof_Gas_Attack)

Sebastian said...

"and you thought, this is a complex phenomenon, and we must contemplate the reasons why this is happening and take care not to do anything rash." Apologies for not reading other comments first and responding rashly, but as the kids say: LOL. OMG. LOL. ROTFLMAO. Which is what you intended, right? Umm, right?

The Godfather said...

My initial reaction was to treat the "finding" that mortality and 9/11 had no effect on liberal minds as proof that liberals are detached from reality, the eternal sunshine of the spotless mind.

But if we look at the real world, we see that many liberals did react to the 9/11 attacks by favoring military action. Polling showed much more support for action than could be attributed soley to conservatives becoming more activist. Many liberal politicians initially supported the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq -- perhaps not sincerely, but at least because they thought their constituents, many of whom were liberal, demanded it. Perhaps the liberal mind IS different, but this experiment doesn't persuade me so.

Quaestor said...

This "no effect" result, this inability to connect with one's society and culture on an empathic level is exactly the result one would get from a sociopath.

Beloved Commenter AReasonableMan said...

As a moderate, I want to express my appreciation for this two minutes of hate directed at liberals. There are so few opportunities for this kind of thing on the internet. Unrelatedly, I note that liberals seem less and less interested in this blog.

Michael K said...

"psychological research is mostly unreproducible fabrication"

I think this is a big part of it. Psychological and sociological research is very subject to confirmation bias. I took a course in survey design at Dartmouth. The critical feature of a good survey design is to present the question with both positive and negative influence to be sure the person being surveyed does not know the desired response. This is especially important with the poor and the less educated (intelligent). They will tend to choose the response that they believe desired by the surveyor.

This was a course on surveys used in medical studies. I think the confirmation bias is ignored in anything that is political. We have seen over and over again the failure of polling in politics.

I also object to the term "Liberal" as applying to leftists or Progressives but it is so common that I don't make an issue of it.

My personal opinion, based on some observation of leftists in my own family, is that they live in a world of fantasy. They ignore facts that don;t agree with their worldview.

JackWayne said...

I'm surprised our hostess is not offended by the lack of moderates in this study. They are the ones I would suspect of being passive in their reactions.

Bruce Hayden said...

I do find it somewhat credible, esp. in view of current events. It has been said that a conservative is a progressive/liberal mugged by reality. Well, we have some Islamic terrorists killing a bunch of people in San Bernadino, a couple weeks after they killed better than a 100 in Paris. And, what does the left want to talk about? How global climate change is the biggest danger to us (and, how this "science" is supported by 99.7% of scientists (up from 97% - which was easily debunked)), and how our biggest threat here is islamophobia. And, I think that we are seeing that the left in the country, starting in the White House (with their fixation on global climate change and bogus statistics) refuses to get mugged by reality. How else can you explain the Administration continuing to push settling Syrians in this country, after some of them being involved in the Paris attack, and despite knowing that they can't be adequately vetted?

Birches said...

The liberal mind is actually structured differently.

And left unsaid, Superior to the Conservative Mind.

I've heard, via the Scientists of yesteryear, that the White Mind is also structured differently from the Negro Mind. Science.

Kalli Davis said...

If this research is true, it might explain the indifference Marxists have to the death of millions of people who have and continue to suffer under their policies.

Ken B said...

Occam tells me she is bullshitting.

Roughcoat said...

I don't think liberals minds are different. There minds are the same. It's what they do with their minds that makes them different. Which is a polite way of saying: they're assholes.

wildswan said...

Is the liberal mind different - meaning physically different?

(Not that I agree with this research but) one recent behavior genetics study showed that being mugged a second time was a genetic trait. Now recall that it's said that a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged (once). And you see that .... But really I don't think this is it.

I agree with all those above who pointed out that the liberal view also hardened but Jessie just couldn't see that view as a world view. Take the people saying that the head of the NRA and even one of the San Bernardino victims were as bad as the terrorist killers. Isn't that just an eensie, teensie tiny bit of hardening tending to be a bit noticeable even when in 36 point type on the NY Daily News front page - unless you are a liberal?

Beorn said...

This sounds like a study (conducted by liberals) meant to confirm pre-existing bias, with a garnish of social signaling.

Big Mike said...

@Steve M. Galbraith, that used to be funny. Then the ultra-Prog son of our best friends had his car broken into and a laptop stolen. (Note to anyone reading this who plans to visit Washington, DC. Do not leave anything valuable in plain sight in your car.) He and his girlfriend took precisely the attitude that it was okay, because whoever stole it must have needed it. Not even any complaints about having to fix the car window on their own nickel.

Scott M said...

and take care not to do anything rash

Liberal politics are the politics of doing something rash. Change for change's sake. "SOMETHING must be done. THIS is something. THIS must be done."

Scott M said...

She was asking for it. Wearing those tall towers.

lol, AA. Kudos.

mikeyes said...

Just to clarify that 2008 study a little: First, it was based on two unproved assumptions 1) voters divided themselves into liberals and conservatives by their choice of candidate in spite of statistics showing that such a divide was impossible and 2) that the self described attachment states were valid. The conclusion was that Kerry voters had strong attachment profiles and obviously thought through their choice and thus were not as affected by the death threat from 9/11 as were those who voted for Bush. This is a silly conclusion on a lot of levels.
First, you are talking about an incumbent president going against a fairly weak candidate. Motivation for voting for Bush was much more complex and surely included thoughful consideration.
Second, I doubt that all the Democratic voters could be labeled as liberal, minority and labor voters are usually moderate or even conservative but follow the party line in presidential elections. Second, TMT writers tend to divide the attachment issue into four categories, not two, and those four are pretty iffy in a scientific sense (not that social psychology is a science) but it fits their research so they don't change it. This study was much more black and white about the issue by only using two categories and clearly not valid even by TMT standards.
Last, the Times article misinterprets the idea of "not being affected" as immunity to emotion due to being liberal. What the authors were saying that in their opinion conservative voters were more likely to vote based on emotion due to attachment issues than the liberals - a conclusion that very Swiss Cheese in aspect.
I think that it is clear that both ends of the political spectrum were emotional about this election and that one of the advantages that Bush had was that he was able to show some leadership immediately. Kerry had no platform to do so and there was no political advantage then in opposing Bush's venture into Iraq which was very popular at the time.
This is the problem with applying social theory to politics, the reality trumps the often interesting but unproveable ideas especially when they are applied out of context as was this one.

Original Mike said...

"So if liberalism is a brain thing couldn't a drug company develop a product to cure cut?"

Perhaps Dr. Carson could fix them.

Quaestor said...

The unconscious terror of death, the instinctive resort to cultural worldviews, the hardening of resolve to protect and fight — maybe that happens in some people and not others and the others are those who identify as liberal.

One of the tropes of the cowboy film is the stampede, cattle in flight from some perceived threat that stop at nothing to escape. Perhaps stampedes did happen just as the movies have portrayed them, but they don't happen very often anymore, even though the raw numbers of cattle have increased at probably ten times the rate of the human population. Why is this? There may be many reasons, but principally it's the cattle themselves. In the years immediately after the Civil war, when the settlement of the Great Plains was well and truly underway, the open range was exploited by ranchers who relied on a tough, semi-feral breed of cattle sometimes known as the Texas longhorn. These cattle are almost extinct now, but before inexpensive, reliable, year round sources of feed and fodder were available, the only breed that could flourish solely on what they could forage and survive the brutal climate were those rangy, horned cattle that were not too distant in form and behavior from their ancestral stock, the mighty and fearsome Eurasian aurochs.

Today the cattle business is dominated by Angus and Hereford stock, much more placid and manageable than the longhorn type. Hereford don't stampede, at least I've never heard of it happening. They seems totally at ease with nearly everything. Get in this truck. Duh, ok. Go down this narrow lane and ignore the occasional bellow of terror. Sure, boss. I'm nuthin' if not cooperative. What's for dinner?

Perhaps the liberal is like that -- passive, unconcerned, confident of his safety -- a perfect race of subjects for the guidance of a class of elites -- obedient little siblings under the tutelage of Big Brother.

Conservatives revel in self-reliance, and will endure sacrifice to achieve it. Liberals seem more impressed by live theater and coffee drinks with swirly patterns of cream, and will sacrifice to secure these tokens of urbanity. This may explain why the most violent criminals prefer the great urban centers to the countryside -- the cattle there are hornless.

Original Mike said...

"As a moderate (sic), I want to express my appreciation for this two minutes of hate directed at liberals. There are so few opportunities for this kind of thing on the internet. Unrelatedly, I note that liberals seem less and less interested in this blog."

How about the two minutes of hate directed at conservatives in the original NYT piece? This blog is an ant in comparison (no disrespect to our hostess).

CWJ said...

Barry Dauphin,

You wrote "hundreds of studies" and I'm sure that's the intended impression. But the section quoted actually says "hundreds of experiments." That could mean studies, but it could also mean experimental subjects, or anything in between. Likewise "worldwide." The sections quoted are vague to the point of being almost meaningless. I really don't know with any certainty what she's claiming so beyond that I have no comment.

jacksonjay said...

As an avowed hillbilly conservative, I have a question. Should Syrian men (most of the refugees) fight ISIS in Syria or flee to Western safety. Western liberals seem to suggest that both are appropriate.

Quaestor said...

Unrelatedly, I note that liberals seem less and less interested in this blog.

This may be because liberals are generally uninterested in diversity. Liberals are fine with a mere appearance of diversity. Lots of different skin tone helps make the impression (just as long as the lighter ones know their place) and sexual deviance is de rigueur, but a diversity that counts? ... Well, we've seen the evidence, have we not?

chickelit said...

AReasonableMan said...
Unrelatedly, I note that liberals seem less and less interested in this blog.

There's an easy solution and one that is widespread elsewhere: Althouse needs to create a "safe space" here for liberals -- a place where they won't have to endure contrary opinions.

Michael K said...

" I note that liberals seem less and less interested in this blog."

Yes, I agree. Leftists tend to cluster in "safe spaces" even on the internet. I used to read and comment on leftist blogs like Washington Monthly. I have a lot of regard for Kevin Drum and followed him from his own blog to his subsequent jobs. I have been concerned about his recent health problems but am unable to add a word of support because I am absolutely banned from commenting on leftist blogs like Mother Jones, where he blogs now.

On conservative, or libertarian sites like this one, the leftists tend to be trolls and, while I disagree with ARM on most things, I am happy to see his POV. I think the left, by quarantining itself on leftist sites, loses perspective and does not understand how profoundly most people disagree with them.

Chris N said...

Ann, your empathy levels may be a little low. Time for a neuro-pop-science article at the New Yorker?

Maybe a feel-good Madison shame circle with complimentary brain-scan?

Jupiter said...

"I haven't read the research, but it's possible that the liberal mind is fundamentally different from the rest of us humans."

No, it's typical pseudoscientific bullshit. There was a time when being a scientist was difficult and unremunerative. That situation produced Newton and Einstein. Now the government pays people to be "scientists". That situation produced this silly twit, and "hundreds of experiments, all over the world". Yeah, right.

Remember, lots of people recover from liberalism. The longer you live, the less likely you are to be liberal. Hell, Althouse voted for Barack Obama in 2008. Now, she's talking about "the rest of us humans".

mikeyes said...

I'm sure that there are "hundreds of experiments" in TMT and probably hundreds of papers, but only a few (maybe one, but probably more - publish or perish) that addresses the political mind in the way this one does.
Another social psychology issue is probably more pertinent, willful ignorance. If you read the Volokh Conspiracy, they bring htis up all the time: the fact that a majority of voters don't have a clue about the issues and don't want to know. They'd rather vote for the person. This is one of the many conplexities that a simple theory such as fear of death driving human behaviour can't account for.

Michael K said...

" Now the government pays people to be "scientists". That situation produced this silly twit, and "hundreds of experiments, all over the world".

A very pertinent example is the Human Genome Project, which was a government program to "do science." It was federally funded and had James Watson, a Nobel Prize winner, as the Director.

Along came Craig Venter who had the idea of doing the genome sequencing using private enterprise. He proposed to patent genes and pay for the program that way. There were expressions of horror all over.

The story is here.

He deciphered the human genome, then went on to virulent bacteria like Hemophilus Influenza, then the rice genome and now is working on artificial life.

The government project kept people paid well and they were very unhappy to see Venter come along and break their rice bowl. I am seeing signs that space flight will be the next place private initiative takes over and mining on the moon will probably be the driving force.

It's too bad there is no money to be made by proving global warming is a scam. Maybe there will be as the climate cools over the next few years,

Bruce Hayden said...

Quaestor - not all the longhorns are gone. This summer in NW MT, I was driving to the next town up river/to the east, and had seen this log building with "guns" on a sign in one direction, and "ammo" in the other. So, I stopped in, and ended up talking to the cowboy who owned it for an hour or so. At one point, he took me out back, where he showed me two of his horses in a corral (which he uses to work his cattle), and two longhorns lying down and not corralled. He raises a bunch of them in NW MT and N ID. And, will sell you halves or wholes, butchered out. We would have taken him up on it, except that my partner's ex trades hay/alfalfa for a cow and a hog every year. Maybe a bit fatter than the longhorns, but far better than you can get in the store.

Anonymous said...

Interesting stuff, this study. Not that I necessarily believe it, but a little soak time will help it become more clear as to whether it is BS or not.
However, the results do seem to align with my experience with liberals.

I believe that liberals have high but fragile egos. I believe that because of this they support things that make them personally feel good (like demanding government take care of poor people) but are too self-involved to actually donate money or time that would materially impact the people they profess to want to help. That explains the delta between conservatives who generally exponentially out-donate liberals in terms of time and money. I believe that ego also explains why atheism is much more common in liberal circles than in conservatives...when you are your own personal Savior or Messiah, then you don't need to acknowledge that a greater one exists.
Ego also explains the coldness (my term) they exhibit to the victims of terror incidents; since it happened to others that means by definition that it didn't happen to me, so why should I support measures that may impinge on my lifestyle? Like my very liberal friend, a HS biology teacher, who, in a discussion on the impact of overly harsh limitations on the sale of DDT (2 million children die in Africa every year by mosquito-borne illnesses) simply said 'fuck them'.
Furthermore, I also believe that the liberal mind, being human, is aware at least at a sub-conscious level that their views lead to cognitive dissonance. That is why they are so quick to jump on highly flawed and debunked 'facts' like 97%-of-all-scientists-believe-etc or 1-out-of-5-girls-etc and will repeat them despite knowing they are bunk.
Ego fighting cognitive dissonance also explains why liberals can somehow believe that a political philosophy that advocates for less governmental intrusion into people's lives will result in an authoritarian government, while a philosophy that advocates for more governmental control over our daily lives will result in freedom for all.
Ego.

Beloved Commenter AReasonableMan said...

Original Mike said...
How about the two minutes of hate directed at conservatives in the original NYT piece?


So moderates, such as myself, should view this as a conservative safe space?

Achilles said...

They aren't liberals, they are statists. I am a liberal in the classic sense. Liberals believe in freedom. These people obviously do not believe in freedom.

Anonymous said...

To follow up on SJ @12/6/15, 8:17 AM, above: Having re-read the following paragraph several times:

If we believe guns will protect us from harm, a terrorist strike will further strengthen our views. If we blame Muslims or white supremacists or the government for whatever is wrong in our world, we will become more fearful and more certain about who is to blame. For example, psychological experiments found that being reminded both of one’s own mortality and the attacks of Sept. 11 increased support for military interventions in the Middle East among people who identified as politically conservative. It had no effect on people who identified as liberal.

...it seems to me that the "it" in "[i]t had no effect on people who identified as liberal" refers to the specific experiments re mortality/9/11, not reactions to perceived threats in general. (Otherwise the preceding reference to "white supremacists" doesn't make a lot of sense. Know any non-liberals who think "white supremacists" are to blame for everything wrong in the world?) Obviously "liberals", like "conservatives", "strengthen [their] views" and "become more fearful and certain about who is to blame" when an opportunity for bias confirmation presents itself. (viz., white guys with guns).

I do know a lot of "liberals" who had a very "conservative" real-time reaction to 9/11. (It didn't last.) So it's not as if their basic survival instincts are entirely dead. And you can sure get 'em mobbed up and baying for blood when the target is of the approved class. That said, a lot of modern liberals do seem to be lacking in basic ability to perceive, and respond to threats

Part of this is no doubt biological temperament - e.g. amielalune's example of her co-workers crying about 9/11 instead of being filled with white-hot rage (like us normal people were), or people who talk about Paris as a "tragedy", not an atrocity. (That one drives me crazy.) A feminine vs. masculine mode of response, if you will.

That said the conclusion makes some intuitive sense as "liberals" are less traditionally "groupish" - they claim not to care about natural affiliations (familial or ethnic), or "organic" cultural affiliations (national or civilizational), even to the point of denying that their culture (modern liberal Western culture) is anything but (or shouldn't be anything but) a completely ahistorical, deracinated abstraction maintained only by legalisms.

Iow, they're insane, but be that as it may, it's easy to see how people who can't (or refuse to) make any kind of "groupish" distinctions (aside from political ones) can have, at best, an attenuated response to threats to a group from an out-group. "It does not compute". The continuation of the group, for most humans in most times, is a respite from, and an answer to, the knowledge of individual mortality. Atomized moderns are the anomaly here. For an unconnected individual there is really no "group" that matters, no connection to past and future (except via grand abstractions about "humanity", in which human beings can be completely fungible units), so it follows that there is no "group" that can be threatened.

Sometimes, of course, this is just the result of being too fat and safe for to long, and snapping out of it requires nothing but a bit of going hungry and feeling directly threatened. Unfortunately I think it's developed into a real pathology in a lot of Westerners, like having a compromised immune system or sensory defects.

Bleach Drinkers Curing Coronavirus Together said...

Wow, are you late on this. Political psychology research has been uncovering solid dispositional differences based on ideological categories for a good decade at least. The simplest summary so far is that liberals are motivated by a fear of lack of purpose, conservatives by a fear of lack of order. And both regularly engage in post-hoc rationalizations for everything. That is, people use reasoning to justify what they already wanted to believe. Rarely do people reason their way into open-ended ideological positions, but go the other way around.

As for the specific 9/11-war finding, perhaps liberals are working with an eye toward posterity. Personally I immediately knew that day would bring war, and didn't give a second thought as to arguments for or against it. At least when it came to Afghanistan. As far as Iraq, I also knew it was inevitable as of 2002, based simply on the bellicosity of W's rhetoric. Did I oppose it? My only reservation was subjecting U.S. troops to the potential for chemical weapons attack. After I got over that, I was easily convinced.

As far as basic fight-or-flight responses, it sounds like you're simplifying things. But it's basic political theory that liberalism's roots are in the precept that reason can be employed to improve the human condition. Before that people just more or less accepted that they were cogs in a never-ending wheel of status and fate, and could hope at best for reward in an afterlife alone or use extra-judicial means to change it. Against that backdrop and everything John Locke and heirs gave us since, I'd say it's a generally good innovation. Without it there would have been no American revolution. Or all the other ones.

mtrobertslaw said...

Concerning Michael K's correlation of intelligence with education: While in the past this correlation was, for the most part true, given what passes for a college education nowadays, I am not so sure it is true today.

Many recent college graduates, at least in my experience, are unable to identify the underlying premises of the world view they believe is true, much less critically examine those premises. And this is particularly true with those who identify themselves as "progressive liberals". And this leads me to think their progressive belief systems are a produce of "educational" conditioning rather than reasoning.

Beloved Commenter AReasonableMan said...

Jupiter said...
The longer you live, the less likely you are to be liberal.


The longer you live the more likely you are to be senile. As a moderate, I am obviously not suggesting that these two facts are correlated.

chuck said...

> School of Global Studies

O_o. Of course they employ pseudo religion loony tunes, that is why such institutes exist. Large segments of the modern university are intellectual dead zones.

BrianE said...

Hmm. Who first posited the idea that liberalism is a mental disorder? More reinforcement.

So, fear of death is no longer a sufficient motivation to reflect on our existence? Terror of death implies a sort of deer in the headlights reaction.

And as has been mentioned several times, if, in fact, liberals are incapable of processing self preservation, it would behoove the rest of us to shun them and drive them back into the darkness until they can fully contemplate the terror of death.

Barry Dauphin said...

CWJ

I do appreciate the clarification, but "hundreds of experiments" should not mean "subjects". It is not unusual for a research article to contain more than one experiment. So while it might not involve hundreds of publications, the way it is worded suggests actual experiments and not simply the people who participate in the experiment. Each experiment is a study even if one research article contains more than one experiment. If they meant to say that the similar experimental technique has been used with hundreds of participants, they should've written it that way.

Michael K said...

"Michael K's correlation of intelligence with education:"

It wasn't correlation but an example of euphemism in which less educated was used in place of less intelligent. This class was in 1995, still early in the PC wars, but colleagues who knew I was reading "The Bell Curve," asked if they could borrow it when I finished. They did not want to be seen buying it in the Dartmouth Bookstore.

I agree about college education, especially in Humanities and non-STEM majors. Somebody did a study a few years ago and found that Harvard freshmen had more knowledge than Harvard seniors. Four years of Harvard subtracted information.

I was an English major in 1960 since pre-med could not get a student loan. I thoroughly enjoyed it and still have a couple of text books from that time. I was already an engineer but went back to do my pre-med courses.

Michael K said...

"The longer you live the more likely you are to be senile."

I agree. That is why I am going back through my Calculus and Physics books. Too many people sit and stare at the TV.

Learning another language is good mental exercise.

Lewis Wetzel said...

Are we talking about the same NY Times that published this story?
The past several years have been bruising ones for the credibility of the social sciences. A star social psychologist was caught fabricating data, leading to more than 50 retracted papers. A top journal published a study supporting the existence of ESP that was widely criticized. The journal Science pulled a political science paper on the effect of gay canvassers on voters’ behavior because of concerns about faked data.

Now, a painstaking yearslong effort to reproduce 100 studies published in three leading psychology journals has found that more than half of the findings did not hold up when retested. The analysis was done by research psychologists, many of whom volunteered their time to double-check what they considered important work. Their conclusions, reported Thursday in the journal Science, have confirmed the worst fears of scientists who have long worried that the field needed a strong correction.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/28/science/many-social-science-findings-not-as-strong-as-claimed-study-says.html?_r=0

Pop-science stories on psychology research are valuable because they show the biases of the people who performed the 'research' and the editors who choose to publicize the stories. Otherwise the content of the story has little value.

Original Mike said...

"So moderates, such as myself (sic), should view this as a conservative safe space?"

I haven't noticed conservatives calling for safe spaces. Safe spaces are a liberal thing.

Original Mike said...

"I agree. That is why I am going back through my Calculus and Physics books. Too many people sit and stare at the TV."

I've taken up studying General Relativity, something I never really did as a youngster. Surprisingly (to me), I'm making progress. It helps not having to spend my waking hours worrying about funding

Fen said...

ARM: So moderates, such as myself, should view this as a conservative safe space?

I find it amusing that ARM has to assert he is "moderate" 3 times in 3 posts.

Even ARM doesn't believe his own bullshit.

Liberals also display a new "courage" since Paris - dismissing terrorism by betting the odds it will happen to someone else. So brave.

Bleach Drinkers Curing Coronavirus Together said...

The government project kept people paid well and they were very unhappy to see Venter come along and break their rice bowl.

Right. Because that's precisely the opposite of what Fran Collins said. Do you know who he is, by any chance?

Talk about lack of diversity. People who don't come here are simply not interested in wasting time with people who make things up. Michael K makes things up all the time and reliably with every comment.

Beloved Commenter AReasonableMan said...

Michael K said...
That is why I am going back through my Calculus and Physics books.


I agree. I redid calculus a year or so ago. It's a good exercise.

Lewis Wetzel said...

ARM wrote:

The longer you live the more likely you are to be senile. As a moderate, I am obviously not suggesting that these two facts are correlated.

The second sentence contradicts the first sentence, e.g., "The longer you live the more likely you are to be senile" draws a correlative (but not causal) relationship between age and senility.

Joe said...

If the claim about liberals is true, then by definition liberals are psychopaths.

Anonymous said...


"How about the two minutes of hate directed at conservatives in the original NYT piece? This blog is an ant in comparison (no disrespect to our hostess)."

How about the characterization of liberals as being something other than "human"? Or are we a bit more sociologically advanced? Or maybe we're simply not as assholish.


"There's an easy solution and one that is widespread elsewhere: Althouse needs to create a "safe space" here for liberals -- a place where they won't have to endure contrary opinions."

Oh please. These entire comments sections are contrary to most things liberals stand for. Safe space? No, simply maintain something that doesn't smell like a sewer.

SukieTawdry said...

But the events of 9-11 did have an effect on liberals. They became even more ensconced in their world view. Their response to the attack went roughly like this: We should go to the Hague and apply to the International Court for arrest warrants and then have those warrants served by representatives of an international police force, INTERPOL, perhaps, or the United Nations Police. Then we should bring the perpetrators to trial in the International Court of Justice. I would ask them what happens when Mullah Omar laughs and then slams the door in our international faces. They had no Plan B because such a reaction to measured, lawful procedures like these was unthinkable. Our president is a prime example of this ilk.

Deirdre Mundy said...

Interesting, because post-Paris, among Catholics and Christians we also see more calls to ADMIT the refugees.

Which makes sense, because when you're focused on your own mortality, if your religion demands certain sacrifices to ensure immortality (i.e feed the hungry, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger...) then of course you'd become more focused on meeting those demands.

So, why are liberals alone unaffected by fear of death? Is it that they're impervious to fear? Or that they're ALWAYS so afraid of death that new instances don't increase the fear level?

___

Though, I'd say this probably ISN'T true. For instance, in the wake of a mass shooting, all my dedicated liberal friends start calling for fewer guns and fewer religious people. So.... perhaps it's just that the study's author was too embedded in liberal culture to recognize what liberal culture is?

SukieTawdry said...

Too much choice is actually something of a burden.

Indeed. An over-abundance of choice can be oppressive. They say the East Germans suffered from this phenomenon after the wall came down. They apparently had been happier in their assigned, conscripted lives where one day was much as the last and the next. The fewer choices offered, the fewer decisions required.

Guildofcannonballs said...

The key to understanding the finding in the article about liberals is sometimes referred to as Fen's Law, which states Liberals Don't Believe The Bullshit They Preach.

They are exempt from every single policy they advocate at any given moment regardless of previous commitments/vows.

And rather than conclude these people don't realize they are facing danger, I would give more credence to a theory that incorporates the concept of the danger being a natural high akin to a junkie of adrenalin dropping off a cliff on a snowboard. Or, the film "Rush" with J.J. Leigh as seen here.

Anonymous said...

Or maybe Althouse, you meant mortals? Not "humans"?

Guildofcannonballs said...

"An alternative is: The liberal mind is actually structured differently. I wouldn't have believed that. But I'm just seeing it as one explanation."

The teenage brain is different, we can agree.

The conservative without a heart at age 20 mind is different from the liberal one age 20, but the liberal one often, if Churchill remains accurate, adjusts away from a liberal orientation as time passes, suggesting the mind itself, even if different at respective points, changes and, again if Churchill is on to something, we can predict the arc.

Birches said...

ARM keeps saying he's a moderate. Hilarous.

Cook came on this thread and didn't throw any bombs. Actually, what he said was quite relevant, though I think that modern liberalism is nothing like Classical liberalism.

MikeR said...

http://heterodoxacademy.org/2015/10/28/on-the-science-is-self-correcting-idea/
http://www.joseduarte.com/blog/the-climate-science-consensus-is-78-84-percent
Duarte and others have done lots of this stuff recently. There is a lot of wrong junk in sociology today, and they explain why.

jr565 said...

"Maybe whether or not you are liberal is the most basic thing going on inside us. The unconscious terror of death, the instinctive resort to cultural worldviews, the hardening of resolve to protect and fight — maybe that happens in some people and not others and the others are those who identify as liberal.

Maybe that's how you know you're a liberal: You watched the planes hit the towers, the people hanging out the windows begging for help, the horrible collapse, and you thought, this is a complex phenomenon, and we must contemplate the reasons why this is happening and take care not to do anything rash."

Self preservation is actually built into their worldview. If they speak out too strongly in support of the country, or the culture, they have to put their lives behind their words (potentially). ANd so, they'd rather let it all burn so long as it doesn't affect them and theirs. They will even help speed it along, if they think they can weasel out of it.

SO their view is not fearful of death, it just assumes they can avoid death by siding with the enemy.

Freeman Hunt said...

What about all of us who were liberal pre-9/11 but conservative not long after?

Freeman Hunt said...

I'm not sure how you study that. It isn't as though researchers knew 9/11 was going to happen and could set up their experiments in advance.

Char Char Binks, Esq. said...

Part of being liberal is being cosmopolitan, rejecting one's culture and loving the alien. They may have thought it was bad and sad when the Twin Towers came down, but they had no reason to identify with Americans more than they did with Arabians and Egyptians. For them, there is no Us to be against Them.

Anonymous said...

Hold on a second. The way I read the experiment is, they reminded conservatives and liberals of a specific event to gauge a response about a specific policy. The brain might have any number of reactions to an event like 9/11, but the ones to measure are objective things that can be measured with things like brain scans, blood pressure rates, heart beat, physical reactions, etc. At best, people might be asked to write their thoughts right afterward. Asking about a specific policy question is steering the reaction, particularly since one would expect reason and base political thoughts to influence the response outside of an actual crisis situation in real time.

The only way this kind of research would tell us anything is if dozens of questions were asked about various political policies in the wake of being reminded of related events that influence desiring those policies. Anyone want to guess what the study might show as the liberal/conservative response if the event people are reminded of is a school shooting and the policy question is about gun control?

Bleach Drinkers Curing Coronavirus Together said...

I believe I'm becoming more conservative over time - but believe that has more to do with the laziness of knowing shortcuts and concern for increasing physical wear-and-tear moreso than senility. But who knows? Eventually that might go, also. One thing is certain, being as feisty is something you start to avoid more and more. And feistiness keeps you on your toes.

David said...

No, it's typical pseudoscientific bullshit. There was a time when being a scientist was difficult and unremunerative. That situation produced Newton and Einstein.

Both Einstein and Newton became affluent. Einstein's net worth was hard to find but several sources said it about $1 million at his death in the mid-1950-s. His estate takes in $7-10 million a year in "publicity royalties." Newton became wealthy through his position as Keeper of the Royal Mint, which paid a high salary. This does not necessarily disprove the point the unrenumerative aspect of being a scientist, but throughout time scientists have been able to monetize their inventions and celebrity. Think Klaus Nobel.

David said...

Ann Althouse said...
"Other women in my office were literally sobbing..."

At least you didn't have to listen to coworkers discussing why America brought this attack on herself.


That is what they really believe, isn't it? With a few exceptions they kept quiet about that belief for mass public consumption in 2001.

Remember that most liberals opposed the intervention in Kuwait but favored the Iraq war at its inception. (I think in most cases the latter was electoral posturing. I base that on the easy switch they made when the going got tough.) It's impossible to establish how the Middle East would look if we had not intervened after Iraq invaded Kuwait but liberals simply assume that all would been much better had we never intervened. Their sense of alternative possibility is rather weak.

jr565 said...

AReasonable man wrote:
As a moderate, I want to express my appreciation for this two minutes of hate directed at liberals. There are so few opportunities for this kind of thing on the internet. Unrelatedly, I note that liberals seem less and less interested in this blog.

you state you are a moderate, as opposed to a liberal. The jury is still out on that. As to liberals leaving the site, since you are a moderate, why would that matter to you? As for two minutes of hate, us knuckle dragging conservatives had to go through two weeks of hate where we were tarred as being on board the killing of abortion doctors. And that WE caused both shootings because we dont' care if terrorists get guns. OR wateve the charge was.

Lewis Wetzel said...

How about the characterization of liberals as being something other than "human"?
Not other than human, though often lacking in the power of reason ('this follows from that')
Althouse wrote: I haven't read the research, but it's possible that the liberal mind is fundamentally different from the rest of us humans

chuck said...

> No, simply maintain something that doesn't smell like a sewer.

So, a safe space. To the progressive, everything but their own smells like a sewer.

n.n said...

This is why the left-wing in China imposed "one-child", while the left-wing in America implemented "selective-child". The liberals voluntarily, even eagerly established the pro-choice cult. If not for the State-enforced indoctrination schemes that are backed by mainstream human and civil rights groups, Homo liberalis would be an endangered species.

Achilles said...

Rhythm and Balls said...
"I believe I'm becoming more conservative over time - but believe that has more to do with the laziness of knowing shortcuts and concern for increasing physical wear-and-tear moreso than senility. But who knows? Eventually that might go, also. One thing is certain, being as feisty is something you start to avoid more and more. And feistiness keeps you on your toes."

On one of the San bernidino threads you posted something that actually surprised me. Not just because your position was in the same ballpark as mine but because of it's depth. Been a while since that has happened.

Don't become "more conservative. " That is a limiting concept not just because the terms conservative and liberal are limiting they are also not attached to original meanings. The people that use them don't even know what they mean.

Jonathan Graehl said...

I love the final graf. It seems an accurate description. You might just be mouthing the words in allegiance to your "more enlightened stripe of white man" tribe, but if you find yourself mouthing them for whatever reason, you sure aren't one of the conservative animals you constantly strive to distinguish yourself from. Conservatives take your description as an indictment of a deficient, degenerate liberal gut response. But the liberal would say, yes, I *am* wise in that way. I *am* better than you. I have righteously strangled the same gut response-to-arms feelings we all share. I'm an intellectual, willing to do the hard truth-seeking (and scary other-trusting) work that will eventually retire nationalism and war. I will not deviate from my plan. If everyone is like me, heaven on earth is ours.

My objection: the "let's *not* go to war" habit seems equally a knee-jerk. A "me liberal too" "here's how we're better than unenlightened conservatives" fashion statement, or a deluded John Lennon "Imagine" naivete. Where's the cold nonpartisan realpolitik reason when we need it? The liberal heart surely has in it some ruthlessness. Are they trapped by signaling or previous publicly stated commitments? Are conservatives simply always the greater evil in the world to them?

I think it boils down to strength of up-close aesthetic disgust ("near", as Robin Hanson would say) . Either you have it or you haven't. Or, either you've aligned it with your kin+culture, or instead refer to some imagined global utopian borders ("far").

Jonathan Graehl said...

I love the final graf. It seems an accurate description. You might just be mouthing the words in allegiance to your "more enlightened stripe of white man" tribe, but if you find yourself mouthing them for whatever reason, you sure aren't one of the conservative animals you constantly strive to distinguish yourself from. Conservatives take your description as an indictment of a deficient, degenerate liberal gut response. But the liberal would say, yes, I *am* wise in that way. I *am* better than you. I have righteously strangled the same gut response-to-arms feelings we all share. I'm an intellectual, willing to do the hard truth-seeking (and scary other-trusting) work that will eventually retire nationalism and war. I will not deviate from my plan. If everyone is like me, heaven on earth is ours.

My objection: the "let's *not* go to war" habit seems equally a knee-jerk. A "me liberal too" "here's how we're better than unenlightened conservatives" fashion statement, or a deluded John Lennon "Imagine" naivete. Where's the cold nonpartisan realpolitik reason when we need it? The liberal heart surely has in it some ruthlessness. Are they trapped by signaling or previous publicly stated commitments? Are conservatives simply always the greater evil in the world to them?

I think it boils down to strength of up-close aesthetic disgust ("near", as Robin Hanson would say) . Either you have it or you haven't. Or, either you've aligned it with your kin+culture, or instead refer to some imagined global utopian borders ("far").

Achilles said...

First psychology as a subject of research is 99% bullshit. You could eliminate every published paper on this subject and not really notice any difference in the world.

Second the conclusions of this study describe people who are incapable of assimilating or adjusting their paradigm to new data. Not only do the authors find a study to fit their theory, they ignore one of the vanishingly few useful concepts developed in their field.

Third and also previously mentioned 95% of grant supported research i have seen for the last decade has been politically charged theory in search of study garbage. The NNAHand NOAA have become employment programs for unemployable leftists.

rsbsail said...

So, how would the researcher explain the reactions of both liberals and conservatives to Pearl Harbor? Has the liberal mind evolved since 1941?

exhelodrvr1 said...

Who paid for the study?

Original Mike said...

I said: "How about the two minutes of hate directed at conservatives in the original NYT piece?"

Georgie responded (12:28 pm): "How about the characterization of liberals as being something other than "human""?

Georgie then said (1:00 pm): "Or maybe Althouse, you meant mortals? Not "humans"?"


It took Georgie half an hour to recognize that the "objectionable" characterization was Althouse's.

Anonymous said...

No, Big Mike. I knew immediately it was Althouse's characterization. Why would you assume otherwise? I was giving her the benefit of the doubt by asking if she perhaps meant to say "mortals" instead of "humans".

Anonymous said...

Sorry, Original Mike. Too many damn Mikes around here. I object.

Larvell said...

I'm curious, is there anything that DOESN'T reinforce a liberal's worldview?

Qwinn said...

Georgie, please explain how Ann saying "the rest of us humans" excludes liberals from being human themselves. Please show your work.

Original Mike said...

"I knew immediately it was Althouse's characterization."

Bullshit.

OGWiseman said...

What's crazy to me is, that mindset--Things are complex, think them through, don't act rashly--is a classically conservative mindset. So many conservative intellectuals of past eras would have recommended that approach. Now it's liberal? Or at least, mocked by "conservatives"? Sheesh.

Lewis Wetzel said...

I finally read the entire article.
"We are not used to living with such bewildering uncertainty. Civilians are not collateral damage in this seemingly endless war; they are the preferred target."
Remember the cold war? Thousands of nukes aimed at targets in the US? The entire world was an hour from oblivian from the late 50s through the late 80s.

"We feel vulnerable in many different places where we used to feel safe — in cafes or at concerts, at sporting events, at home or at work. The killers are not just those coming in from abroad, but they are already here, some even born here, seemingly ready to strike at any moment. The latest attack, in San Bernardino, Calif., which came five days after a mass shooting in Colorado, only reinforces this feeling of vulnerability."
Decision tree:
Am I in a closed space?->
->If not, you're good.
->If yes->
->Are there identifiable Muslims in this closed space with me?->
-> If not, you're good.
-> If yes->
->Leave.
Following this decision tree would have saved the San Bernardino victims.
"In many years of studying this subject, I have come to understand that a mass shooting or terrorist attack evokes a powerful sense of dread."
This writer is a frikkin' genius. However much they pay her, it's not enough.
"Terrorists aim to make us feel afraid, and to overreact in fear."
This is blather. Every single act of terrorism is intended to make us overreact? Even the terrorist acts committed by environmental groups and PETA? How do we know when we are overreacting? Jessica Stern is just repeating cliches at this point.
"If we are to prevail in the war on terrorism, we need to remember that the freedoms we aspire to come with great responsibilities. And these responsibilities involve not just fighting terrorists, but also managing our own terror."
See what I mean?

Leigh said...

@MikeEyes pretty much destroyed the whole thing based on the flawed definitions of "liberal" and "conservatve."

But just for fun, and to expound on @Bruce Hayden's remarks ... the article's "scientific" conclusion makes sense if you consider and accept:

1. Liberals believe all people who are not liberal are inherently bad and require strong and strict supervision.
2. Liberals are inherently and unfailingly moral and perfect. In other words, were they not perfect, they'd be complete narcissists.
3. Bad things only happen because bad non-liberal people did them; in such cases, the liberals' quality controls must have failed.
4. There is no God and there is no Devil.
4. All bad people can be controlled; therefore, liberals ultimately have the abiity to eliminate all bad things.

This is why liberals blame victims when bad things happen (New York Daily News claims one of the victims, a Jewish man, was rabidly anti-Muslim). The muggers mugged because they were hungry -- their food stamps were inadequate. The bombers went after Americans in the World Trade Center because non-liberal Americans are intolerant prosperous hedonistic colonists -- this made the bombers angry. The Hebdo massacre was due to the staff's irreverent treatment of Mohamed (recall Kerry saying the shooters had some sort of legitimate grievance or understandable rationale). Paris happened because of climate change. Mr. Dear holed up and took hostages at a Planned Parenthood because white Christians provoked him with their hate-speech "rhetoric." San Bernardino happened because of gun control (white Christians had to be eliminated as a cause a few hours into the saga). Benghazi happened because of a video.

Over and over again, the cause is NEVER anything a liberal did. No, the cause is aways bad people. Bad people are things liberals can control and next time, by God -- or by Government -- they will prevent this by exercising even more control over people (all people because only a few liberals have the power to truly discern who is liberal).

So when they encounter a cause they cannot control -- like radical Isamists -- liberals just flatly deny it. And the more the radical Islamists go on the attack, the more rabidly and angrily liberals will deny that Islam had anything to do with it.

Zach said...

What kind of serious scientific research — hundreds of experiments, all over the world — produces a finding about how the human mind works and sees a complete exemption for liberals? No effect!

I think this is supposed to sound like the reassuring NPR/NYT pablum that its audience is already perfect and all science will ever do is confirm some new facet of their preexisting awesomeness. But it's actually kind of disturbing if true (it's not).

You use the example of 9/11, and it's kind of instructive. Prior to 9/11, most Americans thought that Islamic terrorism was fundamentally something that happened far away, that doesn't really concern us. We could offer vague generalities, and that was fine because our opinion didn't really matter.

After 9/11, vague generalities weren't enough. You had to develop a theory of the case that turned vague generalities into concrete actions. "Root causes" weren't good enough, because we had no power to fix them, and even if we could they wouldn't affect events quickly enough to have the desired effect.

Invading Iraq was probably a bad move in the aftermath of that attack. Maybe getting involved in Afghanistan worked out poorly, too. But the "root causes" people were not active enough in those debates. Ideology is supposed to help you by focusing your attention on high quality ideas. If it makes you bail out of the debate instead by focusing on unanswerable questions and unenforcable policies, ideology is not helping.

Zach said...

Second point: liberals did have a very distinct terror response to 9/11, and it was very ugly to see it play out.

They decided it was Bush's fault.

Not in the sense of being unprepared or flubbing the response. They decided that Islamist militants only hated fundamentalist Christians, and they decided that those militants had a point.

Remember Michael Moore's famous rant on 9/11?

Many families have been devastated tonight. This is just not right. They did not deserve to die. … If someone did this to get back at Bush, then they did so by killing thousands of people who DID NOT VOTE for him. Boston, New York, D.C., and the planes' destination of California — these were the places that voted AGAINST Bush.

Notice how the terrorists' crime here isn't attacking America. It's attacking the wrong sort of American -- the kind that DID NOT VOTE for Bush. So Moore, who DID NOT VOTE for Bush, has checked himself out of the fight on day 1. It's somebody else's responsibility, and he's happy to put a pox on both of their houses.

BN said...

"Too much choice is actually something of a burden."

I have always liked how profundity reincarnates itself:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Grand_Inquisitor

Good job, perfesser.

Bob Loblaw said...

You watched the planes hit the towers, the people hanging out the windows begging for help, the horrible collapse, and you thought, this is a complex phenomenon, and we must contemplate the reasons why this is happening and take care not to do anything rash.

The military tries to weed out officers who are prone to this kind of analysis paralysis, because people crippled by the fear of doing the wrong thing are useless in a crisis. They think "When I have all the data... when I'm 100% sure, then I will act decisively." But that day usually arrives too late to matter, or it never comes at all. Because life is like that.

damikesc said...

So liberals don't care about orchestrated attacks to kill thousands of Americans. Why do they get so mad when Ann Coulter says that?

And I wonder if they ran experiments on the terror of banning contraceptives. Seems to be an obsession for Progressives but no conservatives take seriously as a policy suggestion.

Or maybe we're simply not as assholish.

Absolutely not that.

These entire comments sections are contrary to most things liberals stand for.

Which is why Leftie blogs tend to ban them...

Sammy Finkelman said...

It had no effect on liberals.

...On that particular issue.

"Liberals" may be resumed to be already committed to non-intervention, or who believe, like President Obama said, that if there are many ground troops, it will strengthen the enemy because

"they can maintain insurgencies for years, killing thousands of our troops, draining our resources, and using our presence to draw new recruits."

IF

you believe it is counterproductive to send troops, or that it will never be done right, or perhaps that it will do more wrong than right.

THEN

Being reminded both of one’s own mortality and the attacks of Sept. 11 will not increase support for military interventions in the Middle East.

Bilwick said...

I'm assuming they mean "liberal" in the current, bastardized meaning of the term? I.e., "tax-happy, coercion-addicted, power-tripping, sadomasochistic government sniffer and State humper"? I just want to be clear on this.

Amanda said...
This comment has been removed by the author.