Monday, August 14, 2006

Snakes And Snails And Puppy-Dog Tails? Sugar And Spice And Everything Nice?

Posted by codemorse

What are conservatives made of?

From UC Berkeley News:

....some of the common psychological factors linked to political conservatism include:

Fear and aggression, Dogmatism and intolerance of ambiguity, Uncertainty avoidance, Need for cognitive closure, Terror management.

"From our perspective, these psychological factors are capable of contributing to the adoption of conservative ideological contents, either independently or in combination," the researchers wrote in an article, "Political Conservatism as Motivated Social Cognition," recently published in the American Psychological Association's Psychological Bulletin.

....The psychologists sought patterns among 88 samples, involving 22,818 participants, taken from journal articles, books and conference papers. The material originating from 12 countries included speeches and interviews given by politicians, opinions and verdicts rendered by judges, as well as experimental, field and survey studies.

Ten meta-analytic calculations performed on the material - which included various types of literature and approaches from different countries and groups - yielded consistent, common threads, Glaser said.

The researchers said that conservative ideologies, like virtually all belief systems, develop in part because they satisfy some psychological needs, but that "does not mean that conservatism is pathological or that conservative beliefs are necessarily false, irrational, or unprincipled." They also stressed that their findings are not judgmental.

"In many cases, including mass politics, 'liberal' traits may be liabilities, and being intolerant of ambiguity, high on the need for closure, or low in cognitive complexity might be associated with such generally valued characteristics as personal commitment and unwavering loyalty," the researchers wrote.

....Although they concluded that conservatives are less "integratively complex" than others are, Glaser said, "it doesn't mean that they're simple-minded."

Conservatives don't feel the need to jump through complex, intellectual hoops in order to understand or justify some of their positions, he said. "They are more comfortable seeing and stating things in black and white in ways that would make liberals squirm," Glaser said.


I found this study courtesy of DailyKos, and I'd be fascinated to read any others that deal with "liberalism" in the same manner. Of course, DKos takes this study and uses to discuss the "defeat" of conservatives, but they're missing the point, in my humble opinion. As the study notes, conservative traits are often very useful. They push us dithering liberals into making decisions, they bring needed attention to the unfortunate truth that some people aren't going to be stopped/disarmed with hugs and flowers.

What's useful to me about this study? It helps me understand the conservative mindset a little more. If our country is going to throw aside our current games of Xtreme Partisanship, we need to recognize the strengths, weaknesses, and differences in thinking that our differing sides/views bring to the table.

We need to respect the opinions of others, and learn to deal with them even when we disagree.

As David Foster Wallace writes:

"A Democratic spirit is one that combines rigor and humility, i.e. passionate conviction plus a sedulous respect for the convictions of others. As any American knows, this is a difficult spirit to cultivate and maintain, particularly when it comes to issues you feel strongly about. Equally tough is a DS's criterion of 100 percent intellectual integrity -you have to be willing to look honestly at yourself and at your motives for believing what you believe, and to do it more or less continually."

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