Friday, January 19, 2007

Stop and Think

All people are born alike—except Republicans and Democrats," quipped Groucho Marx, and in fact it turns out that personality differences between liberals and conservatives are evident in early childhood. (The Ideological Animal)

Fascinating! I knew this but didn’t have the research to pull it together. Did you know …

  • “liberals are more optimistic”
  • “conservatives have less tolerance for ambiguity”
  • “Liberals are messier than conservatives”
  • “those with the greatest fear of death are the most likely to be conservative”
  • “people who study abroad become more liberal”

"We think our political stance is the product of reason, but we're easily manipulated and surprisingly malleable. Our essential political self is more a stew of childhood temperament, education, and fear of death. Call it the 9/11 effect."

The Ideological Animal presents research supporting the argument that fear causes people to vote conservative. Fear causes people to entrench and defend their world views. That’s great news if you’re running for office. Instill fear in voters and present yourself as their defender, their savior, their only hope.

However, there is a danger. If you paint a certain country or religious group or ethnic population as the enemy then that country or religious group or ethnic population will become afraid of you and become more conservative and defend their world views because you have become their enemy. Then, of course, you can point out to your voters the outrageous reaction of your manufactured enemy and the cycle can repeat itself. If we do this long enough, we can destroy the known universe!

(An interesting corollary! A terrified American becomes more conservative, a terrified Communist becomes more Communist and a terrified Muslim becomes more Muslim. Want to help spread a religion or ideology? Don't support it. Attack it viciously and you'll accomplish your goal more quickly!)

"People have two modes of thought," concludes Solomon. "There's the intuitive gut-level mode, which is what most of us are in most of the time. And then there's a rational analytic mode, which takes effort and attention."

"The solution, then, is remarkably simple. The effects of psychological terror on political decision making can be eliminated just by asking people to think rationally. Simply reminding us to use our heads, it turns out, can be enough to make us do it."

Thinking! I like that.


Blogger Alex Pendragon said...

Hell, I knew this all along. Every despot I can think of has always used fear of "THEM" to promote their personal power agendas. Hell, your common variety schoolyard bully depends on fear, and loses his power when stood down by his victims when they band together. I really liked this post because you have a way of making it so clear.

Now that more of us have reasoned that we have more to fear from our own president then those he keeps pointing at, maybe we can get rid of one more bully.

1/19/2007 07:50:00 AM  
Blogger Buffalo said...

It is unfortunate that rational thought and common sense seem to have gone missing while on a walk-a-bout.

1/19/2007 10:32:00 AM  
Blogger Anvilcloud said...

As someone with vile liberal tendencies, I knida like this blog. :)

1/19/2007 02:50:00 PM  
Blogger arcolaura said...

Thanks for this! It's encouraging.

1/23/2007 11:42:00 PM  

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