Wednesday, September 24, 2003


The infamous "Berkeley study" reserved its warmest praise for a theory of conservative motivation put forward by Glenn Wilson in his 1973 book, The psychology of conservatism. I know that book pretty well. I wrote chapter 2 of it. I also know Glenn well. He buys me a lunch whenever I am in London. He is a pretty conservative guy himself these days so there are certain ironies there. I also note how well ahead of his times Glenn was in 1973 when he stressed the possibility that political stance may often be genetically inherited. We now know that to be so but there was little evidence of it back in the 70s.

The central proposal of the theory is that conservatives have a greater fear of uncertainty than Leftists. As far as I know, however, nobody has ever tested that on a general population sample. The authors of the "Berkeley study" certainly mentioned no such research. It should not be hard to test the theory directly. I am sure I could whip up a fear of uncertainty scale in short order. It is however known that conservatives are not more fearful in general so the questionnaire would have to be carefully designed to concentrate on fear of uncertainty in particular. I am however now too old and lazy to do the legwork of a general population survey myself so if you know anybody who wants an interesting research project to do, give them my email address.

Incidentally, the authors of the "Berkeley study" headlined their article with a quote from George Will. Will had a few sarcastic words to say about that at the time.


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