Tuesday, October 07, 2003


For over 50 years now the Holy Grail of academic political psychologists has been to find evidence of psychological inadequacy among conservatives. It has been a fool’s errand. All the supposed “proofs” collapse once they are subjected to critical examination (See Ray, 1983, 1988, 1990, 2003a & b; Ray & Najman, 1987). But the effort goes on.

The person leading the charge at the moment is someone I mentioned yesterday -- the Belgian psychologist Alain Van Hiel. He is pouring out articles on the subject at a great rate at the moment. Van Hiel is a bit different from his predecessors, however. Most psychologists simply hand out a bunch of questionnaires to their own students to gather “proof” of their theories. This is so laughable as to show that there is no sincere quest for the truth there. All they are really doing is saying that they KNOW what the truth is and any “evidence” at all will do to demonstrate the correctness of their ideas. Van Hiel, however, does real research. He goes out into the highways and byways for his surveys in addition to surveying his students. So I credit Van Hiel as a sincere seeker after truth.

He is however greatly handicapped by what has gone before him. He does not appear to be a psychometrician so rather than design his own scales (sets of questions), he constantly uses scales devised by his un-serious predecessors. This means that all his hard work has essentially gone for naught. His data is only as good as the scales he uses and those scales are pretty laughable. I have dissected two of the scales concerned in recent days (The Kruglanski “Need for closure” scale and the Sidanius “Social dominance Orientation” scale) so you only have to scroll down this page to see what a nonsense are the sort of scales that the unfortunate Van Hiel has to rely on.

I have written a full academic critique of four of Van Hiel’s recent articles here (or here) for those who want to pursue the topic in greater depth. For his own sake, I hope Van Hiel turns to more fruitful outlets for his energies in the future.

Incidentally, most of the scales devised by Left-leaning political psychologists (see e.g. Ray, 1983 & 1990) are so poorly conceived that they end up showing negligible correlation with vote in the general population -- i.e. supposedly “Rightist” statements are just as often agreed to by people who vote for Leftist political parties as by people who vote for Rightist political parties. How embarrassing! The scales that I devise however, generally work very well -- providing correlations of up to .56 with vote (Ray & Wilson, 1976; Ray, 1984a &b). In other words, the results show that I DO know what the factors are that influence political stance in the general population, whereas the Leftist psychologists do not.

Ray, J.J. (1983). Half of all authoritarians are Left-wing: A reply to Eysenck and Stone. Political Psychology, 4, 139-144.
Ray, J.J. (1984a) Combining demographic and attitude variables to predict vote. Journal of Social Psychology, 122, 145-146.
Ray, J.J. (1984b) Attitude to abortion, attitude to life and conservatism in Australia. Sociology & Social Research 68, 236-246.
Ray, J.J. (1988) Cognitive style as a predictor of authoritarianism, conservatism and racism: A fantasy in many movements. Political Psychology 9, 303-308.
Ray, J.J. (1990) Book Review: Enemies of freedom by R. Altemeyer. Australian Journal of Psychology, 42, 87-111.
Ray, J.J. (2003a) Academic fakers. FrontPage Magazine, 27 August.
Ray, J.J. (2003b) Social dominance orientation: Theory or artifact?
Ray, J.J. & Najman, J.M. (1987) Neoconservatism, mental health and attitude to death. Personality & Individual Differences, 8, 277-279.
Ray, J.J. & Wilson, R.S. (1976) Social conservatism in Australia. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Sociology 12(3), 255-257.


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