Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Investigating Links Between Personality and Politics

The NYT has just put out an article on the above topic that is surprisingly balanced. All the ridicule heaped on the usual Leftist nonsense by conservative bloggers and columnists must finally have hit home. Indeed the article admits that previous views on the subject have been subjected to a lot of criticism for Leftist bias. I thought, however, that I might do a quick fisking of the article:

For a start: The idea that psychology underlies political orientation is not only strongly supported by genetics research but it is also a traditional conservative claim. Conservative thinkers (such as Burke (1790), Hayek (1944) and Oakeshott (1975)) have been claiming for centuries that conservatives have a cautious disposition rather than an ideology. The amusing thing is that Left-leaning psychologists in their writings seem to be totally oblivious of the fact that conservative thinkers were talking about the psychology of politics long before psychologists were.

John Jost, George Lakoff and Arie Kruglanski get an honourable mention in the NYT article. All three are essentially charlatans. See here and here and here. And any new comment on the egregious Frank Sulloway would be superfluous. Sulloway is a proven ENEMY of science. And the finding by Dana R. Carney, to the effect that Leftists live in untidier rooms, I have not even dared to look at in case I find something wrong with it. How can I object to a finding that shows Leftists to be more juvenile?

A generally rather sensible psychologist quoted was Jonathan Haidt. He does however gild the lily enormously when he says that most liberals think about morality in terms of two categories: how someone's welfare is affected, and whether it is fair. What utter rubbish! Leftist/"liberal" thinkers habitually reject ALL morality (except when it suits them). Who has not heard the great Leftist mantra: "There is no such thing as Right and Wrong"? It's part of their beloved "postmodernism".

Another claim that the NYT makes much of is that Leftists are more "open". Putting aside for the moment the thought that "vacant" is a near synonym for "open", this is a very strained interpretation of the data -- as my critiques of the research by Kruglanski and Van Hiel show in some detail. I note with some amusement, however, that, in the unusually careful research of Van Hiel, Kossowska & Mervielde (2000), people with a definite conservative orientation were shown to be just as likely as Leftists to be open to experience. Even more awkwardly, however, the subscale measuring openness to ideas in particular showed a positive correlation with conservatism among the politically aware respondents. Among politically-aware people it was LEFTISTS who were closed-minded!

I did however rather like the closing comment in the NYT article:

What is important, said Larry Bartels, a political scientist at Princeton University, is how psychological tendencies are translated into views about specific political issues: "In 2000, George W. Bush ridiculed nation-building; now he seems pretty committed," he wrote in an e-mail message. "Which of those positions (if either) represents rigidity, resistance to change, or discipline? On the other hand, how many flexible, curious, open-to-experience liberals do you know who want to experiment with restructuring the Social Security system?"

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