Political attitudes are predicted by physiological traits
Study finds that conservatives react more strongly to apparent danger. Conservatives are more cautious! Nice to see it demonstrated physiologically but not a big surprise
Is America's red-blue divide based on voters' physiology? A new paper in the journal Science, titled "Political Attitudes Are Predicted by Physiological Traits," explores the link. Rice University's John Alford, associate professor of political science, co-authored the paper in the Sept. 19 issue of Science.
Alford and his colleagues studied a group of 46 adult participants with strong political beliefs. Those individuals with "measurably lower physical sensitivities to sudden noises and threatening visual images were more likely to support foreign aid, liberal immigration policies, pacifism and gun control, whereas individuals displaying measurably higher physiological reactions to those same stimuli were more likely to favor defense spending, capital punishment, patriotism and the Iraq War," the authors wrote.
Participants were chosen randomly over the phone in Lincoln, Neb. Those expressing strong political views -- regardless of their content -- were asked to fill out a questionnaire on their political beliefs, personality traits and demographic characteristics.
In a later session, they were attached to physiological measuring equipment and shown three threatening images (a very large spider on the face of a frightened person, a dazed individual with a bloody face and an open wound with maggots in it) interspersed among a sequence of 33 images. Similarly, participants also viewed three nonthreatening images (a bunny, a bowl of fruit and a happy child) placed within a series of other images. A second test used auditory stimuli to measure involuntary responses to a startling noise.
The researchers noted a correlation between those who reacted strongly to the stimuli and those who expressed support for "socially protective policies," which tend to be held by people "particularly concerned with protecting the interests of the participants' group, defined as the United States in mid-2007, from threats." These positions include support for military spending, warrantless searches, the death penalty, the Patriot Act, obedience, patriotism, the Iraq War, school prayer and Biblical truth, and opposition to pacifism, immigration, gun control, foreign aid, compromise, premarital sex, gay marriage, abortion rights and pornography.
The paper concluded, "Political attitudes vary with physiological traits linked to divergent manners of experiencing and processing environmental threats." This may help to explain "both the lack of malleability in the beliefs of individuals with strong political convictions and the associated ubiquity of political conflict," the authors said.
Source. More details here. Original journal abstract follows:
Political Attitudes Vary with Physiological Traits
By Douglas R. Oxley et al.
Although political views have been thought to arise largely from individuals' experiences, recent research suggests that they may have a biological basis. We present evidence that variations in political attitudes correlate with physiological traits. In a group of 46 adult participants with strong political beliefs, individuals with measurably lower physical sensitivities to sudden noises and threatening visual images were more likely to support foreign aid, liberal immigration policies, pacifism, and gun control, whereas individuals displaying measurably higher physiological reactions to those same stimuli were more likely to favor defense spending, capital punishment, patriotism, and the Iraq War. Thus, the degree to which individuals are physiologically responsive to threat appears to indicate the degree to which they advocate policies that protect the existing social structure from both external (outgroup) and internal (norm-violator) threats.
Science 2008: Vol. 321. no. 5896, pp. 1667 - 1670
The Economic Reform Wave
What do Azerbaijan, Albania and the Kyrgyz Republic have in common? They're all Eastern European or Central Asian states, and they all currently top the list of the world's most enthusiastic economic reformers.
So says "Doing Business 2009," the latest instalment in the World Bank and International Finance Corporation's series of annual reports on the state of pro-growth policies around the world. There's little change at the top of the league table in absolute terms -- Singapore still ranks No. 1, with the U.S., Hong Kong, U.K., Canada and Australia also in the top 10. But a look at the changes in other rankings shows a still-growing tide of liberalization just about everywhere.
This year the report's authors count 239 pro-growth reforms in 113 economies in the year from June 2007 to June 2008, compared to 200 reforms in 98 countries last year. Yet again, cutting the red tape on business start-ups is the most popular kind of reform and 49 countries took such steps. Top reformer Azerbaijan, for example, opened a one-stop shop to handle new business registrations and cut the number of regulatory steps to six from 13. For these and many other improvements, it now ranks 33rd, up from 97th last year.
Other countries are attracting investment by cutting tax rates or by making it easier and cheaper to file. Malaysia did both, simplifying and cutting corporate income taxes (now a 26% flat tax, which will drop to 25% next year) and introducing online filing. It moved up to 20th from 25th. Colombia, South America's top reformer, embraced trade by cutting export- and import processing times via a host of administrative reforms, helping to improve its ranking to 53rd from 66th.
One notable bright light here is in Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa still lags far behind other regions, and the average ranking for countries there is 138th, compared to an average of 111 for the next-worst region, South Asia. But Senegal, Burkina Faso and Botswana this year made the list of top 10 reformers. Senegal improved its ranking to 149th from 168th, in part by speeding customs clearance for trade. Burkina Faso slashed red tape on construction permits and it cut taxes, helping bump it to 148th from 164th.
A lot of work clearly remains to be done; and some countries, such as Indonesia, Bulgaria and Bolivia, slipped down in the rankings. Yet overall this report is a welcome sign that many countries are pushing ahead with reforms.
The timing couldn't be better: The IFC notes that countries with liberalized business regulations frequently grow faster than their peers and are more resilient when tough times hit. In today's uncertain economic climate, every competitive advantage helps.
Republican energy leads to comeback in polls : "New polling suggests that the Republican Party is beginning to regain some of its luster and, perhaps as important, is experiencing a surge in excitement among its political base. A new poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press reports that independent voters have an equally favorable opinion of both parties, 50 to 49 percent, a one-point edge for the GOP. That compares to an 18-point Democratic advantage as recently as August, a wide gap that had generally held for more than a year. And half of registered voters overall now have a favorable opinion of the Republican Party, the highest GOP ranking in three years. Slightly more voters, 55 percent, continue to have a favorable view of the Democratic Party. The GOP convention and the selection of Sarah Palin as John McCain's running mate have also generated considerable enthusiasm among the party rank-and-file. Pew found that three in four Republicans express satisfaction with their presidential choice. In June, only half said the same.
French nanny state bans internet alcohol advertising: "France may be home to some of the world's finest wines but it could be about to join the tiny club of Muslim states that forbid their promotion on the internet. Winemakers and other players in the drinks industry are fighting to avert a ban on advertising, sales and even vineyard websites that has been looming ever since a court ruled that the internet should be included in France's strict laws regarding alcohol advertising. The Heineken beer company was forced by the ruling last February to block French access to its corporate site. Since then, some of the biggest drinks brands have shut out French visitors for fear of prosecution. "Today in France, the sight of a bottle of wine has become as offensive as a picture of war or pornography," said Daniel Lorson, a spokesman for CIVC, the industry body of champagne producers. The industry complains that it is being demonised and that an internet ban would penalise hugely one of the glories of the French economy and the national heritage. [Not a big help to the French economy, one imagines]
Euro-snoops put US to shame: "The U.S. government gets rapped frequently for its growing tendency to use wiretaps, engage in surveillance and compile information about people who are doing nothing more than exercising their right to criticize political leaders -- or even people who are just going about their daily, apolitical business. Especially since 9/11, but even for decades preceding that event, government officials have engaged in a disturbing frenzy of nosiness about the communications, activities and opinions of private citizens. But, in certain circles, it's become the norm to assume that the U.S. government is the worst of the worst. That it practices control-freakery to an extent that shocks, shocks our friends overseas. Would the sophisticated French ever engage in such abusive shenanigans[?] Well, yes, they would."
Father of Palin account hacker David Kernell is Tennessee Democrat State Rep: "The son of state Rep. Mike Kernell has been contacted by authorities in connection with a probe into the hacking of personal e-mail of vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, Kernell told The Tennessean. Kernell, a Memphis Democrat, said his 20-year-old son David had been contacted by authorities investigating the hacking of Palin's personal e-mail account, the newspaper reported on its Web site this afternoon. The FBI and the Secret Service started a formal investigation Wednesday into the hacking, according to the Associated Press."
For more postings from me, see OBAMA WATCH (2), TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena
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