Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Are conservatives less creative than liberals?

The article below, which asserts that conservatives are less creative than liberals, is just the usual Leftist bigotry, based on a very poor knowledge of the research literature. Creativity does not generalize much, meaning there is no such thing as an overall trait of creativity. If there were an overall trait of creativity, lots of great painters would also be great composers but there are in fact no examples of that. You can be creative in one field and not in another. Take my own case: I am extremely good at writing iconoclastic academic journal articles but could not write a novel for nuts. So we find there that even creativity via the written word does not generalize from one sort of writing to another. So all that is shown below is that Leftists judge one-another as more creative and are more likely to take an interest in self-indulgent activities.

Cognitive complexity /Openness to experience/ rigidity are other old interrelated Leftist shibboleths which we see mentioned below. Again they generalize poorly, amusingly badly, in fact. The two halves of the widely-used Budner scale of "rigidity" do not correlate at all in fact! Again there is no such thing as an overall trait of cognitive complexity (except as an aspect of IQ). Conservatives are more complex on some things and Leftists on other things. Conservatives, for instance, tend to have carefully differentiated and complex views on moral questions whereas Leftists just say: "There is no such thing as right and wrong". Can you get more simplistic than the Leftist position there? See here and here for relevant research background. Amusing that the guy below confirms the common finding that conservatives are happier, though.

I am reproducing the full article below so people can admire the propaganda effort. It sounds quite plausible and fair if you don't know the underlying facts
By Scott Barry Kaufman

Barack Obama is the new President-elect of the United States. The significance of this cannot possibly be overstated. While certainly this is a historic moment because it raises the bar of what African Americans can aspire to, and takes us one step closer to equality in American, I'd like to focus on a potentially overlooked outcome of this historical moment: America will become more creative.

This is because Obama represents many of the core liberal values that promote creativity and innovation. In fact, we may soon see something similar to what Psychologist and Politcal Scientist Jay Seitz observed during the 17th century rise of liberalism when he noted that the rise "fostered creative production by encouraging individual creative expression."

And this is something sorely needed in our country at the moment. Today, Proposition 8 was passed in California, banning gay marriage. This bill is a serious threat to individuality. Of course, change won't happen overnight. But with Obama, change is on its way. How can I be so optimistic that Obama, and the new liberalism he will bring to the White House will spur creativity and increase our appreciation for individuality in America? Surely this is my subjective spin. But is it? New research suggests that I may be right.

We already know from prior studies that conservatives prefer simple representational art over abstract art, traditional poetry over the avant-garde, and music that is simple, familiar, and 'safe'. But what about when it comes to engagement in creative behaviors and actual creative ability? Are conservatives less creative than liberals?

Psychologist Stephen J. Dollinger assessed the creative behaviors and products of 426 undergraduates. For behavior, he assessed engagement in various creative activities, spanning the domains of visual arts, literary arts, performance, and crafts. For creativity, he had participants complete an incomplete figure in any way they liked. The figures had already been started by an artist. Each drawing was then rated by three MFA graduate students on the quality of the details as well as the overall creative impression.

He also had participants take photos, and write essays on how each photo represented themselves. These photos were judged by psychologists for the degree of individuality inherent in the essays. Interestingly, prior research has shown these ratings predict performance on other creativity measures as much as seven years later! For both creativity tasks, the judges agreed highly with each other on the creativity of the products.

Dollinger also administered measures of vocabulary and openness to experience, since each of these have shown linkages to creativity in prior studies. A sample openness item is "likes to reflect, play with ideas." Finally, and most importantly, Dollinger also assessed whether the students favored, opposed, or held a neutral view on the following issues:

Death penalty, Multiculturalism, Stiffer jail terms, Voluntary euthanasia, Bible truth, Gay rights, Pre-marital virginity, Immigration of foreigners, Church authority, Legalized abortion, Condom vending machines, Legalized prostitution

He found that compared to liberals, those endorsing more conservative positions had fewer creative accomplishments, and produced photo essays and drawings that were judged as less creative (although statistically significant, note that the effect sizes weren't huge). Even taking into account the vocabulary and openness to experience of each participant, the results for drawing products and creative behaviors still held up. Interestingly, he also found that those who were more conservative did worse on the vocabulary test and were less open to experience.

What can explain these findings? This study suggests that conservatives are indeed less creative than liberals. Why could this be? Dollinger proposes various potential explanations. First, conservatives may have found the ambiguity of the creativity tasks threatening, and the anxiety associated with this sense of threat may have hindered the expression of creativity. Prior research has indeed shown that those that are more conservative have lower cognitive-complexity and therefore may dislike amniguity more than those who are less conservative.

As Dollinger suggests, it would be interesting to evaluate the immediate affective responses of high and low conservative students as they encounter tasks that are explicitly described as "creativity tests". Someone should do that study.

Another explanation is that conservatives are more inclined to follow convention in general. And of course, convention sounds the death knell for creativity. A related possibility is that the authoritarian and anti-hedonistic aspects of conservatism may cause imagination to be devalued amongst conservatives. It is interesting to note that in support of this hypothesis, Dollinger did find that conservatives in the study scored lower on openness to experience.

Another intriguing possibility presented itself in this study. Dollinger checked out the actual photo essays that his participants produced and noticed that the conservative students' photo essays were generally "wholesome" and indicated a satisfaction with their lives, including their family lives (religiosity was also a common theme). In contrast, liberal students' photo essays were related to "boundary-crossing behaviors", creative energy, and the unconventional exercise of their civil liberties.

As I've argued in my recent article Confessions of a Late Bloomer (check out the latest issue of Psychology Today), trauma or family conflict in childhood can be a major driving force for creativity. So can discontent with the established order. This study suggests that this driving force may be missing in conservatives.

Of course, these findings may not generalize beyond American college students who were receiving extra credit to produce creative products. As Dollinger notes, many of the students in the sample weren't able to vote yet, and they may not yet have well-formulated political ideas. Also, as college students, they may not have fully had time to engage in creative pursuits. Interestingly, and in support of this idea, Dollinger found that that the relationship between conservatism and engagement in creative behaviors was much higher among participants in the 25-53 age range than participants in the 18-24 age range.

Also, it's unclear how much these findings generalize to all forms of creativity. Perhaps conservatives are better at other domains not sampled in Dollinger's study. That's an interesting question that should be studied.

"Change is gonna come" There are many reasons why change is gonna come with Obama as President of the United States. In addition to his intelligence and open mindedness, I add to the list his creativity and appreciation for human individuality. Being a liberal, many of his core values are the opposite of those that define a conservative outlook. I look forward to the creative times ahead.




Israel to continue fuel cutoff to Gaza : "Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak on Monday decided not to resume much-needed fuel shipments to the Gaza Strip because of continued rocket fire, Israeli defense officials said, and Gaza officials threatened to shut down the territory's only power plant. Israel cut off the shipments last week and closed Gaza's border crossings in response to a wave of Palestinian rocket attacks, which came after an Israeli incursion into Gaza and a fierce gunbattle between army troops and Hamas forces. The clashes have tested an Egyptian-mediated truce that has held between the sides for five months. Israel is the sole provider of industrial fuel for Gaza's only power plant. The Israeli officials said fuel shipments could resume on Tuesday if no more rockets are fired."

India negotiating $1.5 bn defence deal with Israel: "India is negotiating a deal with Israel to purchase four intelligence and early warning planes at a cost of USD 1.5 billion, a media report said on Monday. Indian Defence Secretary Vijay Singh is leading a delegation to Israel this week to discuss the purchase of the planes and missiles from Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), daily Ha'aretz reported. The Indian delegation will also discuss cooperation with Israel on intelligence matters and in the war on terror, sources close to the Israeli defense industries reportedly told the daily. Earlier, India had bought Phalcon AWACS plane radars from IAI for $1.1 billion, a deal that has been delayed but likely to come through by early 2010. Negotiations over the new deal is said to have started a few months ago. India has also made other big deals with Israel recently involving a $640 million sea-to-sea missile project and a $260 million purchase of anti-aircraft missiles."

Britain lifts ban on civilian nuclear exports to India : "In a significant development, Britain on Monday said it has lifted six-year-long ban on export of sensitive nuclear technology to India for civilian purpose. "Since March 2002 UK policy has been to refuse all licence applications for Trigger List items to India," Foreign Office Minister Bill Rammell said on Monday. "That policy has now changed and we will now consider on a case by case basis licence applications for peaceful use of all items on the NSG Trigger List and NSG Dual-Use List when they are destined for IAEA safeguarded civil nuclear facilities in India," Rammell told the House of Commons in a written statement."

Bush signs Indian nuclear bill into law: "Terming his signing of the nuclear bill as a "big day" for Indo-US relationship, jubilant US President George W Bush on Wednesday said the development sent signals to the rest of the world that countries following path of democracy and responsible behavior would have the United States as a friend. Flanked by two of his most trusted lieutenant, Vice-President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Bush used the occasion to celebrate the hard work done by his administration, his counterparts in India and the Indian American leaders in the past three years with regard to the deal which has ended more than three decades of India's nuclear isolation. Identifying India as the natural partner of the United States, Bush said the two countries have common interests and values"

Starbucks profits dive by 97% : "Profits at Starbucks collapsed 97 per cent in the fourth quarter of the year after the ubiquitous coffee chain was forced to absorb the effect of weakening demand and the cost of closing stores earlier this year. As the group admitted to the earnings plunge, shares in the Seattle-based group sank 3 per cent in after hours trading to $9.91 each. Two years ago, the stock fetched $38.41. The group, which this year admitted that it had too many stores in some areas and ousted its chief executive, said that profit for the last three months of the year fell to $5.4 million, compared with $158.5 million for the same period the year before. While total revenue rose 3 per cent to $2.52 billion, just below Wall Street expectations, like for like sales for the period slid 8 per cent in the US as Americans cut back on discretionary spending".

General Motors shares almost worthless: "Shares in General Motors crashed to their lowest level in 62 years yesterday after an analyst at Deutsche Bank said that they could be worth nothing at all within 12 months.The company gave warning on Friday that it could run out of cash early next year, but Deutsche Bank said that this could happen as early as next month. Rod Lache, the Deutsche analyst, cut his 12-month price target on GM to $0, bringing it down from $4, and issued a "sell" recommendation. GM's shares slumped to $3.02 in early trading, their lowest level since 1946, although they edged up again to close at $3.30, down $1.06 on the day. Mr Lache said: "Even if GM succeeds in averting a bankruptcy, we believe that the company's future path is likely to be bankruptcy-like." Although the prospects for a government bailout are seen to have risen since Barack Obama won the US presidential election last week, investors said that such action would come at a significant cost to existing shareholders. Barclays slashed its target price from $4 to $1 and recommended an "underweight" position"

The corrupt EU: "Six billion euros was paid out wrongly by the European Union last year, the highest cash total yet called into question by the European Court of Auditors' annual review. There were numerous cases of overclaiming from the EU's budget of 114 billion euros, especially in regional projects designed to raise living standards in poorer areas, as well as "serious failures to respect procurement rules", the auditors said. At least 11 per cent of the 42 billion budget for regional and social funds should not have been paid out - the largest area of mismanaged expenditure and one for which the 27 member states and the European Commission are jointly responsible. There were also "irregularities" of between 2 per cent and 5 per cent in the 51 billion agriculture budget. For the 14th successive year, the Court of Auditors was unable to state that the EU accounts were clean for "most spending areas", although they gave the European Commission praise for producing a reliable set of figures for the first time."


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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


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