Thursday, November 30, 2017

Shock! Horror!  Conservatives are more cautious

The article below is an amusing example of "spin".  They report research which shows that conservatives are innately more cautious -- something that no-one I know would argue with. We rather celebrate it, in fact.  Caution is almost the definition of conservatism.  But the galoots below seem to think that they have shown something new.

The only way they justify that is by seeing caution as "fear".  But even that is unoriginal.  Conservatives do indeed have realistic fears and make no apologies for it.  They particularly fear the outcomes of the madcap schemes that Leftists embark upon -- such as the"Affordable Care Act", which has deprived many Americans of healthcare altogether -- via the huge deductibles that are now often asked before any care is given.

The article is rubbishy in other ways too. The sample consisted of people taking an online survey. But such surveys routinely give a different picture from a proper random sample. The generalizability of the findings is therefore unknown.  You can only generalize to a population if you have taken a random or otherwise representative sample of that population.

And they make quite a point about a suspicion of minorities being associated with a germ model.  I quote:  "For centuries, arch-conservative leaders have often referred to scapegoated minority groups as “germs” or “bacteria” that seek to invade and destroy their country from within."

Curiously, they don't name any such leader.  But there certainly is one leader who did that:  Adolf Hitler, a socialist.  Arch-conservatives, such as Winston Churchill opposed him.  He wasn't one of them.

Hitler even used the old revolutionary slogan "Alles muss anders sein" (Everything must change).  Is that arch conservative?  He wanted to "fundamentally transform" Germany, just as Obama wanted to do to America.  It is an old Marxist lie that Hitler was conservative.

The article seems to imply that the changes they made in people's attitudes were permanent.  But there is no evidence of that given.  It is improbable.

At Yale, we conducted an experiment to turn conservatives into liberals. The results say a lot about our political divisions

By John Bargh

Keeping ourselves and our loved ones safe from harm is perhaps our strongest human motivation, deeply embedded in our very DNA. It is so deep and important that it influences much of what we think and do, maybe more than we might expect. For example, over a decade now of research in political psychology consistently shows that how physically threatened or fearful a person feels is a key factor — although clearly not the only one — in whether he or she holds conservative or liberal attitudes.

Conservatives, it turns out, react more strongly to physical threat than liberals do. In fact, their greater concern with physical safety seems to be determined early in life: In one University of California study, the more fear a 4-year-old showed in a laboratory situation, the more conservative his or her political attitudes were found to be 20 years later. Brain imaging studies have even shown that the fear center of the brain, the amygdala, is actually larger in conservatives than in liberals. And many other laboratory studies have found that when adult liberals experienced physical threat, their political and social attitudes became more conservative (temporarily, of course). But no one had ever turned conservatives into liberals.

Until we did.

In a new study to appear in a forthcoming issue of the European Journal of Social Psychology, my colleagues Jaime Napier, Julie Huang and Andy Vonasch and I asked 300 U.S. residents in an online survey their opinions on several contemporary issues such as gay rights, abortion, feminism and immigration, as well as social change in general. The group was two-thirds female, about three-quarters white, with an average age of 35. Thirty-percent of the participants self-identified as Republican, and the rest as Democrat.

But before they answered the survey questions, we had them engage in an intense imagination exercise. They were asked to close their eyes and richly imagine being visited by a genie who granted them a superpower. For half of our participants, this superpower was to be able to fly, under one’s own power. For the other half, it was to be completely physically safe, invulnerable to any harm.

If they had just imagined being able to fly, their responses to the social attitude survey showed the usual clear difference between Republicans and Democrats — the former endorsed more conservative positions on social issues and were also more resistant to social change in general.

But if they had instead just imagined being completely physically safe, the Republicans became significantly more liberal — their positions on social attitudes were much more like the Democratic respondents. And on the issue of social change in general, the Republicans’ attitudes were now indistinguishable from the Democrats. Imagining being completely safe from physical harm had done what no experiment had done before — it had turned conservatives into liberals.

In both instances, we had manipulated a deeper underlying reason for political attitudes, the strength of the basic motivation of safety and survival. The boiling water of our social and political attitudes, it seems, can be turned up or down by changing how physically safe we feel.

This is why it makes sense that liberal politicians intuitively portray danger as manageable — recall FDR’s famous Great Depression era reassurance of “nothing to fear but fear itself,” echoed decades later in Barack Obama’s final State of the Union address — and why President Trump and other Republican politicians are instead likely to emphasize the dangers of terrorism and immigration, relying on fear as a motivator to gain votes.

In fact, anti-immigration attitudes are also linked directly to the underlying basic drive for physical safety. For centuries, arch-conservative leaders have often referred to scapegoated minority groups as “germs” or “bacteria” that seek to invade and destroy their country from within. President Trump is an acknowledged germaphobe, and he has a penchant for describing people — not only immigrants but political opponents and former Miss Universe contestants — as “disgusting.”

“Immigrants are like viruses” is a powerful metaphor, because in comparing immigrants entering a country to germs entering a human body, it speaks directly to our powerful innate motivation to avoid contamination and disease. Until very recently in human history, not only did we not have antibiotics, we did not even know how infections occurred or diseases transmitted, and cuts and open wounds were quite dangerous. (In the American Civil War, for example, 60 out of every 1,000 soldiers died not by bullets or bayonets, but by infections.)

Therefore, we reasoned, making people feel safer about a dangerous flu virus should serve to calm their fears about immigrants — and making them feel more threatened by the flu virus should cause them to be more against immigration than they were before. In a 2011 study, my colleagues and I showed just that. First, we reminded our nationwide sample of liberals and conservatives about the threat of the flu virus (during the H1N1 epidemic), and then measured their attitudes toward immigration. Afterward we simply asked them if they’d already gotten their flu shot or not. It turned out that those who had not gotten a flu shot (feeling threatened) expressed more negative attitudes toward immigration, while those who had received the vaccination (feeling safe) had more positive attitudes about immigration.

In another study, using hand sanitizer after being warned about the flu virus had the same effect on immigration attitudes as had being vaccinated. A simple squirt of Purell after we had raised the threat of the flu had changed their minds. It made them feel safe from the dangerous virus, and this made them feel socially safe from immigrants as well.

SOURCE/.  There are some further critical comments on the study here


CFPB Is an Offense to the Constitution: Time to Abolish It

The spectacle of two people turning up at a major government bureau claiming to be its Acting Director this Monday is not just an indignity – it’s an affront to the Constitution. Back in 2010, the Democrat-controlled Congress set up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to operate independently of oversight. Amid a host of other problems, that arrangement has now resulted in a mid-level bureaucrat from the bureau defying the President, his legal advisers, and the CFPB’s own legal department in an attempt to assert control. Congress needs to recognize its past mistake, abolish this lawless bureau, and start over.

In a normal government agency, its head is responsible to the President. If an agency director overreaches, the President can fire him or her as a check on power. With independent agencies, the director is typically insulated from Presidential firings, but in the past that was balanced by a different sort of accountability: the presence of several commissioners, each answerable to one another. The CFPB was set up as an independent bureau with a sole director.

Moreover, the Dodd-Frank act that set up the bureau says that the President cannot fire the director except “for cause” (e.g. malfeasance), and the director has no colleagues to whom he or she is answerable either. Moreover, because the CFPB gets its funding on demand from the Federal Reserve, Congress cannot exercise the power of the purse to discipline the CFPB director by withholding funds, as is the case with other independent agencies.

In a final rebuke to such constitutional protections, Dodd-Frank says that the director can appoint a deputy director who will take over in the director’s absence, which may include the director’s resignation. That is what happened here, as departing director Richard Cordray appointed his Chief of Staff, Leandra English, as deputy director on Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. So Ms. English, a mid-level bureaucrat, is claiming to be the rightful Acting Director.

Problem is, there is also another, general statute that covers vacancies for positions appointed by the President, the Federal Vacancies Reform Act. This allows the President, in the event of a vacancy for a Senate-confirmed position, to appoint another Senate-confirmed official to act as director until he nominates a full-time replacement. The President relied on this statute to promptly appoint Office of Management and Budget head Mick Mulvaney as Acting Director on the same Friday that Cordray tried to appoint English to that post. Incredibly, Ms. English (who, needless to say, has not been confirmed by the Senate) brought a lawsuit two days later, on Sunday, to stop the President’s appointment. (Constitutional lawyer Adam White delves into the dueling legal theories at the Yale Journal of Regulation.)

Yet whoever ends up as Acting Director, the embarrassing and disruptive fiasco illustrates how Dodd-Frank’s attempt to create an all-powerful independent executive agency flouts constitutional norms. The Constitution vests the power to execute the laws and appoint high-level officials in the President, not in bureaucrats. The Constitution vests the power to allocate taxpayer money in the Congress, not the Federal Reserve.

The Constitution was specifically designed to do all this for very good reasons. A government official who lacks the checks and balances of accountability is likely to abuse power. So it proved with the CFPB.

Director Cordray, for instance, abused the due process rights of a New Jersey-based mortgage processing firm, PHH Corporation. His CFPB abruptly changed the long-standing interpretation of a rule to do with reinsuring mortgage products, applied that retrospectively to PHH (and others), and then fined the company millions of dollars for infringing a rule it did not know would be changed. The CFPB appealed the decision of its own Administrative Law Judge that PHH should be fined to none other than … Director Cordray himself! Cordray then upped the fine by many more millions.

Under Cordray, the CFPB has also engaged in attempts to get around Congressional restrictions on its power. The Dodd-Frank Act stops the CFPB from regulating auto loans, but the bureau has nonetheless attempted to exercise power over auto lenders, devising statistical models to show alleged racial discrimination in auto lending and otherwise trying to regulate various products sold as part of auto loans.

The bureau has also engaged in fishing expeditions in an attempt to expand its power. Immigration services provider Nexus Services is currently in court trying to stop the CFPB from demanding countless financial records of both it and its clients. Nexus simply does not provide any sort of credit to its clients, but the CFPB says that it cannot take the company’s word for it, so is demanding the documents.

Unfortunately, it is unlikely that even legitimate Acting Director Mulvaney would be able to fix these institutional problems. A past Congress made the mistake of granting the CFPB Director these unconstitutional powers, so the current Congress should make it a priority to set things right. The best way to do that is to start again, return consumer protection from fraud and deception to the Federal Trade Commission, and just abolish the CFPB entirely.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated),  a Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


No comments: