04 May 2006

Profiling Conservatism

Political Conservatism as Motivated Social Cognition.

In May of this year a group of psychology researchers released a paper which caused a stir, titled "Political Conservatism as Motivated Social Cognition". Because some government grants were involved in funding the research, conservatives, who now control both the United States Congress and Senate took a sudden, and rather unfriendly, interest in the paper. It would seem that they did not particularly care for the results of the research, and certain threatening sounds were made about preventing further ‘waste of government money' to fund research into the conservative mindset. The study was ‘biased' against conservatives they insisted.

Specific variables
[personality attributes] hypothesized to predict conservatism include:

fear and aggression
intolerance of ambiguity
rule following and negative affect
uncertainty avoidance
personal need for structure
group-based dominance

And a few more attributes the profilers found:

(a) "a high degree of submission to the authorities who are perceived to be established and legitimate";
(b) "a general aggressiveness, directed against various persons, which is perceived to be sanctioned by established authorities"; and
(c) "a high degree of adherence to the social conventions which are perceived to be endorsed by society"

And if you find this interesting, you'll probably find this interesting too: Using MRIs to See Politics on the Brain.


Mark said...

In the interest of fairness, has there ever been a study like this about liberals?

WestEnder said...

Although I don't know of a specific study, the basic premise taken in this study was that conservativism is resistance to change whereas liberalism is desire for change.

The researchers identified character attributes that are associated with conservatism, but it is logical to conclude (and the researchers mention this) that the opposite character attributes are associated with liberalism.

For example, the (a), (b), (c) bullet points in the post might be something like this for liberalism:

(a) questioning of authority figures,
(b) acceptance of various persons outside the social mainstream,
(c) low degree of adherence to social conventions

TravisG said...

Hey, that's me!