web analytics

Defining political conservatism

Written By: - Date published: 9:53 am, October 18th, 2007 - 20 comments
Categories: articles - Tags:

325-nailgun-1.jpgA month or so ago we posted on a study that appeared to show that the brains of conservative and liberals differed.

A related study has been conducted recently by UC Berkeley.

It was looking for consistent underlying motivations to politically conservative agendas.

Four researchers who culled through 50 years of research literature about the psychology of conservatism report that at the core of political conservatism is the resistance to change and a tolerance for inequality, and that some of the common psychological factors linked to political conservatism include:

  • Fear and aggression
  • Dogmatism and intolerance of ambiguity
  • Uncertainty avoidance
  • Need for cognitive closure
  • Terror management

… “[Conservatives] are more comfortable seeing and stating things in black and white in ways that would make liberals squirm,” [a lead researcher] said.He pointed as an example to a 2001 trip to Italy, where President George W. Bush was asked to explain himself. The Republican president told assembled world leaders, “I know what I believe and I believe what I believe is right.”

(Hat tip: r0b)

UPDATE: here’s a like to the full study (PDF)

20 comments on “Defining political conservatism ”

  1. it’s really not that surprising that a constant state of fear produces a different brain state, and eventually a different brain architecture

  2. Wodger 2

    I suppose 4 years ago is recent?

    Perhaps you should quote a little more of the press release?

    “Glaser acknowledged that the team’s exclusive assessment of the psychological motivations of political conservatism might be viewed as a partisan exercise. However, he said, there is a host of information available about conservatism, but not about liberalism.

    The researchers conceded cases of left-wing ideologues, such as Stalin, Khrushchev or Castro, who, once in power, steadfastly resisted change, allegedly in the name of egalitarianism.”

    I wonder why there is little material available on liberalism – perhaps there is little mental ability to support publication and reading?

    Also, no link to the actual study?

    A related interesting factoid is that the UC Berkely was rated at 91% liberal in one study. Surprise surprise.

    Here’s some more on this point
    http://www.academia.org/campus_reports/2002/october_2002_5.html

  3. r0b 3

    Also, no link to the actual study?

    Quite so. Here’s
    a link.

  4. Nih 4

    Perhaps one day we’ll be able to treat a conservative mindset as a minor mental disease. Free up the old thinker then see if they feel the same way about everything.

  5. NeilM 5

    It’s hardly surprising that political preferences would be mirrored by physical processes in the brain – what else could those preferences be other than physiological, thoughts are a product of brain chemistry.

    The interesting questions surround how this links into evolution. Have a read of some Steven Pinker.

    And don’t be getting too smug about this particular study; there must be something pathological about Left-wingers as well since they managed to kill more people last century.

  6. ak 6

    Right on Neil: and a comparison of the attractiveness of right-wing politics and the visage of your average tory like, say, David Farrar or Ruth Richardson, gives strong validity to the notion of physiognomy.

  7. robinsod 7

    ak – I’ve met a few Labour MP’s and I’ve gotta say, I wouldn’t be getting into that argument if I was you. It might be better to point to the fact that good looks and politics seem to be mutually exclusive. I mean take any group of 120 people and if the best looking of them is Katherine Rich then you’ve got to start wondering if we’re talking statistical aberration or some causative link…

  8. ak 8

    True – thought I was watching parliament the other day till the Animal Planet logo came up. Then again, wee Kath being on the outer in the nats sort of backs up the theory, but that could be caused by the politics of envy of course – which is amazingly strong among tories by the way. I’m constantly amazed at the references to size of farms etc in that quarter. Might be interesting to do a study on the ranking/selection of tory pollies over the years compared to the size of their personal holdings….not too surprising really, size really does matter in the dog-eat-dog world they want to drag us back to.

  9. come on everyone knows politics is show business for ugly people

  10. r0b 10

    It’s hardly surprising that political preferences would be mirrored by physical processes in the brain – what else could those preferences be other than physiological, thoughts are a product of brain chemistry.

    Hi NeilM. I agree completely. What does surprise me though is that these differences are obvious enough to be observed with the very crude tools that we have today.

    Re the evolutionary drivers, that’s interesting stuff. The left / right (liberal / conservative) split seems to be fairly fundamental in many cultures (and the proportions seem to be about 50:50 too). Why? What drives these two different ways of viewing the world?

  11. Phil 11

    All this talk of ugly politicians, and not one mention of HC’s teeth or JA’s Comb-over!

  12. NeilM 12

    “Re the evolutionary drivers, that’s interesting stuff. The left / right (liberal / conservative) split seems to be fairly fundamental in many cultures (and the proportions seem to be about 50:50 too). Why? What drives these two different ways of viewing the world?”

    The 50/50 split is so pervasive that it certainly demands some sort of evolutionary explanation. It may be a secondary effect. People find tremendous joy in dividing into teams to either compete in sports or kill each other. So the 50/50 could be a sort of averaging over a range of teams, there are of course lots of political positions across the spectrum but when one decides who to vote for there is a strong tendency to stick to two parties.

    There may be other statistical effects – if there are a large number of independent factors that contribute to political preference (of the binary choice of left vs. right) than the distribution will tend to be binomial and hence symmetrical.

    This in turn rests on there being a range of personality types that have a genetic origin which is fairly easily explained in terms of genetic variability.

    What implications all this has for politics is another question. The big lesson to take from Pinker’s “Blank Slate” is the danger of working too much against our innate nature – which is the best explanation of why there were such disastrous consequences of both left-wing and right-wing utopianism.

  13. r0b 13

    Interesting, but none of that seems basic and robust enough to account for the effect. I wonder if it’s anything to do with the competing evolutionary pressures for cooperation (altruism, kin effects) vs competition (basic “survival of the fittest”).

    “the danger of working too much against our innate nature”

    Certainly agree there.

Links to post

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

  • Worsening housing crisis must prompt action
    A growing public housing waiting list and continued increase of house prices must be urgently addressed by Government, Green Party Co-leader Marama Davidson said today. ...
    4 hours ago
  • Twenty highlights of 2020
    As we welcome in the new year, our focus is on continuing to keep New Zealanders safe and moving forward with our economic recovery. There’s a lot to get on with, but before we say a final goodbye to 2020, here’s a quick look back at some of the milestones ...
    3 weeks ago

  • Jobs for Nature funding will create training and employment opportunities
    A major investment to tackle wilding pines in Mt Richmond will create jobs and help protect the area’s unique ecosystems, Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor says. The Mt Richmond Forest Park has unique ecosystems developed on mineral-rich geology, including taonga plant species found nowhere else in the country. “These special plant ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 day ago
  • Pre-departure testing extended to all passengers to New Zealand
    To further protect New Zealand from COVID-19, the Government is extending pre-departure testing to all passengers to New Zealand except from Australia, Antarctica and most Pacific Islands, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said today. “The change will come into force for all flights arriving in New Zealand after 11:59pm (NZT) on Monday ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 day ago
  • Bay Cadets learn skills to protect environment
    Bay Conservation Cadets launched with first intake Supported with $3.5 million grant Part of $1.245b Jobs for Nature programme to accelerate recover from Covid Cadets will learn skills to protect and enhance environment Environment Minister David Parker today welcomed the first intake of cadets at the launch of the Bay ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Cook Islanders to resume travel to New Zealand
    The Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern and the Prime Minister of the Cook Islands Mark Brown have announced passengers from the Cook Islands can resume quarantine-free travel into New Zealand from 21 January, enabling access to essential services such as health. “Following confirmation of the Cook Islands’ COVID ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Supporting communities and landowners to grow employment opportunities
    Jobs for Nature funding is being made available to conservation groups and landowners to employ staff and contractors in a move aimed at boosting local biodiversity-focused projects, Conservation Minister Kiritapu Allan has announced. It is estimated some 400-plus jobs will be created with employment opportunities in ecology, restoration, trapping, ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • Border exception for some returning international tertiary students
    The Government has approved an exception class for 1000 international tertiary students, degree level and above, who began their study in New Zealand but were caught offshore when border restrictions began. The exception will allow students to return to New Zealand in stages from April 2021. “Our top priority continues ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • Tiwai deal gives time for managed transition
    Today’s deal between Meridian and Rio Tinto for the Tiwai smelter to remain open another four years provides time for a managed transition for Southland. “The deal provides welcome certainty to the Southland community by protecting jobs and incomes as the region plans for the future. The Government is committed ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • New member for APEC Business Advisory Council
    Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has appointed Anna Curzon to the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC). The leader of each APEC economy appoints three private sector representatives to ABAC. ABAC provides advice to leaders annually on business priorities. “ABAC helps ensure that APEC’s work programme is informed by business community perspectives ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Govt’s careful economic management recognised
    The Government’s prudent fiscal management and strong policy programme in the face of the COVID-19 global pandemic have been acknowledged by the credit rating agency Fitch. Fitch has today affirmed New Zealand’s local currency rating at AA+ with a stable outlook and foreign currency rating at AA with a positive ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Additional actions to keep COVID-19 out of NZ
    The Government is putting in place a suite of additional actions to protect New Zealand from COVID-19, including new emerging variants, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said today. “Given the high rates of infection in many countries and evidence of the global spread of more transmissible variants, it’s clear that ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • 19 projects will clean up and protect waterways
    $36 million of Government funding alongside councils and others for 19 projects Investment will clean up and protect waterways and create local jobs Boots on the ground expected in Q2 of 2021 Funding part of the Jobs for Nature policy package A package of 19 projects will help clean up ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • New Zealand Government acknowledges 175th anniversary of Battle of Ruapekapeka
    The commemoration of the 175th anniversary of the Battle of Ruapekapeka represents an opportunity for all New Zealanders to reflect on the role these conflicts have had in creating our modern nation, says Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Kiri Allan. “The Battle at Te Ruapekapeka Pā, which took ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Better care for babies with tongue-tie
    Babies born with tongue-tie will be assessed and treated consistently under new guidelines released by the Ministry of Health, Associate Minister of Health Dr Ayesha Verrall announced today. Around 5% to 10% of babies are born with a tongue-tie, or ankyloglossia, in New Zealand each year. At least half can ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Prisoner disorder event at Waikeria Prison over
    The prisoner disorder event at Waikeria Prison is over, with all remaining prisoners now safely and securely detained, Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis says. The majority of those involved in the event are members of the Mongols and Comancheros. Five of the men are deportees from Australia, with three subject to ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Pre-departure COVID-19 test for travellers from the UK and the US from 15 January
    Travellers from the United Kingdom or the United States bound for New Zealand will be required to get a negative test result for COVID-19 before departing, and work is underway to extend the requirement to other long haul flights to New Zealand, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins confirmed today. “The new PCR test requirement, foreshadowed last ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago