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September 10, 2007


Great Banana


So, how does this apply to someone like me, who was extremely liberal through college and into his mid-20's and is not very conservative?

Did my brain change?

this "study" sounds like a lot of bunk to me.

Moreover, it claims that "Previous psychological studies have found that conservatives tend to be more structured and persistent in their judgments whereas liberals are more open to new experiences."

What does that mean, exactly? That conservative principals stay the same, while liberals are willing to glom on to the latest fad idea that will be discredited just like the last fad idea was? Global warming? The liberal change from supporting unilateral action (Bosnia) to detesting unilateral action (Iraq), while still calling for unilateral action (Darfur)?

And, what is being "open to new experiences" mean? I try new things all the time. I travel, I try new foods, etc., etc. Most conservatives I know are more than willing to try something new.

This is pure junk science, nothing more.


So what is the LATimes doing thieving weird scientific studies from the NYT, who seem to have exclusive rights to all research material from which to draw their weird conclusions?

Great Banana

I meant "and is now very conservative".

More broadly, it may well be that liberals are more inclined to focus on nuance and complexity, and will score better on tests where differences matter, as in the M - W example. Conversely, righties will score better on tests where, despite distracting differences, the "right" answers don't change much.

And it may well be liberals don't have an ounce of common sense.

Bill in AZ

why did they choose "W". That's an inflammatory letter to a lib whether he needs to push a button or not. Flawed study.


The reality-based community just can't help itself.

I used to be one of 'em. Now I despise 'em.


College students? I question the controlling.


This reminds me of the old Meyers/Briggs personality typing - specifically the judging/perceiving split. Judgers seek closure (strength - consistency / weakness - stubbornness) while perceivers are always looking for more data (strength - adaptability / weakness - indecision).

Which is better? Well, we all tend to value more that which we are better at ....









Ralph L

"Liberals had more brain activity and made fewer mistakes than conservatives when they saw a W"
Certainly more fevered brain activity.


So, charming rosie, a push study, not a push poll?


OK, OK, Charming Roastie.


I'm still looking for the source for the quotation about being "so open minded that your brain falls out".

Patrick R. Sullivan
Previous psychological studies have found that conservatives tend to be more structured and persistent in their judgments whereas liberals are more open to new experiences.

Funny, Brad DeLong wasn't. When he started losing arguments on his blog, he simply deleted the 'new experiences'.


How did moderates (like our beloved Moderator) do?


Well cathyf--one answer to your question is Alistair Young--of whom I've never heard:-)

Lieberman is coming up on Kudlow!!


I would think that the fact that the people in the study were all college students would make the whole thing bogus anyway.


"And it may well be liberals don't have an ounce of common sense."

Keep tapping on that 'W' prompt, Sue.



I'm confused. Didn't the liberals all break the W keys off of their keyboards in 2001?

Cecil Turner

Perhaps if they had a more sensitive instrument, they'd have picked up more nuance. Maybe something like:

  • Lib: [Gotta be careful not to hit on any of those poor little W's . . . check it carefully before pushing.]
  • Con: [Heck with it . . . key 'em all, let God sort 'em out. Let's finish this nonsense and go get a beer.]
If so, guilty as charged.


And the Frank Sulloway, who is quoted in the LATimes article, is famous (or infamous) for his involvement in a previous "study" purporting to link President Reagan--and conservatives--to Hitler and Mussolini, in an analysis of social-cognitive perspectives.

The above "study" cited by TM is just another example of politics masquerading as science.

TT makes a good point, that in the end this study makes value judgments about personality traits--traits that inherently have strengths and weaknesses.


does study merely prove that liberals are good at mindlessly following orders? Insects in a communist society?


Well, maybe libs took a ridiculous test seriously. Maybe the conservatives don't have the patience required to participate in such a stupid study.

It's the same old BS.


Hil returning 850,000 of Hsu raised cash to rightful contributors!
Clarice: You were right-she can't get away from this money fast enough. This really is her Achilles heel!


this study is a joke.

how would they rate me - a liflong leftie who became a rightie - as so many other more famous have???

as churchill said (paraphrasing), "if you're not a leftie when you're young you have no heart; if you're still one when you're old then you have no head."

i don;t think our brains change.

our politics do.

david brooks wrote once that party affiliation is like religious affiliation: and changing parties is as difficult as changing religions.

we largely inherit the worldview from our parents.

breaking away is tough.

for teens born on the right, the break is facilitated by leftist teachers.

and this is drummed in by the leftist msm and the leftist academy.

(GEE: didgya see the latest $ 's from ytale!? 45-to-one dollars to dems versus GOP. SHOCKING!)


which i feel is more about being willing to examine one's presuppositions in view of new facts then brain-chemistry/organization.


What this means is that liberals thought this experiment was meaningful and useful, while conservative thought it a complete waste of time and got bored with the tripe of it all.

richard mcenroe

Liberals are more adaptative. Compare for example the liberals of New Orleans with the conservatives of Biloxi...no, wait...

compare for example the liberals I've met fighting forest fires... oh, wait, I never met any...

compare for example, the primitive, reactionary, dated responses to 9/11 by conservatives with the forward thinking quotation of slogans from 197o by liberals...hold it...

Let me get back to you on this.

Rick Ballard

"What this means is that liberals thought this experiment was meaningful and useful"

It's a mobile hanging over the liberals crib. Wind it up and tiptoe out of the room...


For such as this Colonel Potter invented the word "horsehockey"!


To follow up - it is interesting that the comments above tend to support the study's conclusions - as the general reaction from the overwhelmingly conservative commenters on this blog is one of contempt. IMHO, consevatives generally criticize liberals as contemptible wimps while liberals generally criticize conservatives as overbearing rubes.

Fits rather nicely, Yes?


Not so charming. You made the point better earlier when you talked of the value judgements. Maybe we dislike the study because it isn't science, it's politics.

Rick Ballard

"consevatives generally criticize liberals as contemptible wimps"

Personally, I lean toward "gullible dupes", although I must say that the Copperhead faction is certainly worthy of deep contempt. "Wimp" would go without saying of course.



The contempt is for the study, but if liberals want to jump into the contempt vat who are conservatives to stop them? You have to admit the studies that liberals conduct are rather humorous. ::grin::


Yep, TT, I agree totally. The study said that conservatives are more logical and analytical, and are faithful to fundamental principals, while liberals are flighty and unprincipled, and will twist everything into some sort of ad hominem that makes them feeeeel good.


Actually Kim, the politics comes with respect to the interpretation of the results - although one can always question the methodology.

Me? I think its rather silly. The study may be an instance of correlation - not causation. I am intrigued by the visceral reaction, to say the least.


I am intrigued by the visceral reaction, to say the least.

Me too. Especially the reaction that drew on Colonel Potter and horsehockey!




You obviously value "fundamental principals" over "getting it right". If I were to guess, ESTJ.


Don Surber comments:

Me no understand big words

Me no understand LA Times story on conservative vs. liberal brains. Too many big words. Friend Jules, him understand. Law woman, Ann, her understand. Me, no understand.

Me, not sad. Me have no emotions, study say.

Medicine woman, Helen, her explain: “I might be more persuaded by Jost’s defense of his research as objective if he wasn’t forking money over to Hillary Clinton — isn’t that a conflict of interest? If not, it should be.”

Me feel better. Me go hunt giraffe now.


TT, the reaction occurs primarily because all these "studies" are conducted by lefties, who start with the usual conclusions and then find the facts to fit.

As a perfectly rational conservative, I see this "study" in the same light I see global warming studies. Same modus operandi, same BS.

At university, many years ago, I did a study to determine who would stop and help those in trouble, flat tires, fainting on the sidewalk, etc. The ones that stopped to help were overwhelmingly conservative. Does that make you libs uncaring bastards?


LOL, Cathy. I'd forgotten about those "W" keys.


The Nature Neuroscience (not Nature) article itself costs money, but the supplementary information is free! It includes the procedure.

Neurocognitive Correlates of Liberalism and Conservatism

David M. Amodio, John T. Jost, Sarah L. Master, and Cindy M. Yee


Upon arrival to the laboratory, participants provided their informed consent and were prepared for physiological recording. The participant was seated in a dimly-lit, sound-proofed room in a comfortable chair, approximately one meter from a computer monitor. The experimenter explained that, following baseline recordings, the participant would complete a simple computer task. Experimenters were blind to participants’ political attitudes.

Political attitudes questionnaire. A measure of political attitudes was embedded in a larger set of personality and attitudes surveys completed at the every beginning of the experimental session. Participants completed these questionnaires in private. Participants were instructed to not make any identifying marks on the questionnaires and, upon completion, to place the questionnaires into a large envelope. These questionnaires remained in these envelopes until the completion of the study, at which time they were entered into a computer database.

The critical political orientation item asked participants to indicate their political orientation on a scale ranging from Extremely Liberal (–5) to Extremely Conservative (+5), with neutral corresponding to 0. This single item has been shown to provide a valid and reliable measure of political orientation that is very strongly predictive of intended and actual behavior (e.g., voting decisions).1,2

EEG recording. Participants were fitted with a stretch-lycra cap, and EEG was collected from 29 scalp sites using Ag/AgCl electrodes positioned according to the 10-10 system. These sites included midline, frontal, parietal, temporal, and occipital locations. The active reference electrode was placed on the left earlobe, and a ground electrode was placed on the forehead. EEG was also collected from the right earlobe for offline rereferencing. Vertical and horizontal electrooculogram (EOG) was collected to permit the reduction of artifact due to eye movements. Electro-Gel (Eaton, OH) was used as the conductive medium, and impedances were below 5kΩ at each scalp site (below 10kΩ at EOG sites). EEG was recorded through a 0.1 – 100 bandpass filter and digitized at 500 Hz using a 32-channel Synamps amplifier (Neuroscan Labs, El Paso, TX). Offline, EEG was manually scored to remove portions of data containing eye or muscle movement, and rereferenced to the average earlobe.

Go/No–Go task. On each trial of the Go/No–Go task, either the letter “M” or “W” was presented in the center of a computer monitor screen, following Nieuwenhuis et al.3 Half of the participants were instructed to make a “Go” response when they saw “M” but to make no response when they saw “W”; the remaining participants completed a version in which “W” was the Go stimulus and “M” was the No–Go stimulus; assignment to either version of the task was random. Responses were registered on a computer keyboard placed in the participants’ laps. Each trial began with a fixation point, presented for 500 ms. The target then appeared for 100 ms, followed by a blank screen. Participants were instructed to respond within 500 ms of target onset. A “Too slow!” warning message appeared after responses that exceeded this deadline, and “Incorrect” feedback was given after erroneous responses.

The task consisted of 500 trials, of which 80% consisted of the Go stimulus and 20% consisted of the No–Go stimulus. As in past research, the high frequency of Go stimuli induced a prepotent “Go” response, enhancing the difficulty of successfully inhibiting a response on No–Go trials. Participants received a two-minute break halfway through the task, which took approximately 15 minutes to complete. Following completion of the task, participants were debriefed, thanked, paid or awarded credit, and dismissed.

Preliminary analyses of task behavior revealed that participants made a significantly higher percentage of errors on No–Go trials (M = 39%, SD = .16) than on Go trials (M = 0.01 %, SD = 0.02), t(42) = 15.33, P < 0.001, indicating that the Go/No–Go task was successful in eliciting a habitual response pattern that was difficult to inhibit.

ERP processing

ERN. Frequencies below 1 Hz and above 15 Hz were digitally filtered (96 dB, zero–phase shift). An 800 ms response-locked epoch of EEG signal, centered on the time of response within each trial, was selected for each artifact-free trial. Baseline correction procedures subtracted the average voltage occurring from 400 ms to 50 ms prior to response from the entire epoch. Epochs associated with incorrect responses on No–Go trials and correct responses on Go trials were averaged within their respective trial types. The ERN was scored as the peak negative deflection occurring between –50 and 150 ms, relative to response onset, at the frontocentral scalp site (Fcz), as in previous research.3 The ERN component refers to the average amplitude associated with incorrect “Go” responses on “No–Go” trials.

N2. Frequencies below 1 Hz and above 15 Hz were digitally filtered (96 dB, zero-phase shift). A 1000 ms epoch of EEG signal, beginning 200 ms prior to target onset, was selected for each artifact-free trial. Baseline correction procedures subtracted the average voltage occurring 100 to 200 ms relative to target onset within each epoch from the entire epoch. Epochs associated with correct and incorrect responses on No–Go trials were averaged within their respective trial types. The N2 was scored as the peak negative deflection occurring between 200 and 400 ms, relative to target onset, at the vertex site (Cz), where it is typically maximal. The No–Go N2 component refers to the average N2 amplitude associated with correct “No–Go” responses.

Source localization. Source localization analyses were conducted using SOURCE (Neuroscan Labs, El Paso, TX) dipole modeling software (see ref #4). A single equivalent current dipole model was estimated from the peak of the ERP wave, for both the ERN (reported in the main text) and the N2 (Fig. 1). As in Van Veen and Carter (2002), we estimated the source from the peak maximum of the difference waveform, in which the waveform for the correct Go responses was subtracted, point by point, from the critical No–Go waveform, for each subject.5 Difference waveforms were then averaged across subjects for localization analyses.

A single-dipole model of the ERN peak (44 ms post-response) identified a source in the dorsal region of the ACC (Mean Global Field Power [MGFP] = 4.66 μV; PAN coordinates [mm]: x = –1.0, y = 35.7, z = 88.2; dipole strength = 167.8 nAm), which accounted for 90.3 % of the variance of the signal (see Fig. in main text). A single dipole model of the N2 peak (270 ms post-stimulus) identified a source in the same region of the ACC (MGFP = 2.36 μV; PAN coordinates [mm]: x = 4.1, y = 38.8, z = 88.7; dipole strength = 83.22 nAm), which accounted for 91.4 % of the variance of the signal.


1. Knight, K., in Measures of Political Attitudes, J.P. Robinson, P.R. Shaver, & L.S. Wrightsman, Eds. (Academic Press, San Diego, 1999), pp. 59-158.

2. Jost, J., Am. Psychol. 61, 651-670 (2006).

3. Niewenhuis, S., Yeung, N., Van Den Wildenberg, W., Ridderinkhof, K. R. Cogn. Affect. Behav. Neurosc. 16, 805 (2003).

4. Fuchs, M., Wagner, M., Kohler, T., Wischmann, H. A. J. Clin. Neurophysiol. 16, 267-95 (1999).

5. van Veen, V., Carter, C. S. J Cogn. Neurosci. 14, 593-602 (2002).



Keep your powder dry until tomorrow, when we are going to need your anger.

Dear Sara:
You are right..I'm wrong..I should never blog and drink..
I took everything you said wrong and i'm so sorry...
I hope you forgive me... I saw your blog about vietnam and snapped..I have such bad memories of that war and i was drinking and watching football all day and night..
I did tell you i really respect your views and i mean it...I am so sorry, I thought you said something different about those heady days of the 60's. I didn't know your husband served 4 tours..
OK... This moveon.org ad really pisses me off..How dare anyone say that about a 4 star general? As far as anyone knows he may be a lifelong dem that just calls it the way he sees it..A giant amoungst solders who really cares about his charges.. where did politics come into this? if its bad, he'll say its bad...
Damn the torpedoes..
He really seems to know what he is doing..bully for us.....
-the hoopster


This was an engrossing study. I hope they can try it again with different letters.

My experience with college students has been that they interpret the word "liberal" in the traditional sense rather than in the contemporary "progressive" sense.


Amen Hoosierhoops! Damn well bully for (us) our side that we have the caliber of man that we have in General Petraeus!


As far as anyone knows he may be a lifelong dem

Well that certainly ended today.


I said this on another thread earlier--I am certain that this study was reported before--about 2 or 3 years ago--


Ah, but the more interesting question: how is the ethically unmoored state that these researchers have identified amongst liberals related to the most prominent liberal characteristic, which is the inability to detect irony? Is it correlation, causation or coincidence?


Of course Mr. Maguire, everything you say in your entry is based on the idea that the science was done scientifically, the data was recorded honestly, and the results reported accurately.

Its not how they do climate change.


Irony? What's that?

Does it have something to do with an "ethically unmoored state"? ;)


Frankly this test procedure looks bogus as a method to measure what they claim. Instead of revealing differences in mental process, they simply have demonstrated a difference in perception, which is strongly influenced by expectation. The test appears to primarily test the degree of influence, and would not be directly related to what they claim in their conclusions.

Digital video compression is also based on expectation. Only store and process the "difference" between the next frame and the prediction based on the last several frames. Advanced processing (like the brain) processes the differences between the prediction (or extrapolation) based on previous input to account for movement or change. Perception anticipates reality to counteract the process delay.

The evolutionary choice may have been: input as close to real time without process identification and enhancement or a facsimile of what it expects reality to be by the time we can consciously perceive it after identification. The latter should work better as long as reality behaves in a predictable fashion and conforms to "expectation".

The athlete with good anticipation can outplay the one with good reaction.

An alternate explanation to those presented is that students who identify conservative have a stronger link between expectation and perception. Perhaps they simply expect the world to behave in a perdictable, orderly fashion and more inclined take advantage when it does. Liberal students may be more inclined to live in the moment, expect nothing beyond the unexpected.

Rick Ballard

"Following completion of the task, participants were debriefed, thanked, paid or awarded credit, and dismissed."

No bias here, boss. Students had to pass a "too dumb to scam" test in order to participate. Hayek coined the term "scientistic" to describe this. It's all part of the "end of history".


Has the 'critical political orientation item' been standardized for college students?


More studies--perhaps "nuance" and "tolerance for ambiguity" means open to B.S.:

"Psychologists John Jost of New York University, Dana Carney of Harvard, and Sam Gosling of the University of Texas have demonstrated that conservatives and liberals boast markedly different home and office decor. Liberals are messier than conservatives, their rooms have more clutter and more color, and they tend to have more travel documents, maps of other countries, and flags from around the world. Conservatives are neater, and their rooms are cleaner, better organized, more brightly lit, and more conventional. Liberals have more books, and their books cover a greater variety of topics. And that's just a start. Multiple studies find that liberals are more optimistic. Conservatives are more likely to be religious. Liberals are more likely to like classical music and jazz, conservatives, country music. Liberals are more likely to enjoy abstract art. Conservative men are more likely than liberal men to prefer conventional forms of entertainment like TV and talk radio. Liberal men like romantic comedies more than conservative men. Liberal women are more likely than conservative women to enjoy books, poetry, writing in a diary, acting, and playing musical instruments. "

"They found arresting patterns. As kids, liberals had developed close relationships with peers and were rated by their teachers as self-reliant, energetic, impulsive, and resilient. People who were conservative at age 23 had been described by their teachers as easily victimized, easily offended, indecisive, fearful, rigid, inhibited, and vulnerable at age 3. The reason for the difference, the Blocks hypothesized, was that insecure kids most needed the reassurance of tradition and authority, and they found it in conservative politics.

The most comprehensive review of personality and political orientation to date is a 2003 meta-analysis of 88 prior studies involving 22,000 participants. The researchers—John Jost of NYU, Arie Kruglanski of the University of Maryland, and Jack Glaser and Frank Sulloway of Berkeley—found that conservatives have a greater desire to reach a decision quickly and stick to it, and are higher on conscientiousness, which includes neatness, orderliness, duty, and rule-following. Liberals are higher on openness, which includes intellectual curiosity, excitement-seeking, novelty, creativity for its own sake, and a craving for stimulation like travel, color, art, music, and literature.

The study's authors also concluded that conservatives have less tolerance for ambiguity, a trait they say is exemplified when George Bush says things like, "Look, my job isn't to try to nuance. My job is to tell people what I think," and "I'm the decider." Those who think the world is highly dangerous and those with the greatest fear of death are the most likely to be conservative.

Liberals, on the other hand, are "more likely to see gray areas and reconcile seemingly conflicting information," says Jost. As a result, liberals like John Kerry, who see many sides to every issue, are portrayed as flip-floppers. "Whatever the cause, Bush and Kerry exemplify the cognitive styles we see in the research," says Jack Glaser, one of the study's authors, "Bush in appearing more rigid in his thinking and intolerant of uncertainty and ambiguity, and Kerry in appearing more open to ambiguity and to considering alternative positions."



OT Hillary/Hsu

How does Hillary know who and where to send the money? How does anyone verify it was returned. Am I missing something?
For that matter, someone confirm which charity she gave the orignal money, too.


"In light of recent events and allegations that Mr. Norman Hsu engaged in an illegal investment scheme, we have decided out of an abundance of caution to return the money he raised for our campaign,” Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson said in a statement Monday night. “An estimated 260 donors this week will receive refunds totaling approximately $850,000 from the campaign.”

Rick Ballard

Lefty Lantos' opening this morning is a perfect example of the "open mindedness" to be found among progs. If they hold their heads just right and there's a breeze you can hear the ocean.

Nuanced ambiguity makes a fine cover for diligent seditionists. For a while. There wasn't much of nuance or ambiguity on display this morning at all. Plenty of sedition though. I guess they used up their nuance and ambiguity allotments over the summer recess.


Jost is one of the references for the standardization of the 'critical political orientation item'. I'm beginning to see the critical problem with this study.



Always on the ball. I had an "I heard that too" moment. I think the link below was the one talked about in the timeframe you indicated that made a big splash, and the new study seems to build on this work. One question, maybe it is in the notes somewhere-did they break out the political affilation scores and publish them. I find it hard to believe that a sample size of 42 from a college campus would provide any useful information, left or right. I question the funding?


Its only an abstract, not going to spring for the full text.


Politics is as chaotic as climate regulation, and this Jost may be the Piltdown Mann of junk psychology.



Posted by: Clarice | September 10, 2007 at 11:38 PM

Sounds like the researchers were trying to prove Lakoff's theory in Moral Politics [my analysis (which I got an F on) was the Care Bear and GI Joe cultural theory of politics]. Similiar terms and structure-wonder if they got there grant funding from Lakoff's foundation.


You know I was just outside with my dog looking up at the sky and it occurred to me that tomorrow is not just another Tuesday, but another Tuesday, September 11th.

I was sad for my country today; actually, angry. How did we get to a place where we
vilify fine, outstanding patriots and not our
true enemy.

What restores my confidence, is the fine people here at JOM. Duty, Honor, Country mean something to you. And it will be hard but we will find a way.


What a surprise, John Jost of NYU who is on the team of all three studies --from Open Secrets:


Clinton, Hillary


John Jost, July 2003--This is the one I remembered I think:
"Assistant Professor Jack Glaser of the University of California, Berkeley's Goldman School of Public Policy and Visiting Professor Frank Sulloway of UC Berkeley joined lead author, Associate Professor John Jost of Stanford University's Graduate School of Business, and Professor Arie Kruglanski of the University of Maryland at College Park, to analyze the literature on conservatism.

The psychologists sought patterns among 88 samples, involving 22,818 participants, taken from journal articles, books and conference papers. The material originating from 12 countries included speeches and interviews given by politicians, opinions and verdicts rendered by judges, as well as experimental, field and survey studies.

Ten meta-analytic calculations performed on the material - which included various types of literature and approaches from different countries and groups - yielded consistent, common threads, Glaser said.

The avoidance of uncertainty, for example, as well as the striving for certainty, are particularly tied to one key dimension of conservative thought - the resistance to change or hanging onto the status quo, they said.

The terror management feature of conservatism can be seen in post-Sept. 11 America, where many people appear to shun and even punish outsiders and those who threaten the status of cherished world views, they wrote.

Concerns with fear and threat, likewise, can be linked to a second key dimension of conservatism - an endorsement of inequality, a view reflected in the Indian caste system, South African apartheid and the conservative, segregationist politics of the late Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-South S.C.).

Disparate conservatives share a resistance to change and acceptance of inequality, the authors said. Hitler, Mussolini, and former President Ronald Reagan were individuals, but all were right-wing conservatives because they preached a return to an idealized past and condoned inequality in some form. Talk host Rush Limbaugh can be described the same way, the authors commented in a published reply to the article.

This research marks the first synthesis of a vast amount of information about conservatism, and the result is an "elegant and unifying explanation" for political conservatism under the rubric of motivated social cognition, said Sulloway. That entails the tendency of people's attitudinal preferences on policy matters to be explained by individual needs based on personality, social interests or existential needs.

The researchers' analytical methods allowed them to determine the effects for each class of factors and revealed "more pluralistic and nuanced understanding of the source of conservatism," Sulloway said.

While most people resist change, Glaser said, liberals appear to have a higher tolerance for change than conservatives do.

As for conservatives' penchant for accepting inequality, he said, one contemporary example is liberals' general endorsement of extending rights and liberties to disadvantaged minorities such as gays and lesbians, compared to conservatives' opposing position.

The researchers said that conservative ideologies, like virtually all belief systems, develop in part because they satisfy some psychological needs, but that "does not mean that conservatism is pathological or that conservative beliefs are necessarily false, irrational, or unprincipled."

They also stressed that their findings are not judgmental.

"In many cases, including mass politics, 'liberal' traits may be liabilities, and being intolerant of ambiguity, high on the need for closure, or low in cognitive complexity might be associated with such generally valued characteristics as personal commitment and unwavering loyalty," the researchers wrote.

This intolerance of ambiguity can lead people to cling to the familiar, to arrive at premature conclusions, and to impose simplistic cliches and stereotypes, the researchers advised.

The latest debate about the possibility that the Bush administration ignored intelligence information that discounted reports of Iraq buying nuclear material from Africa may be linked to the conservative intolerance for ambiguity and or need for closure, said Glaser.

"For a variety of psychological reasons, then, right-wing populism may have more consistent appeal than left-wing populism, especially in times of potential crisis and instability," he said.

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.

Yet, they noted that some of these figures might be considered politically conservative in the context of the systems that they defended. The researchers noted that Stalin, for example, was concerned about defending and preserving the existing Soviet system.

Although they concluded that conservatives are less "integratively complex" than others are, Glaser said, "it doesn't mean that they're simple-minded."

Conservatives don't feel the need to jump through complex, intellectual hoops in order to understand or justify some of their positions, he said. "They are more comfortable seeing and stating things in black and white in ways that would make liberals squirm," Glaser 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." And in 2002, Bush told a British reporter, "Look, my job isn't to nuance."
http://www.berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2003/07/22_politics.shtml>Social Scientists Make Me Laugh


Who knew Glaser was a Plamaniac?



Yet, they noted that some of these figures might be considered politically conservative in the context of the systems that they defended. The researchers noted that Stalin, for example, was concerned about defending and preserving the existing Soviet system.

That it explains it-damn now all those history books will have to be re-written.


The kicker seems to be who defines "conservative" and "liberal"--Heh. P.O.S.


"the reaction occurs primarily because all these "studies" are conducted by lefties, who start with the usual conclusions and then find the facts to fit"
Heuristics--now where is Semanticleo when we need her?


Still, it's a good subject for study. I'm forever pondering how so many people can think the way they do. For example:

  • What kind of a mind could actually think that paying people not to work could be good for society?

  • What kind of a mind could think that taking guns away from the only people who'd obey the gun law could be good for society?

  • What kind of person doesn't immediately recoil from obvious frauds like Bill Clinton or Joe Wilson?

  • What kind of a person can spend all their time and effort hoping, praying and agitating for our own defeat and humiliation?

  • Praising Cuba's medical system?

  • Etc.

Surely, there are different patterns in our neuron networks. These networks are apparently able to reorganize themselves in certain cases, as those who have noted evolving from left to right over their lifetimes have most likely experienced. And cathyf raises an excellent point, too:

how is the ethically unmoored state that these researchers have identified amongst liberals related to the most prominent liberal characteristic, which is the inability to detect irony?

This brings to mind a similar question: Have you ever wondered why lefty political cartoons are never, ever even slightly funny?

Great Banana


the reason for the reaction against this "study", is this is not the first such junk science study that has been done by liberals to claim that there is something wrong with conservative's brains, etc. It's all of a piece, the idea among liberals (including leading lights of liberaldom - not just the rank and file) that all conservatives are stupid, evil and/or greedy.

It's all part of the fact that liberals rarely, if ever, argue facts and ideas. Instead, liberals tend to try to demonize their opponents and claim their opponents are not worth arguing with b/c, i.e., they are dumb, evil, or greedy.

I have asked repeatedly of avowed liberals, on many different blogs, why they support liberal policies when they are wholly unable to form and communicate a rational fact-based argument for those policies. It has to say something about an ideology that is wholly unable and unwilling to actually engage in debating ideas and whose members' first instinct is always to attack the other side personally rather than debate issues.

...all were right-wing conservatives because they preached a return to an idealized past and condoned inequality in some form...
Ward Churchill is a conservative! Who knew?

Jost's thesis is a big grant gatherer. He's advertising online for researchers to help him and lists the grants to continue this seminal and significant work--lots of federal money going to this doofus.

hit and run

I knew it!

Jost is a closet conservative who has infiltrated the academy, seeing the outlet for his greed and corruption. He plays the doofus to make a doofus out everyone else.

And he throws in the subtle clues (really, using a W in the study?!!?) just to mock those of us who would pay attention.

How much of the grants does he secretly funnel to Halliburton?


The other kicker,is the disingenuous labeling of "liberal",they are in no way recognisable as classical liberals ,but are,in fact socialists.As such part of the odious dirigiste creed which vomited forth,Lenin,Stalin,Mao,Pol Pot,Hitler,Mussolini and other assorted scabs on the body politic of the human race.
This,"Hitler, Mussolini, and former President Ronald Reagan were individuals",is a lie,Hitler lead the German National Socialist Worker's Party,Mussolini a socialist state which harnessed private enterprise,the latter was a friend of Lenin.
This all smells like the old Soviet Man Doctrine resurrected in psychobabble and sociologese.
The original argument though,dates back two thousand years or so with the conflict between the Stoics and the Epicureans.


Dr. Sanity also makes the observation about black and white brains.

I would suggest readers check out the entire LA Times article linked to above discussing the brain study; and then to insert the word "black" for "conservative" and "white" for liberal in the analysis. Now, imagine the uproar that would occur if this had been a study that impugned the intellect, or "information processing" of black people.

So conservatives see things more in terms and black & white whereas liberals embrace nuance?

OK, bring up the subject of making Bush's tax cuts permanent with a lefty and see whether they give a measured, nuanced response or whether they scream that tax cuts are just the rich's way of stealing from the poor.

Ask a liberal about WMDs in Iraq and see whether that self-proclaimed freethinker responds with a sober, balanced assessment about the limitations of intelligence gathering capabilities in the post 9-11 world or whether they trot out the Bush lied, people died meme.

Going back a few years, remember all those calm, dispassionate, nonjudgmental dialogues that took place on the Left when a Vice President of the United States had the audacity to suggest that ideally a child should grow up with both a mother and a father? Didn't think so.

And naturally all those ambiguity-inclined progressives went to great pains to avoid appearing too narrow-minded about apartheid in South Africa, the Shah in Iran, or Pinochet's Chile. Because stark black/white, right/wrong, good/evil assessments are strictly the Right's venue.


well, Dubious, For sure there'd be no federal grant money coming Jost's way if that were the focus of his study.

Barney Frank

I suspect there's a very good chance the study is largely accurate and measuring a real difference. The problem of course is in the interpretation of it. It is portrayed as a study proving liberals are smarter and more tolerant than conservtives and Texas Toast wonders why there is a visceral reaction, which of course says as much about his mind as the reaction he is referring to.
Perhaps if the headlines had portrayed the study as showing conservatives as solid, sensible and loyal citizens while liberals are flighty nitwits who put crappy art all over their messy houses the reactions would have been a little different.


Perhaps, but 42 college students self-ranked by a 'critical political orientation item', developed by an obviously biased psuedoscientist, make me skeptical, Barney.

Barney Frank

I'm not speaking so much of specific detailed findings, but I do note a distinct general difference in how lefties and conservatives think and it is not only manifested in how messy their homes are it is generally possible to identify a lefty or a conservative on talking head shows just by appearances.
Now these may be learned behaviors which would account for the frequent alteration of people's political orientation but that there is a difference seems pretty certain to me. Personally it seems a difference that renders most lefties pretty useless but then I'm hardly an unbiased researcher; rather like the authors of the study.


Lets see no less than 42% of Democrats according to a recent Zogby poll believe the Government had something to do with 9/11. I guess that could fit with tolerating ambiguity. Maybe even fit with "totally confused and whacked out."


Lets see no less than 42% of Democrats according to a recent Zogby poll believe the Government had something to do with 9/11. I guess that could fit with tolerating ambiguity. Maybe even fit with "totally confused and whacked out."

Cecil Turner

Well, from drudge, here's an ambiguous situation: Disturbed anti-war protester can't find soldier, kills civilian with axe instead:

"He hates soldiers, and says that the army kills people, so it would be legitimate if he were also to kill someone . . . from the American military - or from its NATO allies," Gremmen said in a telephone interview.

When he failed to find a soldier at the Roosendaal train station, "he got such a crazy, disturbed idea that he killed a civilian," Gremmen said.

That statement seems to imply it wouldn't have been crazy to kill a soldier, which implies a bit more mental flexibility than I'm comfortable with. In any event, long odds that both the activist and the defense attorney are liberal, so this is probably indicative of something.


If the findings of this study are true, then why is the leftist political agenda loaded with policies which seek to limit ambiguity and increase certainty?

Social welfare, universal health care, Kyoto treaty protocols, fairness doctrines, profit limitations, abortion rights, minimum wage increases, troop withdrawal time tables... all of these ideas came from minds which tolerate ambiguity and conflict better?

Does not compute.


More on this from the Corner.

No real scientist would try to conclude anything statistical from a sample size of 7. The rule of thumb minimum sample size is normally 30.

stompy jones

"liberals are more open to new experiences."

like getting blowed up? wow! what a gas!


face it, we're all doomed

move to Mexico like me :)


Liberalism is for the mind, what autism is for the senses.


This testing is so flawed. We all know conservatives are not good with things like reading and typing. So instead of M and W, replace the letters with pictures. For example the test should have been conducted like this: if you see the picture of a sheep, take one of the empty beer cans from the table and smash it on your forehead. If you see the picture of a book, do nothing.

I bet you the conservatives would have aced this test.

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