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Friday
Jun282013

Decisive strike in the "asymmetry" debate?!

I've been underwater & unable to post with my normal frequency (indeed, I'm underwater b/c of posting with my normal frequency, and thus falling behind on other things!)

But here is something to consider: a new paper from Nam, Jost & van Bavel on whether "conservatives" are more prone to "cognitive dissonance avoidance" than "liberals."

But the question: does the result bear on the "asymmetry thesis" (AT)?

AT asserts that conservatives should be more disposed to ideologically motivated reasoning than liberals.

The basis for this hypothesis is the finding of Jost and other scholars who correlate ideology with self-report measures of critical thinking -- Need for Cognition, Need for Closure,  Dogmatic thinking, and other scales assessing attitudes toward complexity & uncertainty etc. -- that "conservatives" display a more closed-minded cognitive style.

I've posted 913 entries on the asymmetry thesis ( hereherehere, for examples) & also done my own study that tries to test it.

But maybe it's game over? This paper is the decisive strike?  

"Cognitive dissonance avoidance" is very much related to motivated reasoning (itself a tendency to adjust one's assessments of facts to avoid disappointing one's predispositions). And here NJV-B report data that they see as demonstrating asymmetry -- conservatives are more disposed to "cognitive dissonance avoidance," they say, than liberals.

Chris Mooney, who has done an admirable job in synthesizing the relevant literature and making it publicly accessible in his book "The Republican Brain" sees this as compelling proof in favor of AT.

Obviously, I have views.  But not time to express them right now.  And besides, my views are not usually nearly so interesting as the ones that emerge in the discussion that they are the occasion for.

So let's do an experiment: can we have an interesting discussion w/o my saying anything (other than "hey-- what about this?")?

So what do others think of this study? Game over? 

Be a relief to have the debate on AT resolve, I suppose, since researchers could then turn all their attention to more important questions, like what the American public thinks of the NSA's policy on collecting metadata!

 

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  • Response
    But, ultimately, all of this pre-supposes that it is deleterious to democracy to have people who avoid writing counter-attitudinal essays as participants. I don’t agree with that assessment at all. I think American democracy is precisely designed to manage just such realities of the human condition: the balance of power between ...

Reader Comments (57)

This paper itself (assuming its authors would describe themselves as "liberals"), and the positive response it generates among left-leaning media (e.g., Mother Jones), can be seen as an attempt to avoid cognitive dissonance in political/cultural issues by reducing them to psychological deficiencies in one's opponents. In this sense, it would seem that the paper is self-undermining. But there's another, albeit counter-intuitive, sense in which it could be seen as self-reinforcing, and this is if we view a significant portion of the modern-day, self-styled "liberal" (and especially the self-styled "progressive") set as actually or objectively conservative in the simple or crude sense of a reflexive, emotion-laden clinging to received or prevailing (in one's social group) opinion. Either way, the paper certainly presents an interesting example of how cultural cognition infiltrates science.

June 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLarry

Larry -

Two points:

But there's another, albeit counter-intuitive, sense in which it could be seen as self-reinforcing, and this is if we view a significant portion of the modern-day, self-styled "liberal" (and especially the self-styled "progressive") set as actually or objectively conservative in the simple or crude sense of a reflexive, emotion-laden clinging to received or prevailing (in one's social group) opinion. Either way, the paper certainly presents an interesting example of how cultural cognition infiltrates science.

The first is that it seems you are assigning a characteristic to "liberals," and especially "the self-styled progressive" (who isn't self-styled, Larry, "skeptics"?) without showing in any way that it is more true of them than anyone else. Do you think that those you consider liberals and especially progressives are more "reflexive, emotion-laden clinging to received or prevailing (in [their] social group) opinion)? If not, then why would this paper be an example of something that is true of "liberals" and "progressives?" It could simply be an example of a characteristic of all people - motivated reasoning - and as such has absolutely nothing to do with the specific political persuasion of the authors, per se.

I mean yes, you did say "....if we view a significant portion...." but that seems like a pretty slippery qualification to me. I mean if we view all conservatives a dumb neanderthalls, then climate "skepticism" could just be correlated with stupidity - right?

The second is that while intuitively I reject the authors' thesis (because I believe that cognitive dissonance avoidance is a human characteristic not correlated to political orientation but only to the behaviors that manifest from identity protection and fundamental cognitive processes such as pattern recognition) at least they present their conclusions scientifically. To actually attribute their conclusions to cultural cognition, isn't is necessary to make a scientific argument that supports that conclusion? Where do you see flaws in their methodology or analysis?

June 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

LOL...

<"Cognitive dissonance avoidance" is very much related to motivated reasoning (itself a tendency to adjust one's assessments of facts to avoid disappointing one's predispositions). And here NJV-B report data that they see as demonstrating asymmetry -- conservatives are more disposed to "cognitive dissonance avoidance," they say, than liberals.>

Is this similar to the continued belief by the climate concerned in the "accelerating" trend in sea level rise and the trend toward an increase of multiple meters rise per century? NOAA pretty well documents a pretty flat historical increase of about 2mm/yr going back well before CO2 became and issue, but this is pretty much ignored by the climate concerned.

http://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/sltrends/msltrendstable.htm
http://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/sltrends/sltrends_update.shtml?stnid=8724580

I notice that when the science starts to undercut the climate concerned arguments, they pull a page from the old Sov Union and declare their opponents must be mentally incompetent as by definition, one MUST be mentally incompetent to disagree with the "consensus"

June 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEd Forbes

@Larry You seem to take it as a given that in this instance the science has been contaminated by the biases of the researchers. I'm always wary of any argument that says - w/r/t politically sensitive science - that the science *must* be bad simply because, essentially, it was conducted by humans who invariably have political views. Have you identified any flaws in the study that suggest the authors designed/conducted their research in a politically biased way? I think that every study should be judged on its merits rather than hypothesised motives/biases of its authors. That being said, I recognise that it would be foolish to critique a paper without taking into account any potential or openly declared biases of its authors.

June 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJosh L

<The phenomenon of selective exposure has been observed in a variety of consequential decision-making domains. Examples include smokers' evasion of information that spells out the connection between smoking and cancer [29], medical patients' preferences for ignorance concerning severe health risks [30], and selective inattention to attitude-incongruent data on the part of ideological opponents of affirmative action and gun control [7].>

Liberal Bias is very much in evidence in the above statement.

Smoking / cancer…neutral subject
Patients knowledge / ignorance ….neutral subject

“ideological opponents” of affirmative action and gun control is NOT neutral and shows liberal bias without mention of “ideological proponents” of affirmative action and gun control, giving the incorrect impression that only opponents of these two views have “selective inattention to attitude-incongruent data”. Ideological Proponents of gun control have been shown to have a very high ability to ignore contrary data that does not match their pre-concived views.

June 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEd Forbes

You seem to take it as a given that in this instance the science has been contaminated by the biases of the researchers.

No, that wasn't my point, though I take it as evident that the science has been contaminated, so much so that the label "science" seems misapplied.

Re: my point, I simply mean that, regardless of any "science" here, there is at least an irony in any study of "cognitive dissonance" avoidance on one side of the political spectrum that provides for cognitive dissonance avoidance on the side that the studiers (likely) support.

But, re: bias and its contamination, start with the title of the study, and continue with the language used in the introduction and throughout to describe the implicit political opponents -- the authors make little or no effort to find value-neutral language to express the alternatives being studied. By itself, of course, obvious bias doesn't invalidate a study, but it should certainly raise skeptical alarm bells in anyone interested in genuine science as opposed to political ideology dressed up as such. What does invalidate it is simply the absurd design -- comparing the responses of a self-selected sample of people to a non-existent standard and arbitrarily viewing the responses of one group as deficient ("weaker tolerance for ambiguity and threat", etc.). Obama, for example, may simply be a harder figure to say good things about than Bush, and similarly with Clinton vs. Reagan. Yes, modern day liberals may find that absurd itself, but that's only what you'd expect -- the point is that the authors provide no standard against which to make an objective comparison of which side's judgement is deficient.

This raises the question of what is the point of such "studies" or who is the intended audience? And I can think of a couple: one is simply the choir, as in "preaching to" -- i.e., fellow ideologues who follow media outlets that dutifully echo these things (e.g., Mother Jones), and who merely like to get a nice pat on the head for being "tolerant of ambiguity", etc. Which, at least, is largely harmless, apart from the damage done to the reputation of science. Another are those naive souls who have become so conditioned to the authority of science that they simply take the word of anything stamped with its label as filtered through a compliant media (e.g., the NY Times). And that, alas, is not so harmless.

June 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLarry

I found it interesting that they asked the subjects about it afterwards - it's a pity that there was not a more systematic collection of their reasons for compliance or non-compliance. That might have given some more clues.

Just in general terms, the study suffers from the classic social sciences "confirming the consequent". They form a hypothesis, predict a consequence of it, and then check for that consequence. Finding it they take as confirmation of the hypothesis. The logic of this is that if A implies B, and B is true, therefore A is true. This is a fallacy, because many other things might cause B as well.

They do make an attempt to suggest some alternative causes for consideration, but they're not very comprehensive or systematic about it, and their arguments for excluding them lack detail. This is where confirmation biases kick in. It's very hard to think of strong arguments against your own thesis, and political preconceptions. For example, the most obvious hypothesis given people's reported post-experiment comments is that the both sides felt it was morally wrong, but that the conservatives had a greater resistance to obeying immoral instructions if they were given a choice. There is of course no more evidence for that thesis than that it was to avoid personal discomfort from cognitive dissonance, but there's no less. I'm sure a dozen other hypotheses could be constructed, too. They did a very poor job of showing that all alternative interpretations had been eliminated.

The first stage of scientific enquiry is observation, *before* forming hypotheses. Psychologists often rush too quickly to performing binary hypothesis tests based on their own preconceptions. They don't ask the subjects (or those who know them well) for introspective explanations of their own motivations. I think it would save a lot of groping in the dark.

Another point I'd note is that cognitive dissonance arises when you do something in conflict with your beliefs or principles - the theory being that having done so, the discomfort leads you to revise your beliefs. Thus avoidance constitutes acting as much as possible in accordance with your principles. I don't think conservatives would consider that to be a bad thing.

And we mustn't forget the meta-experimental effect - the subjects know they're being experimented on, and are likely thinking about how their responses are going to be interpreted. It's fairly well known by now among conservatives that there are liberal psychologists trying to obtain evidence of conservative inferiority. When you see overtly political questions pop up in combination with feelings of moral conflict, alarm bells ring. It makes you cautious. It would be interesting, too, to know what the subjects thought the experimenters were trying to prove.

June 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

Reading this paper reminded me of an interesting Jonathan Haidt and Jesse Graham paper I read some time ago now: "Planet of the Durkheimians,
Where Community, Authority, and Sacredness are Foundations of Morality
." The authors explore their data that concludes that conservatives are better able than liberals at predicting liberal moral responses than vice versa, though that was not considered perspective taking. Anyway, make it to page 15, where they start talking about "Asymmetric Exaggeration" and page 19, where they talk about System Justification Theory.

June 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterIsabel Penraeth

@NiV:

You are right of course that a valid design involves collecting evidence that one would expect to disconfirm the hypothesis if it is false, not merely evidence that would confirm it if true.

But I'm not exactly sure why the design of the study fails this test.

I haven't read the paper as closely as you have (& on my reading I certainly saw things that, on first inspection, struck me as very unsatisfying).

But as I understand it, the researchers assigned subjects the task of taking a position that had a strong ideological valance to it & then correlated the willingess of the subjects to do so with the subjects' own ideologies.

*If* this were done in a way that made it just as likely that left-leaning as right-leaning subjects would resist the task, then I think the design doesn't suffer from the particular defect you identify. Under these circumstances, the results could have shown that right-leaning subjects were *just as willing* as left- to advocate the position that was contrary to their ideology. Indeed, it could have shown that the right-leaning ones were *more so*.

Those outcomes would have *disconfirmed* the hypothesis. But they weren't observed.

Instead, left-leaning subjets were more willing to advance a position at odds with their ideologies. That is confirming evidence.

Seems fine to me.

But again, only in that respect, and assuming that the design doesn't other problems. E.g., you suggest that it would have been good to collect evidence on *why* the subjects did or didn't comply, If the left-leaning subjects didn't experience the task they were assigned to perform as very hostile to their ideologies, & the right-leaning ones did experience the task they were assigned to perform as extremely hostile, then the test wouldn't be a fair one. The sort of evidence you say could have been collected from subjects might have helped to assure us that the hostile-position-taking tasks imposed equal burdens on subjects of opposing ideologies; the validity of the study does depend on that.

But that's a different problem. I don't see the "failure to make potentially disconfirming observations" problem you mention.

Again, though, you have read more closely. So tell me what I'm missing, since likely that's the proble here.

June 29, 2013 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

@Joshua:

I agree with your observations about rejecting the validity of the study based solely on its conclusion & w/o reading it.

In some sense, anyone doing so is going 1/2 the way toward confirming the hypothesis of the paper.

Only 1/2 the way, though, since the authors claim not only that right-leaning subjects reject contrary evidence out of hand but that left-leaning subjects don't.

As @NiV correctly points out, to do a valid study of this sort, we'd have to have a paper that purported to find that right-leaning ones were more willing to consider or advocate positions at odds with their own than left-leaning

If we then observed that left-leaning commentatros also rejected that study based on the implausibility of the conclusion but w/o reading, the author's hypothesis would be *disconfirmed*.

Someone should do a study like that, don't you think?

June 29, 2013 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

Here you Dan, I fixed some of the article. I am sure you can fix the rest.

In seeking to integrate social psychological theories of motivated social cognition with historical and philosophical accounts of political ideology, DAN KAHAN AND PSOTERS proposed that situational and dispositional variability in basic orientations toward uncertainty and threat help to explain why LIBERALS are more LIKELY to DEMAND POLICY change and more accepting of INNUMERACY, in comparison with CONSERVATIVES.

People often avoid information and situations that have the potential to contradict previously held beliefs and attitudes (i.e., situations that arouse cognitive dissonance). According to the motivated social cognition model of political ideology, LIBERALS tend to have stronger epistemic needs to attain AGREEMENT and IMPLEMENT POLICY than CONSERVATIVES. This implies that there may be differences in how liberals and conservatives respond to dissonance-arousing situations.

THE CLIMATE BLOG WARS found that LIBERALS were more likely than CONSERVATIVES to ACCEPT inherently biased research that supports politically welcome conclusions (e.g., that PROXY TEMPERATURE RECONSTRUCTIONS PROVIDE ROBUST CONFIRMATION OF PAST TEMPERATURES). It is quite possible that ideological differences in dissonance avoidance account for these asymmetries in behavior and judgment, and they may also suggest circumstances under which LIBERALS might be more strongly committed to partisan causes, in comparison with CONSERVATIVES (see also CLIMATE BLOG WARS ON ATTRIBUTION).

June 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJohn F. Pittman

A couple of thoughts - merely from briefly reading the abstract and not the paper itself:

In my observation, libz are more equivocal about their support for their political candidates than conz. ( I mean on average, of course. In many of these debates I find people losing sight that there is generally more heterogeneity within groups than there is across groups).

And if we look at congressional voting, we see less uniformity more diversity in voting among Demz than among Repubz.

Evidence that libz, as a breed of human being, are more willing to engage with divergent opinions?

So the first observation is purely anecdotal, and the second not validated, complicated by the fact that not all Demz are libz, etc.

These observations suggest to me a problem along the lines of what Larry wrote - a problem created whereby there is a lack of validation of terminology. How is the meaning of self-identification as lib or con measured and validated? Are all libz created equal? All conz?

Maybe libz, in general, are more equivocal in their support of political figures - in which case the test they ran is not measuring what the authors thought they were measuring. In other words, it was easier for libz to state conflicting views because offering negative observations about Clinton was just more reflective of their actual viewpoint. It was not really testing their ability to articulate opposing conflicting viewpoints. Their degree of conflict in writing negatively about Clinton was relatively less than for conz writing about Bush.

But here's what's interesting about that - because I am left to explain why libz are more equivocal about the presidents they support, and why there is less uniformity and more diversity among Dem Congresscritters than Repub Cogresscritters.

The problem for me is that in what I'm left to explain, I have evidence that may run counter to my own personal belief: That while political identification is an influence on motivated reasoning, it is a moderator/mediator of an underlying cause-and-effect between reflexive identity protect/pattern recognition features of human cognition, and motivated reasoning. There might be other moderator/mediators also, such as cultural identification, or more personal influences such as a desire to be right. Teasing out the different moderators/mediatorsfrom one another would certainly be a difficult task.

So I find myself starting to throw hypotheses at the wall to reconcile my own theory - because I am motivated to protect my theory about motivated reasoning.

If libz are not more flexible than conz, and if it isn't true that conz "need closure" or some such mechanism, then why my observations that libz are more equivocal and that Dem Congresscritters are less uniform in their voting? Observation bias would be the most obvious explanation. Until I control for that - it must be the working hypothesis. IMO, observer bias (in one form or another) should be the working hypotheses for all of these types of debates - and we need to all reserve judgements based on the level to which we've engaged that working hypothesis.

June 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Hmm, well, I actually have read the whole thing. One thing that continues to trouble me was the authors' suggestion that conservatives may be, to borrow a phrase, polluting the political communication commons with their inherent inability to handle cognitive dissonance. Assuming this were true, I find myself wondering when, in the last 200+ years of organized American political process, there weren't conservatives busily polluting the political communication commons? If it were true, it appears to me that political processes, even democratic ones, have proven entirely capable of surviving the participation of conservatives. But of course, as the Cultural Cognition Project shows, it seems unlikely to be a uniquely conservative habit. The authors offer that "the refusal to consider opposing points of view in good faith may hinder the functioning of a democratic society." I say, it takes two to polarize.

June 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterIsabel Penraeth

"Instead, left-leaning subjets were more willing to advance a position at odds with their ideologies. That is confirming evidence."

Yes, that's true. But they conclude more than that. They say that they avoided it *because* it was at odds with their ideology, and that it is because they are more prone to cognitive dissonance avoidance. But the evidence doesn't demonstrate the reason. It only demonstrates that there is an asymmetry, and on only one particular sort of task.

They are starting with a psychological explanation: that "situational and dispositional variability in basic orientations toward uncertainty and threat" can explain the differences. That might be so. Or the reason for the difference might be moral, tactical, intellectual, historical, religious, geographic, economic, related to the election or other events that was going on at the time, or something else entirely. It might have been something one candidate said in a speech the night before. It might be that one side felt themselves underdogs in the election campaign, or unusually anxious about the consequences. It might be that conservatives had a strong perception that liberals were playing games calling for compromise to weaken their resolve, and therefore were unusually resistant to the idea of switching sides. If you had asked them again a few months later, the answer might have been different.

All you've got is one data point, that there was an asymmetric response on a request to write an essay about presidents. You don't know why. And of course I'm sure that all the academic psychologists reading the paper know that, and can separate the demonstration from the speculation, but of course the popular media and much of the general public cannot, and all they'll read is the summary and the headlines, which talk about conservatives having psychological dispositions again. Which a lot of people will assume was the intention, and the point - that it's political ammunition, not science.

I don't think in most cases it's deliberate (although I've seen more than a few cases where it is very hard to imagine that it isn't), it's just that this "confirming the consequent" model is such a familiar narrative in the literature that people don't notice it. You propose a favoured hypothesis (a just-so story), make a prediction, and confirm the prediction. That's how science works, isn't it? The step people commonly miss out is that the prediction has to be one that only your one hypothesis predicts. And that seems to have happened in this case. There is no systematic demonstration that all other hypotheses are eliminated, so yes, there is an asymmetry, but the claim that it is due to an asymmetry in cognitive dissonance avoidance is pure speculation. And that's in the title of the paper!

--

But I did like the bit in the paper where they said "Given that political conservatives possess stronger needs for order, structure, consistency, and closure and weaker tolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity". Conservatives would probably call that "scientific logic"! Most amusing! I doubt that's really true, either, though. I suspect liberals and conservatives *both* have strong needs for consistency *and* strong tolerance for ambiguity, but about different subjects. Again, a problem of limited topic sampling.

June 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

NiV -

"It's very hard to think of strong arguments against your own thesis, and political preconceptions."

I think this is not particularly true. In fact, I would question whether it is even difficult let along "very hard." The question for me is whether or not people feel compelled to do so, or are committed to doing so, or think it is important to doing so. In some ways it can be more difficult to conceptualize a problem in the way that someone from a differing perspective might - but for that disadvantage you also, if you're truly committed, have an inside track for knowing the weak points of your own thesis.


" For example, the most obvious hypothesis given people's reported post-experiment comments is that the both sides felt it was morally wrong, but that the conservatives had a greater resistance to obeying immoral instructions if they were given a choice. /

lol! "The most obvious?" By what scientifically validated measure have you determined what is "most obvious?"

"There is of course no more evidence for that thesis than that it was to avoid personal discomfort from cognitive dissonance, but there's no less. "

So is it "most obvious" or not?

"They did a very poor job of showing that all alternative interpretations had been eliminated."

Not having read the paper, I'll take your word for it on that.

"Psychologists often rush too quickly to performing binary hypothesis tests based on their own preconceptions. "

As compared to other scientists? If so, could you provide a link? If not, then why specify psychologists and not state "Researchers often rush too quickly....."?

"They don't ask the subjects (or those who know them well) for introspective explanations of their own motivations.'... I think it would save a lot of groping in the dark."

I suspect that if they did ask such questions, you would still think they'd be groping in the dark. Wouldn't you think that if they had asked such questions, the respondents would often lie or mislead or alter their responses out of antipathy or sympathy with what they assume to be the goals of the researchers?

"Another point I'd note is that cognitive dissonance arises when you do something in conflict with your beliefs or principles ?" -

Why do you create such a limited definition. Cognitive dissonance can certainly arise when you do something in conflict with your emotional reactions. Sometimes I might feel cognitive dissonance because I am doing (or asked to think about) something that is actually in line with my beliefs or principles but that makes it obvious that previous actions were not consistent with my beliefs or principles. For example, if I supported Obama out of a reflexive tribal motivation but in being asked to criticize him for, say, his support for unaccountable usage of drones I realized that my previous support for him was in contrast to my principles and beliefs. I would experience cognitive dissonance for a reason other than what you describe. And thus, conflicting with your following statement:

"The theory being that having done so, the discomfort leads you to revise your beliefs. Thus avoidance constitutes acting as much as possible in accordance with your principles. I don't think conservatives would consider that to be a bad thing."

Heh. What about libz?

"And we mustn't forget the meta-experimental effect - the subjects know they're being experimented on, and are likely thinking about how their responses are going to be interpreted. It's fairly well known by now among conservatives that there are liberal psychologists trying to obtain evidence of conservative inferiority. When you see overtly political questions pop up in combination with feelings of moral conflict, alarm bells ring. It makes you cautious. It would be interesting, too, to know what the subjects thought the experimenters were trying to prove."

See what I meant by my earlier comment? If they had asked about motivations, and the conservaitve respondents didn't say "I responded the way I did because you're a psychologist and I think you're a liberal and so I was being cautious," and the lib respondents didn't answer "I responded the way I did because you're a psychologist and I think you're a liberal and so I was trying to portray myself as being more open-minded than I truly am," you would doubt the value of the statements of motivation.

June 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

"As compared to other scientists? If so, could you provide a link?"

Certainly.

June 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

"They follow the forms...but they don't get any laws."

That doesn't answer the question. The question is how are they different than other scientists. The request was for validated data - not statements about how someone feels about it.

"We get experts on everything...that sort of sound like they're scientific."

But you also say that about other types of scientists. So type of scientist is not the common denominator in those who you characterize in that way. At least from what I can tell. From what I can tell, the common denominator is that you disagree with their conclusions.

June 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Can you give me some validated evidence to show I said they were different to other scientists?

June 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

NiV -

"Can you give me some validated evidence to show I said they were different to other scientists?"

I'll repeat what I said:

As compared to other scientists? If so, could you provide a link? <Strong>If not, then why specify psychologists and not state "Researchers often rush too quickly....."?

And in response to that question, you provide a link top Feynman, doing the same thing - making an assertion based on a feeling with no data?

At least he gives examples of social scientists and other scientists (which, come to think of it actually, doesn't support your selective criticism although you linked to it as if it did.)...

June 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

"They follow the forms...but they don't get any laws."

That doesn't answer the question. The question is how are they different than other scientists.

Yeah, actually it does answer the question. Think about the notion of "laws".

June 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLarry

Yeah, actually it does answer the question. Think about the notion of "laws".


Well, as I thought about the clip more, 'Feynman first used an example related to social scientists but then transformed into discussing other scientists (those who study the benefits of organic food) without distinguishing - so ironically, although you want to say that he was describing only social scientists, in fact we can't conclude that from the clip.

But more substantively to your point - "laws" are in the eye of the beholder. The determination is subjective. There is much debate about whether accepted "laws" are really laws in any variety of sciences, not just the social sciences. And social scientists think that they describe laws - effectively, although they may not use that term, exactly. But even there:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zipf%27s_law

June 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

And BTW Larry and NiV -

Love the "appeal to authority" :-)

June 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Isabel -

Just wanted to say that I enjoyed your post and I think that your criticism is a strong one. It doesn't necessarily undermine their analysis but IMO, it certainly puts the authors' interpretation of the implications of their findings in question.

I remember Dan's criticism of studies that amount to fishing expeditions to support a hypothesis (and NiV's echoing of that sentiment in this thread), and how such a paradigm can never support a valid conclusion. Does that apply also in this case? Can we separate their analysis and consider it valid if their interpretation of their findings is so flawed?

Dan - did I characterize what you said correctly? Does it apply here, do you think?

June 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Joshua-

I think the authors measured something, something observable and even interesting. I just don't think they have much to support their conclusions about what they measured.

:)

Isabel

June 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterIsabel Penraeth

Joshua-

Oh, and thanks :)

Isabel

June 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterIsabel Penraeth

"I'll repeat what I said:"

You'll note that the text you quote does not contain the word "validated". You asked for a link. You got a link.

Then you say it didn't answer "the question", although there were in fact two questions: "As compared to other scientists? If so, could you provide a link?" Providing a link answers the second, and as the second was conditional on a positive answer to the first, that implicitly answers the first too. (Although I might have just decided to provide the link anyway.)

Next you say "The question is how are they different than other scientists." But this wasn't either of the questions you asked. This is an entirely new question. And then you say " The request was for validated data" when in fact the request (if it was one) was for "a link".

It's all very confusing, isn't it? :-)

Anyway, why should I make the data available to you, when you're only going to try to find something wrong with it? Many people find science that provides no validated data in support of its assertions perfectly acceptable, even in the peer-reviewed literature, and I don't see why I should be held to a higher standard in a blog comment. I'm not asking you to take my word for it. You can disbelieve me (and Feynman) if you like. :-)

What I said was "Psychologists often rush...". That doesn't say *all* psychologists. That doesn't say *most* psychologists, either. It doesn't mean they do it all the time. It wasn't actually a comparison, but if you wanted to make it one it would obviously be comparing to scientists that don't rush to test hypotheses, and I don't think you really doubt that such scientists exist.

It's all a big distraction from the intended point, which was whether the paper in question commits the fallacy of "confirming the consequent", which you said you couldn't answer/check because you hadn't read the paper. Fair enough, but I hope you'll grant me the same latitude to not answer all questions too! :-)

June 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

NiV -

Your mockery of arguments made by others has nothing to do with that I did or didn't say. I feel no identification with them or need to defend them

It's all very confusing, isn't it? :-)

Sorry, Niv - I am often unclear, but you seem to be working overtime to find a lack of clarity here.

What I said was "Psychologists often rush...". That doesn't say *all* psychologists. That doesn't say *most* psychologists, either. It doesn't mean they do it all the time.

And I never suggested that you said any of those things.

So I'l ask you a 3rd time, with noting that you failed to answer the question(s) the first two times. No answer this time and I'll give up.

You made an observation characterizing psychologists (not necessarily all of them, but you applied the characterization to them, specifically). Why did you select them for your observation? Why didn't you characterize "researchers" instead (with the rather obvious point that doing so wouldn't mean characterizing all researchers in that manner)? Maybe you weren't singling them out in some way, and you think the characterization applies equally to all scientists. If so, just say so.

If you think your characterization of psychologists (or social scientists) is more true of them than other researchers, do you have any validated evidence to support that view?

And no, a clip of Feynman talking about his feelings, about both social scientists and other types of scientists, won't qualify. That kind of appeal to authority doesn't provide any substantive answers to the questions I asked.

If you don't want to answer just say so. No need to play games.

June 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

"Sorry, Niv - I am often unclear, but you seem to be working overtime to find a lack of clarity here."

I didn't need to work very hard in this case. :-)

I usually get the impression that you quibble with every detail of what I say as a matter of routine. I was just doing the same, to see what it's like. It's fun! I must do this more often.

"And I never suggested that you said any of those things."

I didn't say you did. But in asking for "validated data" I presume you're assuming I'm making some sort of quantified assertion. I'm making it clear that I'm not making any such assertion, and never was.

"So I'l ask you a 3rd time, with noting that you failed to answer the question(s) the first two times."

What "question(s)" have you asked 3 times?

You asked:
"As compared to other scientists? If so, could you provide a link?"

Those questions were answered. A link was provided.

Then we're told:
"That doesn't answer the question. The question is how are they different than other scientists. The request was for validated data..."

So is that the question you asked 3 times? "how are they different than other scientists"?

If so, the answer is they "rush too quickly to performing binary hypothesis tests based on their own preconceptions" which "wasn't actually a comparison, but if you wanted to make it one it would obviously be comparing to scientists that don't rush to test hypotheses".

Is it this question?
"Why did you select them for your observation?"

Can you tell me where you've asked that one three times previously? Because I missed it. Every one of them.

Anyway, the answer is: 'because they were the topic of the conversation.' We were discussing a paper by psychologists, who had made a logical error that I often see in papers by psychologists. I haven't done any sort of survey to quantify how often, but then I wasn't making a quantified statement. It's simply an observation.

I think it's a consequence of the complexity of their subject matter. People are so complicated that eliminating all alternative explanations for their motivations is virtually impossible. As Feynman explained, atoms are simple by comparison, and yet the effort required to really *know* how they work was enormous. The work needed to understand the human mind and human society at a corresponding level would be staggering. We can't do it. But it looks bad to admit that you're speculating and groping about in the dark here, so they follow the *forms* of science, of proposing hypotheses, making predictions, testing them with statistics, and stating firm conclusions of what they've discovered. It keeps the funders happy that they're getting value for money and progress is being made.

I think many social scientists are well aware of the issue, but their answer is "well, what can we do?" People really *are* complicated. It's not down to any lack of competence on the part of the scientists. But it is immensely difficult to construct an experiment that isolates a single possible explanation, and they don't have the time, funding, or the knowledge needed to do that, so they'll continue to speculate - groping around in the dark - until they hit on something that starts to work. The problem is, the way they write it makes their speculations look more solid than they actually are. When a subject gets mixed up with powerfully polarised politics, that becomes particularly problematic.

I made no appeal to authority by linking to Feynman. It's just that he was describing the same phenomenon I was talking about, and I thought his explanation might be clearer than mine. At the time, "validated data" hadn't yet been mentioned, so there's no reason to think it was intended as such. You wanted to know who they were being compared to.

"If you don't want to answer just say so. No need to play games."

We always play games.

June 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

Isabel, let me help underscore your concern:

It should be noted, at least in passing, that epistemic disadvantages (such as attitude bolstering THROUGH AGREEMENT and DESIRE TO IMPLEMENT POLICY and avoidance of disconfirming information THROUGH INNUMERACY) might translate into real political advantages (such as commitment and loyalty) when it comes to the ballot box FOR LIBERALS. At the same time, the refusal to NUMERATE AND DISCCUSS RATIONAL POLICY in good faith may hinder the functioning of a democratic society. An unwillingness to consider or express attitude incongruent information may be related to a lower capacity for INTROSPECTION AND NUMMERACY, which has been linked to POOR POLICY and ADVERSE UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES. These outcomes, too, could affect the nature of political discourse in a pluralistic society. To the extent that the avoidance of dissonance-arousing situations exacerbates political gridlock and ideological polarization, a detailed scientific understanding of the role of ideology in motivating dissonance avoidance is sorely needed. It may even inspire the design of novel communication strategies that will help to overcome ideological divides that otherwise seem unbridgeable.” (Dan Kahan's site )

June 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJohn F. Pittman

heh. If you don't want to answer the questions, NiV, just don't answer the questions. That could be because you're ducking or for any other reason and no one will know. Not a big deal either way. No need to spend all that time being willfully obtuse. .

June 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

JFP -

such as attitude bolstering THROUGH AGREEMENT and DESIRE TO IMPLEMENT POLICY and avoidance of disconfirming information THROUGH INNUMERACY

Do you doubt that the "epistemic disadvantages" that the authors describe (i.e., before your "fixed that for ya") are actually epistemic disadvantages that, in fact, DO translate into real political advantages (such as commitment and loyalty) when it comes to the ballot box?

As to whether it translates into hindering the functioning of a democratic society is, IMO, an interesting question. There has been quite a bit of criticism of the Republican Party lately, from Republicans, for the lack of diversity and how the party punishes diversity within its ranks. Do you think that the uniformity of the Republican congresscritters has hindered the functioning of our society? Do you think the phenomenon is just as prevalent with the Dems? I mean sure, you could argue that the uniformity of the Republican Party is advantageous to society in that it presents political advantages that helps Republicans advance their goals - but do you believe that?

Personally, I think that the authors might be working backwards from an observation about how Republican uniformity disadvantages democratic processes and therein constructing their thesis - not a very scientific approach, but I do think that the Republican Party uniformity enforcement does hinder the democratic processes.


FOR LIBERALS. At the same time, the refusal to NUMERATE AND DISCCUSS RATIONAL POLICY in good faith may hinder the functioning of a democratic society.

Sure, that would hinder the functioning of a democratic society, but is there evidence that is more true in some way of liberals than conservatives? Was that your point?

June 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Speaking of which:

The much-criticized 112th Congress - from 2011 to 2012 - was the least productive and least popular Congress on record, according to the available statistics...

[...]

When it comes to productivity, only 15 legislative items have become law under the current Congress. That’s fewer than the 23 items that became law at this same point in the 112th Congress, which passed a historically low number of bills that were signed into law.

I guess that "productivity" is a subjective determination, eh? But even so, given the popularity numbers, it is a subjective determination that is widely shared. I'd say that in a democracy, that's a pretty strong sign of disfunctionality - and trying to understand the roots of that disfunctionality is pretty important.

June 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Joshua, I find both parties contribute to the polarization, and both parties contribute to the general good. I tend to be set in my voting habits. I voted for McCain because I supported Hillary. I voted against Obama the second time just like I voted against Reagan twice. I can't stand "feel good" promising politicians who offer such things as "hope" in either a poke (unseen) or in a bag of shit (Obamacare). Or such things as Reagan claiming that it was his cuts that spurred the subsequent economic revival whereas the truth in lag times and in what was actually done, Carter was the last President who actually cut to have a balanced budget. I even voted for Carter twice.

I do not doubt that at least in the eye of the beholder" "the "epistemic disadvantages" that the authors describe (i.e., before your "fixed that for ya") are actually epistemic disadvantages that, in fact, DO translate into real political advantages (such as commitment and loyalty) when it comes to the ballot box..." " I also don't doubt that ""THROUGH AGREEMENT and DESIRE TO IMPLEMENT POLICY and avoidance of disconfirming information THROUGH INNUMERACY"" helps the democrats at the ballot box. Having innumerate persons who like to join together (agreement) and have a desire to make changes (implement policy) pays off at the ballot box, because not only are they pre-disposed not to question, but being innumerate are more likely to not recognize cognitive bias; and that increases their vote at the ballot box for Democrats who propose policy changes more often than Republicans, if you take what these authors are claiming as a "truth."

I find the criticism of the Republicans to be valid. I find the criticism that liberals support things as being real that have little evidence and implementing expensive policy with negative unintended consequences not only true personally; but in economics, several Democratic (liberal) policies became poster boys for innumerate thinking, bias, since the conservatives of that day pointed out the potential unintended consequences, and were enacted in a wave of agreement and bandwagoning, political coercion and bribery, and their costs to our society monumental. Of course, the Republicans have their share of stupidity, but from a different direction; Reagan's farm policies and military spending come to mind. George W seems also to be almost in a class by himself, but I can't see him even great in failure; so I can't say in a class by himself. Sorry, but that is just me.

I don't think the Republican's tendency to uniformity any more a detriment as the Democrats tendency to uniformity. It is product differential to me. I actually think the uniformity of both parties help the democratic republic because it gives a political frame of reference to discuss the issues. I object to stupidity and the refusal to think critically which seems to be a human problem more so than a political problem. Though as such it does present problems for civil discourse of which politics is part of.

I do not think it more true for Democrats than Republicans, and that is my point.

June 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJohn F. Pittman

The one thing that is guaranteed is that the way Congress is and isn't working now will be different from how it will and will not be working in the future. And the level of rancor and immobilization is the result of two immovable forces. Not just one.

One of the things that is happening is that we are experiencing what it is like to have this level of political division and inaction. Not too many people like it now and it seems likely fewer still are going to like it in the long run. This experience will encourage people to change what they are doing. Different consequences will result. Congress may not have been up to much to encourage liberals, but the Supreme Court has given them a couple of things to be happy about. There is more to the federal political system than Congress, and for a reason.

I can't decide if it makes me a cynic or an idealist, but I feel as long as civil war hasn't actually broken out, the system is not actually broken.

Isabel

June 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterIsabel Penraeth

JFP -

"... being innumerate are more likely to not recognize cognitive bias; ..."

I question that. I don't think that ability to recognize cognitive bias is particularly correlated with numeracy - at least in comparison to variables that have a greater influence in the mechanisms of cognitive bias.

Regardless - are you saying that numeracy, and the political advantages of capitalizing on numeracy, is greater among Dems than among Repubs? If so, can you elaborate?

"....and that increases their vote at the ballot box for Democrats who propose policy changes more often than Republicans, if you take what these authors are claiming as a "truth."

Could you explain that?

I find the criticism that liberals support things as being real that have little evidence and implementing expensive policy with negative unintended consequences not only true personally; but in economics, several Democratic (liberal) policies became poster boys for innumerate thinking, bias, since the conservatives of that day pointed out the potential unintended consequences, and were enacted in a wave of agreement and bandwagoning, political coercion and bribery, and their costs to our society monumental.

Again - I'm scratching my head here. Which policies are you speaking of? Do you think that "unintended consequences" are somehow more strongly associated with lib policies than con policies, or that somehow conz are more clear-headed in approaching the mechanism of unintended consequences than libz? IMO, the concept of "unintended consequences" while an important concept, is more often exploited illegitimately by partisans (through binary thinking - e.g., (1) if there are any unintended consequences to government action there are unintended consequences to all government action, or at least all of those someone opposes, or (2) there aren't unintended consequences to inaction just as there are to action), than used in a way that actually constructively informs policy.

I don't think the Republican's tendency to uniformity any more a detriment as the Democrats tendency to uniformity.

Meaning? Do you mean that you think that there is not - in balance- more downside to uniformity than upside? Or meaning that you think that there is no greater enforcement of uniformity among Repubs than among Dems?

I have often seen the argument made that the lack of implementation of policy by Congress is a good thing. I don't happen to believe that is true, in balance (although it might obviously be true in specific) - which I guess might go back to a fundamental stance (I won't say value because I think our values are alike) w/r/t the value of government. As flawed as government is, and as difficult as it is to tease out overall trends, and as much as we can find counterexamples and object lessons of government overreach and tyranny, I'd have to say that for the most part if we look at the arc of civilization, more government in a democratic state is associated with progress.

And further, as I said earlier, I think that when such strong majorities in a democracy see lack of action as an indicator of disfunction - in fact it does mean a democracy not functioning well. I think of the functioning of a democratic state as being - in broad strokes - a function of the degree to which the citizens think that the democratic structures are effectively enacting effective policy.

June 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Isabel -

Again - I really like your post: Yes, we tend to catastrophize and globalize - mostly out of fear, I guess - into losing site of the big picture. We tend to look for reasons to claim victimhood at the hands of the "other." The functioning of government (or the lack thereof) is an easy target to satisfy that drive.

I can't decide if it makes me a cynic or an idealist, ...

Ha. A great question. I can't decide either.


I can't decide if it makes me a cynic or an idealist, but I feel as long as civil war hasn't actually broken out, the system is not actually broken.

Well, OK - if it isn't "broken" (which would mean a near complete state change from some previous time when it wasn't "broken') - aren't there relative levels of functionality (which won't necessarily remain stuck)?

Along those lines, any thoughts about this (complete with spelling change ;-)?:

And further, as I said earlier, I think that when such strong majorities in a democracy see lack of action as an indicator of dysfunction - in fact it does mean a democracy not functioning well. I think of the functioning of a democratic state as being - in broad strokes - a function of the degree to which the citizens think that the democratic structures are effectively enacting effective policy.

June 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

I agree with what seems to be the conclusion of Isabel Penraeth, in a comment above,
"I think the authors measured something, something observable and even interesting. I just don't think they have much to support their conclusions about what they measured."

In my opinion, the authors here are making the same error that Chris Mooney has been making. "Conservative" as in favoring the status quo, and established procedures, is not identical with right of center on current issues of any given time, nor is it synonymous with the policies of the Republican Party. Conversely the same can be said of "liberal", (as in open minded) left of center and Democratic Party political stances. For example, left of center back to nature types who reject much that is new on the grounds that it is "unnatural' and contrary to Mother Nature are pretty darn "conservative" and also, IMHO, quite likely to be strongly rejecting of things that create cognitive dissonance with their world view. On the other hand, Sam Walton, founder of WalMart, radically transformed America, in particular small town American, in ways that contributed to the the decline of small businesses and retail establishments. This has diminished the numbers of independent, self employed people in such places. I would venture to postulate that perhaps, this also diminishes the numbers of people inclined towards independent thinking. But Sam Walton was not conservative.

Researchers, such as Nam, Jost and Bevel here, necessarily need to limit the topic of their research to something narrowly focused enough to make it possible to study. While it is tempting to generalize, that is more of a problem.

I like Isabel Penraeth's statement here:
"In this case, I argue not that fear makes a person more conservative but *what* they fear that results in identifying themselves as conservative or be classed by others as conservative. Liberals have fears, they are just at a different “level” of the “scale.” Or so I propose. When you start fearing for your country, you “become” a conservative, or more conservative. When you start fearing climate change, you “become” a liberal, or more liberal. At least these days."

Chris Mooney is fundamentally a journalist. His former blog, The Intersection, explored science and policy in a very of the moment way. The advent of the internet has not been kind to professional journalists. I think that many of the venues available, (such as Mother Jones or Slate or the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry) market to a particular audience. This audience is a decidedly left of center base. Outlets like Mother Jones (or on the flip side, Fox News) have a vested interest in keeping that base energized, and of course, buying the magazine or providing viewership that supports advertising, or supports the goals of the organization. Doing so is easiest by both riling people up and making them feel good about themselves. Pointing fingers at the other side is a quick and easy way of doing so. Chris Mooney is an intelligent fellow. I think that the problem with his books is not that they are wrong but that he is trying to fit an older version of journalism into an also older but still potentially viable economic venue of book writing. It is time to recognize that the books he writes are about current politics and thus not timeless. His most recent one is now is dated and a new one needs to be written. Or perhaps an e-book or some new venue that recognizes that this is an ongoing area of discussion and not a scientifically stagnant one. I think Chris Mooney will once again be a worthy contributor to the discussion once he severs himself from trying to defend an old commercial venture and starts trying to promote a new one. And it would help him be more thoughtful, and hone his abilities to broaden his outreach skills if there were actually venues available for him that reached a wider audience.

I think that the advantage of the Hierarchicalist/Egalitarian - Individualist/Communitarian cultural cognition grid proposed by Dan Kahan is that it is independent of considerations of the politics of the moment.

June 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGaythia Weis

Joshua-
"And further, as I said earlier, I think that when such strong majorities in a democracy see lack of action as an indicator of dysfunction - in fact it does mean a democracy not functioning well. I think of the functioning of a democratic state as being - in broad strokes - a function of the degree to which the citizens think that the democratic structures are effectively enacting effective policy."

I just have trouble accepting that an inability to move forward is completely unacceptable. As a polity, we have serious differences on a number of issues. It may simply take some time to find a way forward together. That may be unsatisfactory, annoying, even damaging in some ways, but I don't see how you either force it or fake it. It is what it is. And whatever it is, there will come a time when it will morph into something else. Perhaps we will be able to mindfully bring it about, or perhaps we'll just be looking around asking ourselves, wow, what happened . . .

:)
Isabel

June 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterIsabel Penraeth

Joshua, I agree with your point in one repsect. The poor sentence structure I used did not make it clear that what I meant is that innumeracy makes the bias more likely for who tend to be more concerned about agreement and the desire to implement the policy of the agreement, if for no other reason than one does not have to be correct to reach agreement and try to implement policy. But I will think on this some more and post tonight.

July 1, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJohn F. Pittman

another fine moment in psychology research :-)

The Journal of Environment Psychology just published a (paywalled) paper by Tobias Greitemeyer (University of Innsbruck, Department of Psychology, Austria), entitled "Beware of climate change skeptic films".

Abstract
Although there is broad scientific consensus that global warming is happening and that it is human-caused, these issues are denied by climate change skeptics. The present two studies examined to what extent (and why) climate change affirming and climate change skeptic films are successful in affecting people’s environmental concern. Relative to a neutral film condition, watching a climate change skeptic film decreased environmental concern, whereas watching a climate change affirming film did not affect participant’s concern. Mediation analyses showed that watching a climate change skeptic film decreased participants’ consideration of future consequences, which in turn decreased their environmental concern. Possible reasons why climate change affirming films did not affect participant’s environmental concern are discussed.

For discussion
http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-inertia-trap/201306/are-we-losing-the-war-climate-change-cinema

July 1, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEd Forbes

Joshua, it will take longer than I thought. I started tracking down some the references and it is a real hair ball.

But, within that the conservatives oppose doing policy, yes I think that "unintended consequences" are somehow more strongly associated with lib policies than con policies. And yes that can be a good thing.

Yes, I do think the democrats are as rigid republicans.

I see lack of implementation of policy good or bad by the results, just as I see implementation to be good or bad depending on results. Though there is at least one if not more counterfactuals to consider here.

In that the citizens have helped cause this polarization in who they elected, I think such reflects the citizenry as much or more than it does the party or the label of lib/cons.

Once I have a chance to read some more of the numerous citations I might have a better comment. Right now all I can think is this article is like the post about the person who actually measured what the rats did. I don't think these authors did, but am still reading slowly.

July 1, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJohn F. Pittman

JFP -

As I mentioned earlier, I'm in a bit of a pickle. I don't think that we can make distinctions in how people think that correlate with political ideology, but I have some observations that need to be reconciled with that view.

I'm thinking of Bush's descriptions in his style - you know, being the "decider," who eschewed too much analysis of issues because he felt that watered-down decisions that needed to be clear black and white choices n lines with god's determination of good and evil. I'm thinking of the ridicule Kerry received from Bush when he spoke of a "nuanced" approach to terrorism (was it Cheney who most notably ridiculed him for changing his view on Iraq?). I'm thinking of the countless blog posts from conz ridiculing libz as being wishy washy, effete, and ruled by emotions. And yes, I'm thinking of the current political context where Republicans are demanding near complete loyalty to certain causes, and they are thrown out of office or harassed if they dissent (Think Bob Inglis).

So here is my speculation that would explain my observations and keep my hypothesis intact.

The first is that I am biased in my observations. In reality, there are many examples where Demz are just as likely to ridicule "nuance" and think that Republicans are wishy-washy, effete, and ruled by emotions if they aren't "decisive" in seeing clear distinctions between wright and wrong.

The second is that the examples I've given are simply not representative of conz as a group.

The third (my favorite) is that even if those examples I have are more characteristic of conz than libz, and are truly representative of conz, it isn't because of differences in how conz think but because conz take such stances because it is consistent with their need for identity protection. They take such stances not because it reflects something organic in how they solve problems or some difference in brain physiology - but simply because they have been socialized to express those ideas in those ways - in particular in politically charged contexts. And politicians like Bush and Cheney can capitalize on those identifications to gain votes.

July 1, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

@Joshua:

There's a fourth possibility -- that "libz" really are "wishy washy", "ruled by emotions", and/or "effete" (i.e., "Affected, overrefined, and ineffectual"), etc. But they're prevented from seeing this themselves by their need for identity protection, which politicians like Obama and Biden can capitalize on to gain votes.

July 2, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLarry

Joshua-

I think there is a distinction to be made between a group's ideological commitments and their actual ability to carry out those commitments. Kerry can talk about nuance and Bush about being a decider because their ideological commitments make those acceptable things. It doesn't mean any particular person, whatever their ideological commitments, is personally more nuanced or a better decider. If they value nuance, they *might* try for nuance more often, but they also could be blind to the times they are lacking nuance to protect their identity.

Isabel

July 2, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterIsabel Penraeth

Above I asked if entrepreneurs could really be considered conservative, even if politically right wing.

This morning I found this article; http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/ulterior-motives/201307/what-kinds-people-start-businesses. The interests of the author, a cognitive scientist, UT's Art Markman, apparently are in psychology and marketing. His article is reporting on this research paper: http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/psp/105/1/104/

Markman is discussing a research paper apparently done by a group that doesn't work with graph paper, and thus isn't designing for four quadrants, they have a 5 attribute system. And they aren't looking at political structures, they are looking at "entrepreneurship" In this analysis this groups politically red state Florida and Georgia in with the western US. But not the east coast. I'm not quite sure how this analysis fits with what I think I know of Boston, or even New York. But that is not my point.

I think that the people analyzed above ought to fit on Dan's risk group grid in the individual/hierarchical quadrant. I think that starting from a very simplified framework, such as who voted for Obama or Bush, doesn't yield results that should be extrapolated as verifying "asymmetry" in cognitive dissonance avoidance overall. And furthermore, if the objective is to communicate, doing so in ways that cross cut some of the general right/left boundaries with a commonality (entrepreneurship in this case) ought to be more effective.

July 2, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGaythia Weis

Sure, Larry - that could be the case (although it doesn't fit with my observations - observer bias?), but then I'd have to scrap my hypothesis: that the way that people think, or their brain physiology, don't correlated with political ideology. If what you say about libz is true, then I guess we may as well accept that conz can't deal with cognitive dissonance.

July 2, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

@Joshua:

Re: "... it doesn't fit with my observations....", that's exactly my point: "... they're prevented from seeing this themselves by their need for identity protection".

Re: "... then I'd have to scrap my hypothesis: that the way that people think, or their brain physiology, don't correlated with political ideology" -- no, not at all. As you say yourself: "They [now referring to libz] take such stances not because it reflects something organic in how they solve problems or some difference in brain physiology - but simply because they have been socialized to express those ideas in those ways - in particular in politically charged contexts. "

July 2, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLarry

OK, I get it now. So differently than conz, libz are effete, wishy-washy, and ruled by emotions. But it doesn't have anything to do with how they think or their brain physiology.

An on the other side, conz are prone to cognitive dissonance avoidance, need closure, etc. - but not because of how they think or their brain physiology, but because they are socially conditioned to be that way.

So all we need to do is find some evidence those attributes truly do characterize libz - hopefully something a bit more convincing than the studly linked in Dan's post. Got any?

And tell me, what is your opinion? Do you think that libz are effete and conz are prone to cognitive dissonance avoidance?

July 2, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

@Joshua:

First, the possibility that one "side" is systematically deficient in political judgement (for whatever reason(s)) doesn't imply that the other side is -- i.e., libz may be effete without conz being avoiders of cognitive dissonance, and vice versa. Of course, both may be so deficient, or neither.

But really, I simply wanted to propose a fourth possibility, one that you seemed unaware of. My actual point, then, is just a kind of meta-point: how very difficult it is to see ourselves through the eyes of the Other, even when we try to, and even when the view is highly symmetrical. It's an old theme:

"O wad some Pow'r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as others see us!
It wad frae mony a blunder free us,
An' foolish notion!"

July 2, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLarry

Larry -

Of course, both may be so deficient, or neither.

Yes, of course. Both, neither, just the one or just the other - all possibilities.

So what's your opinion on the matter, if you have one? Both? Neither? Just one or just the other?

What is your experience? What are your observations? Me? I see claims that libz are effete, but not much evidence of such. But maybe that's just my observer bias. Can you think of any evidence that stacks up? Was Kerry effete as charged because he felt that terrorism is a nuanced topic?

On the other hand, was Bush right in saying that he should be acting decisively because he was acting in accordance with god's determination of good and evil? Are the uniformity demands of Republicans in Congress just uninformative, significant of nothing in particular about conz?

I mean yes, all of these are possibilities, and maybe anyone who has an opinion is just blinded by their own predilections.

It isn't that I was unaware that some are of the opinion that libz are effete. I have come across many conz who are absolutely convinced that is the case. I don't find that opinion credible, however - base don my experience But I'm open to being convinced by evidence. My experience is limited. I certainly know that I need to be controlling for my own biases. So what's your evidence that it is a viable consideration?

July 2, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

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