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  1. #1
    Minister of Propagandhi ajblaise's Avatar
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    Default Are you more likely to be politically left or right if you scare easily?

    Interesting study. It kind of helps explain why the political Right, especially on foreign policy, uses fear to reinforce conservative positions. It can be seen with social and economic issues as well (the War On Drugs, anti-immigration, fighting the Gay Agenda, fighting communism, the Birthers, teabagging...).

    As a political strategy, it can obviously work. So I'm not knocking it on those grounds. The Left can exploit base emotions, like empathy (health care for all, free education) and they use fear too, but it's not 24/7 and as overt as on the Right.

    Conservatives Scare More Easily Than Liberals, Say Scientists

    Deep-seated political differences aren’t simply moral and intellectual: They’re also biological.

    In reflex tests of 46 political partisans, psychologists found that conservatives were more likely than liberals to be shocked by sudden threats.

    Accompanying the physiological differences were deep differences on hot-button political issues: military expansion, the Iraq war, gun control, capital punishment, the Patriot act, warrantless searches, foreign aid, abortion rights, gay marriage, premarital sex and pornography.

    "People are experiencing the world, experiencing threat, differently," said University of Nebraska political scientist John Hibbing. "We have very different physiological orientations."

    The study, published today in Science, has not yet been duplicated, but adds a potentially troubling piece to the puzzle of biology, behavior and politics.

    Earlier studies have linked reflexive responses to threats — which for testing purposes take the form of loud noises and graphic images — with existing states of heightened anxiety.

    Though the Science study’s authors cautioned against an overly broad interpretation of their findings, the results suggest that fear leads to political conservatism.

    Study co-author Kevin Smith, also a University of Nebraska political scientist, demurred at making such a connection. "Historically speaking, politicians have appealed to the ‘be afraid’ response in the electorate in an attempt to mine votes," he said. "But in terms of going from campaigning to what we did in the laboratory, that’s a large leap."

    But even Smith agreed that "people with stronger responses are more sensitive to potential threats in their environment."

    Asked whether the findings imply a fearmongering strategy for conservatives, New York University psychologist David Amodio responded, "Yes.
    And some people believe that they are actively using this strategy."

    The Bush administration has been accused of exploiting fears, though it’s hardly a new approach.

    "The whole aim of practical politics," wrote journalist gadfly H.L. Mencken,
    "is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins."

    Jost condemned such tactics. "From an ethical standpoint, conservative campaigns should not exploit feelings of fear in the general population," he said.

    Of course, ethics tend to be forgotten during election seasons — but fear-mongering may be counterproductive.

    "From a practical standpoint, I think that there will eventually be a backlash against those tactics as it becomes more obvious how exploitative they are," said Jost.

    Darren Schreiber, a University of California, San Diego political psychologist, contends that a candidate "who merely tries to trigger fear simply can’t be successful in the long run. Joe McCarthy had his run, but now his name is synonymous with a vile form of politics."

    Exploitation aside, there may be a gentler side to the findings.

    "Instead of political opponents thinking their opposite party is simply being willfully bullheaded," said Hibbing, "you can say, ‘Well, they see a little differently than I do.’"
    Conservatives Scare More Easily Than Liberals, Say Scientists | Wired Science | Wired.com

  2. #2
    ^He pronks, too! Magic Poriferan's Avatar
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    I'm assuming all the people who were studied are American. It's very important to keep nationality in mind because what liberal/conservative and left-wing/right-wing means differs from country to country, and the way such politics are employed differs as well.

    These findings, concerning Americans, do not surprise me. I wouldn't be comfortable extending them to all of society though.
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  3. #3
    Boring old fossil Night's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Magic Poriferan View Post
    I'm assuming all the people who were studied are American. It's very important to keep nationality in mind because what liberal/conservative and left-wing/right-wing means differs from country to country, and the way such politics are employed differs as well.
    That seemed to be implied in his intro. "Fighting" Communism is as American as "The War on Drugs". Or apple pie.

    To the article, the study seems to confirm the inherent contrast between traditional Progressivism and Conservatism. Progressivism as working to inspire social change and development, whereas Conservatism as looking to reinforce traditional ethics and values organic to generations past.

    To that end, it follows that any form of cultural transformation would be much more suspicious to Right-Wing thinkers, who are philosophically more accustomed to strenghtening social custom rather than updating it.

  4. #4
    Minister of Propagandhi ajblaise's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Magic Poriferan View Post
    I'm assuming all the people who were studied are American. It's very important to keep nationality in mind because what liberal/conservative and left-wing/right-wing means differs from country to country, and the way such politics are employed differs as well.

    These findings, concerning Americans, do not surprise me. I wouldn't be comfortable extending them to all of society though.
    Left/right definitely doesn't work at explaining all societies. But the liberal/conservative paradigm can apply to most anywhere, different regions are at different stages i.e. the Middle East is more conservative than the West.

  5. #5
    ^He pronks, too! Magic Poriferan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Night View Post
    That seemed to be implied in his intro. 'Fighting' Communism is as American as 'The War on Drugs'. Or apple pie.

    To the article, the study seems to confirm the inherent contrast between traditional Progressivism and Conservatism. Progressivism as working to inspire social change and development, whereas Conservatism as looking to reinforce traditional ethics and values organic to generations past.

    To that end, it follows that any form of cultural transformation would be much more suspicious to Right-Wing thinkers, who are philosophically more accustomed to strenghtening social custom rather than updating it.
    Studies have show that when provided an existential threat, people cling more to traditions, conventions, etc... We've all seen it happen. It appears to be a coping mechanism of some kind, but it's still unclear how exactly it functions. At more typically personal level, though, we could say that people are inclined to find meaning in darkness. The threat of death creates promise of afterlife.

    Anyhow, such patterns would seem to partly confirm what this article is saying, but I don't think that's the whole picture. A part of what this article has found is, I think, more simple. People who are easily frightened are more likely to obey assertive, bullying authorities, and prepare for potential harm, than people who aren't easily frightened. This should be true no matter what. If the bullying, scaremongering leaders are liberal revolutionaries, they should still get more support from easily frightened people.

    This is not a rare occurence. Both species are numerous in history.The conservative tyrant tells people that they've never had it so good, that they need the conventions, and thus, they should be vigilant toward all threats to the convention. On the other hand, the progressive tyrant says things sucked before, but there's a promised land in the future, if and only if, you can protect it from the threats lurking everywhere. Ultimately, it is the same political machination.
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  6. #6
    Boring old fossil Night's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Magic Poriferan View Post
    Studies have show that when provided an existential threat, people cling more to traditions, conventions, etc... We've all seen it happen. It appears to be a coping mechanism of some kind, but it's still unclear how exactly it functions. At more typically personal level, though, we could say that people are inclined to find meaning in darkness. The threat of death creates promise of afterlife.

    Anyhow, such patterns would seem to partly confirm what this article is saying, but I don't think that's the whole picture. a part of what this article has found is, I think, more simple. People who are easily frightened are more likely to obey assertive, bullying authorities, and prepare for potential harm, than people who aren't easily frightened. This should be true no matter what. If they bullying, scaremongering leaders are liberal revolutionaries, they should still get more support from easily frightened people. This is not a rare occurence. The conservative tyrant tells people that they've never had it so good, that they need the conventions, and thus, they should be vigilant toward all threats to the convention. On the other hand, the progressive tyrant says things sucked before, but there's a promised land in the future, if and only if, you can protect it from the threats lurking everywhere. They ultimate political effect is the same either way.
    I think what the article is suggesting isn't as dramatic as end-of-life scenarios; rather, that Conservatives will generally become more intransigent when cultural norms are "threatened". Gay marriage, for instance, is a hot-button social issue with distinct philosophical lines of debate.

    While it remains true that most people will cling to the familiar - especially when their fundamental way of life is threatened, such as is the case with a brutal dictator or other such "existential" threat - I think the article does a good job of providing intellectual distinction between a worldly threat and a sociopolitical one.

  7. #7
    darkened dreams labyrinthine's Avatar
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    There is some fear embedded into parts of the sub-cultures associated with the Right. I used to be a part of that culture and belonged to a Right-wing family, so I remember one experience of the psychology of it. It's part of the narrative.
    Step into my metaphysical room of mirrors.
    Fear of reality creates myopic morality
    So I guess it means there is trouble until the robins come
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  8. #8
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    Scare easy = extreme political views, no matter on what side of the aisle you happen to find yourself.

  9. #9
    Boring old fossil Night's Avatar
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    Magic, you gave the thread 1-star. Why?

  10. #10
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    Scaring easy facilitates over reaction, and mud slinging.

    It's not like we have any of that in our political system.

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