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24 September 2008

The physiology of personal politics: If you are easily startled by disturbing images or sudden noises, you might be a conservative. If you donít react strongly to such stimuli, you might be a liberal. [More:]

Another one in the telegraph

I am as jumpy as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs. Thunderstorms make me want to hide under the bed. I cringe at violence in movies. I cannot look at disturbing images on the internet.
Anecdotally, this premise couldn't be more wrong. I am a bed-wetting, tree hugging, bleeding heart liberal. I am also a very well informed one, who does not suffer fools lightly. Sadly, most fools I know are conservatives.
posted by msali 24 September | 16:58
msali: Yeah. Using just Nebraskans to make such a broad generalization was dumb. But the fact that they published it in Science means that there is probably more to the study.
posted by special-k 24 September | 17:04
OK, a liberal by Nebraska standards would be like the most conservative person I know. Shouldn't they have picked, say, Texas conservatives and NYC liberals just to make sure they were really getting the ends of the spectrum?
posted by kellydamnit 24 September | 18:37
Again, anecdotal, but I'm an extremely squeamish liberal and my fiance is a conservative with an iron stomach.
posted by desjardins 24 September | 21:54
Seems to relate to the thesis, as advanced by Adam Curtis and others, that conservatives are strongly motivated by fear.
posted by box 24 September | 22:11
I saw this mentioned at Mefi... and I must say that I don't really understand how fear of a sudden, loud noise is quantifiable as the same as emotion that that makes one worried about creeping socialism, for example. We have instinctive, primal fears related to things that may endanger us physically... some insects are poisonous or transfer disease; being afraid of them means that we avoid them and try to create conditions where they won't thrive. A loud noise might mean that something is happening around you that may endanger you: a big limb cracking overhead, earthquake, whatever. A bloody face tells you that violence is happening here, you better be ready to fight off whatever has done this to that person.

People who react quickly to these sorts of instinctive fears are more likely to survive.

Fear of homosexuality, or ethnic diversity, on the other hand, is a different kind of fear... this is fear related to security. The status quo is good for you, you like your relative position in pecking order, you like things to go a certain way, and these other people who are not like you might change that.

One fear is survival instinct, and another fear has to do with protecting your turf, but it's learned instead of instinctive (one probably doesn't have a flight-or-fight reaction to seeing a photo of Clay Aiken, though ymmv).

Feeling threatened by unfamiliar things or ideas is not necessarily a good survival tactic... it would have kept mankind from exploration, from developing tools or trying anything different that pushed progress forward.

So, yeah... the idea that fear is fear and all fear is equal seems very odd to me.

At any rate, I jump a mile at sudden, loud noises, and have since infancy.
posted by taz 25 September | 00:34
Oh - as for the testing conditions, it does seem to make sense to have your group as homogeneous as possible, doesn't it? If most conditions are equal, then the variations would be more significant?

If you had a person from NYC with less reaction to a loud noise, it's probably because they are more used to sudden noises like car alarms, etc. than a Nebraskan.

I would think that getting your test subjects from as close to the same physical area/age/background/education/economic level as possible except for differences in political left/right, and even separated by sex, would give the cleanest result, but that you would need to test a lot of different groups. What if you found out that, unlike people from Nebraska, within a group of Louisiana Cajuns, the more conservative subjects in the group responded less strongly to fear stimulus, and the more liberal subjects responded more? Or that despite strong political differences, almost all subjects responded the same way? As it is, all we know is that some Nebraskans who are conservative are more afraid of noises and spiders than some liberal Nebraskans.
posted by taz 25 September | 00:56
posted by dg 25 September | 05:43
*jumps a mile*
posted by taz 25 September | 07:19
I fear that this will get even uglier. . . . || Mickey was a junkie