Friday, January 6, 2012

The doors of perception have been bolted shut

A news release on, The biology of politics: Liberals roll with the good, conservatives confront the bad, finds some interesting differences between the perceptions of liberals and conservatives. It also leaves me puzzled.

Take this statement:

In a series of experiments, researchers closely monitored physiological reactions and eye movements of study participants when shown combinations of both pleasant and unpleasant images. Conservatives reacted more strongly to, fixated more quickly on, and looked longer at the unpleasant images; liberals had stronger reactions to and looked longer at the pleasant images compared with conservatives.
I'm trying to reconcile this with my own screwy history. I'm essentially a "glass is half-empty" type of personality, so by that criterion, I should be a conservative. In fact I was, but a number of years ago, I got totally fed up with what "true" conservatives had done to the Republican party, and I switched my allegiance to the Democrats. The way things are now, I doubt that I would ever vote for any Republican ever again.

Then comes what I assume is a new hypothesis:

UNL political scientist and co-author John Hibbing said the results might mean that those on the right are more attuned and attentive to aversive elements in life and are more naturally inclined to confront them. From an evolutionary standpoint, that makes sense, he said.

The results also are consistent with conservatives' support of policies to protect society from perceived external threats (support for increased defense spending or opposition to immigration) and internal ones as well (support for traditional values and being tough on crime), Hibbing said.
How does this notion of conservatives confronting a threat square with their head-in-the-sand approach to climate change? Or evolution?

From my point of view, I see the flat out denial of overwhelming scientific evidence as a major threat to our future existence and our standing as a scientific power. American conservatives' support for their policies is more akin to a fundamentalist Taliban approach.

I'm glad, at least, that the researchers used a term like "perceived external threats" to categorize conservative belief. Perhaps they need to study the basis for a conservative's perception. Their blue sky is not the same color as my blue sky.

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