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Location: St. Louis, Missouri, United States

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Liberal Paradigms and Junk Psychology on Parade

Timothy Birdnow

Sometimes I just hate to read things; it forces me to waste a lot of time on stupidity.

One such case hit me the other day at American Thinker; Jeffrey Folks wrote about a typical act of serial pseudoscientific hit and run.

I'm NOT complaining about Folks' treatment of the subject (although I wish he would have gone into the science more deeply) but about the subject itself; it's yet another "paper" purported to show that liberals are smarter, cooler, more mature, sexier, and have whiter teeth than knuckle dragging conservatives - and it attempts to justify this wiht cognitive psychology.

I hated reading this, because it forces me to waste time and effort debunking utter stupidity masquerading as science. Frankly, I don't have a whole lot of interest in doing so, and am doing it rather half-heartedly, because it really isn't worth my time. This is something that should be laughed off, but I suppose I could make a few remarks to illustrate.

Readers of this website remember other such junk science; I wrote about neurological "research" making similar claims a couple of years ago ( and showed how the methodology was designed to produce the results the researchers wanted. Also, the definitions were poor, making "conservative" open to interpretation.

This is more of the same. Here is the actual paper

Essentially, cognitive psychologist Michael A. Busseri argues that stupid people become right wing racists. The title of his paper is:

"Bright Minds and Dark Attitudes
Lower Cognitive Ability Predicts Greater Prejudice Through Right-Wing Ideology and Low Intergroup Contact"

and his argument is essentially a smear of those who disagree with him politically, an attack couched in scientific jargon to make it appear to somehow be an objective piece of research.

One of the first things that any good piece of research does is identify terms. What is a right=winger? What is the political spectrum? How do you divide the extreme right from the moderate right, the moderates, the social liberals, the hard left? What are the parameters you will use to identify associated characteristics?

Busseri does none of this. His working definition of "right wing" seems to be a racist, homophobic, authoritarian with bad hygene. And he does not even identify what is meant by racist, as he appears to believe this is somehow a person who fears people of other races rather than a more complex phonomenon.

Busseri's whole thesis revolves around the idea that those with weaker g (an annoying abbreviation he uses to stand for general intelligence) tend to be right wing, while those smarter people naturally become enlightened liberals. This is old hat; liberals have been trying to claim the mantle of superior intelligence for generations, and it is their chief selling poing with the young. "Be a liberal and you'll be one of the smart ones, one of the ruling class, the elites. Oh, and you'll score more frequently, too!" Liberalism is a largely sterile creed, one that must reproduce through recruitment rather than through breeding, because committed liberals tend to be too selfish to have large families and their views are frequently rejected by their own offspring. So the Left has always survived and thrived by their control of the dissemination of information and their control of institutions where information is managed i.e. Universities, think tanks, and whatnot. Universities are breeding grounds for their heterodoxies; rebellious young people are hooked in at this critical time of their lives with promises of respect, of power, of pissing off their parents, of sexual favors from the ladies who have fallen for their views. Making the case that liberals are naturally smarter is, well, only natural to the liberal.

Busseri compiles a dizzying array of statistics culled from numerous other such research. But, much like global warming, the research rehashes research by others who rehashed research by those doing research; in other words, most of what Busseri relies on is based on modeling and projection.

Let us hear Busseri in his own words:

"Cognitive abilities have important implications for interpersonal behaviors and relations. Studies have shown that individuals with lower levels of general intelligence (g) are less trusting of other people, less sensitive to interpersonal cues, and less accurate in deciphering other people’s behaviors and intentions (Murphy & Hall, 2011; Sturgis, Read, & Allum, 2010). Our research builds on this emerging psychological literature and concerns the socially important but surprisingly underexamined relation between g and intergroup prejudice (i.e., negative evaluations of out-groups). In a targeted analysis, we evaluated whether (a) g (as a generalized cognitive ability) predicts out-group prejudice and (b) right-wing conservative ideologies and a lack of contact with out-groups mediate the link between cognitive ability and prejudice."

End excerpt.

So, interpersonal ability is a function of cognition? Someone really should tell that to the nerds on any college campus; the very intelligent are often very bad at interpersonal relations.

And what of James Watson,co-discoverer of the double helix, who argued that blacks are inherently inferior due to genetics? Is Watson's racism a function of low general intelligence?,2933,302836,00.html Did Watson have lower intelligence?

Perhaps the argument is that only RIGHT WING racists are less intelligent?

Let's hear more from Busseri:

"We propose that right-wing ideologies, which are socially conservative and authoritarian (see Jost et al., 2003; Van Hiel et al., 2010), represent a mechanism through which cognitive ability is linked with prejudice. According to contemporary theoretical approaches, such ideologies are characterized by resistance to change and the promotion of intergroup inequalities (Jost et al., 2003).1 A recent comprehensive meta-analysis confirmed a reliable negative relation between cognitive ability and right-wing ideologies (Van Hiel et al., 2010). For example, research has revealed that individuals who more strongly endorse social conservatism have greater cognitive rigidity (Rokeach, 1948), less cognitive flexibility (Sidanius, 1985), and lower integrative complexity (Jost et al., 2003). Socially conservative individuals also perform less well than liberals on standardized ability tests (Stankov, 2009). Right-wing authoritarianism (Altemeyer, 1996), a strong correlate of social conservatism (Jost et al., 2003; Van Hiel et al., 2010), is also negatively associated with g (McCourt, Bouchard, Lykken, Tellegen, & Keyes, 1999).

Given that cognitive abilities are critical in forming individuated impressions of other people and in being open-minded (Scarr & Weinberg, 1981) and trusting of other people (Sturgis et al., 2010), individuals with lower cognitive abilities may gravitate toward more socially conservative right-wing ideologies that maintain the status quo and provide psychological stability and a sense of order (Jost et al., 2003). This rationale is consistent with findings that less intelligent children come to endorse more socially conservative ideologies as adults (Deary et al., 2008; Schoon et al., 2010).

Furthermore, compared with liberals, individuals who endorse right-wing ideologies are more fearful and anxious that out-groups will cause the disintegration of societal moral standards and traditions (Altemeyer, 1996; Jost et al., 2003; Sibley & Duckitt, 2008). Consistent with this apprehension is the well-established relation between right-wing ideologies and attitudes toward out-groups, whereby both conservatism (Van Hiel et al., 2004) and authoritarianism (Altemeyer, 1996; Hodson & Costello, 2007; Sibley & Duckitt, 2008) are associated with heightened prejudice. Recent meta-analyses have confirmed that there are strong positive correlations between right-wing ideologies and prejudice (see Sibley & Duckitt, 2008). However, the endorsement of right-wing ideologies is not synonymous with prejudice against out-groups (Sniderman & Tetlock, 1986). According to social-dominance theory, the positive association between right-wing ideologies and negative evaluations of out-groups reflects the fact that both constructs share the core psychological element of a desire for hierarchies among groups (Sidanius, Pratto, & Bobo, 1996). Socially conservative ideologies have therefore been conceptualized as “legitimizing myths”: Although they are often rooted in socially acceptable values and traditions, such ideologies nonetheless facilitate negative attitudes toward out-groups (Sidanius & Pratto, 1999; see also Jost et al., 2003; Sidanius et al., 1996; Van Hiel et al., 2010)."

End excerpt.

So, conservatives are also hate gay people because they are stupid, and favor authoritarianism because they are frightened and need guardrails!

Now, please notice that this leaves no place for the Libertarian, who doesn't care a wit about a person's sexual behavior and hates authoritarianism. And it hopelessly confuses hatred and disapproval, two very different things. A person may disapprove of something but hardly hate it. Many people love fast food while disapproving of it. Many people enjoy racy movies but think they are bad for society. Our friend Busseri confuses these things, suggesting a psychological hatred for what may be a simple sense of right and wrong - what used to be called Natural Law.

Modern politicized science is all reductive; it has to be, because it seeks to establish that which is counterintuitive as fact. You can't argue something that violates Natural law if you accept that there are some things that are a-priori.

The left has been relentless on establishing this paradigm, that the conservative is fearful and authoritarian. That liberals are the ones who fear virtually everything outside of their control, and that they are the ones who inevitably establish totalitarian rule when given power, should be adequate to demolish this whole exercise in stupidity; Was Joseph Stalin a right-winger? Was Mao? Pol Pot? Who advocates more government, more control, more intervention into people's lives? It's not the "right wing". The only way to make this case is to argue that Hitler and the Fascists were somehow right wing, despite the fact that Mussolini had been the editor of Italy's socialist newspaper and considered himself a man of the Left, as did Hitler, who was instrumental in the renaming of the German Worker's Party the National Socialists.

No, this is a classic case of projection; liberals like Busseri desperately project their own problems onto their political opponents.

And one must ask, what of the David Horowitzes of this world? Those who change from liberal to conservative?

French Premier Georges Clemenceau (1841-1929) famously quipped :"Not to be a socialist at twenty is proof of want of heart; to be one at thirty is proof of want of head." (This is often erroneously attributed to Winston Churchill.) He's right; the young are often to the left on the political spectrum, and move rightward as they mature. Is this evidence of reduced cognitive ability, or evidence that greater experience leads to enlightenment? Busseri ignores this whole thing. And people rarely move from right to left.

If racism, homophobia, and authoritarianism stem from poor cognitive ability, it is a problem of the Left, not the right. And it cannot explain the facts on the ground. A theory, no matter how elegant or how much we want it to be true, stands or falls on it's explanation of real world facts. This fails.

The purpose of studies like this is to define conservatism as a disease, one that can be "cured" through proper government intervention. See The Thought Slavemasters for more on this. That is the end goal of the Left; to make thinking outside of the permissable to be an illness. Aldous Huxley (himself a man of the Left) illustrated this quite clearly in Brave New World. We've seen this in the Soviet Union where dissidents were placed in mental hospitals. We've seen this repeatedly from the left, not the right.

Oh, and who invented the concept of political correctness? If liberals hold greater tolerance for others why do they force intellectual conformity on them?

The left understands the dangers they face; they can never hope to be more than one quarter of any given population because they lose converts over time and often the children of true believers turn from the faith. Their plan is to make thought crimes of conservatism, to make it into a medical malady that can be forcibly suppressed. This is nothing but another such justification.

And it comes out now to influence the elections. We are at a critical juncture, with the electorate moving away from the socialist paradigm, and this cannot be allowed to stand. So "science" must be employed to show shore up the liberal paradigm. It really is that simple.

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