I have for some time been pointing out the very strong evidence that a Leftist or conservative orientation is largely hereditary. So politics do clearly have a physical basis. They do not materialize out of thin air. Just exactly what is inherited, however, no-one has so far conclusively shown. I myself would expect that conservatives have better reality contact and have less need for praise (i.e. healthier egos). Deficient reality contact is the prime symptom of schizophrenia so something as broad as loss of reality contact can indeed be inherited. At the moment, however, the detailed mechanisms are all speculation.

That does not hold up our propagandizing Leftists, however. There is a report here of a recent psychological experiment that involved tapping a keyboard in response to a flashing letter. It was found that conservatives and Leftists differed somewhat in the detail of their responses.

Just what one can conclude from the results is not at all clear. What the results showed was more emotional activity in the brains of Leftists when presented with a difficult task so I would see the results as yet another example of Leftists being more emotional — as being emotionally-driven rather than reason-driven. I suspect that most readers of this blog would see Leftists that way.

That old anti-scientist, Frank Sulloway, however has a much more florid interpretation. We read:

Sulloway said the results could explain why President Bush demonstrated a single-minded commitment to the Iraq war and why some people perceived Sen. John F. Kerry, the liberal Massachusetts Democrat who opposed Bush in the 2004 presidential race, as a “flip-flopper” for changing his mind about the conflict.

Based on the results, he said, liberals could be expected to more readily accept new social, scientific or religious ideas. “There is ample data from the history of science showing that social and political liberals indeed do tend to support major revolutions in science,” said Sulloway, who has written about the history of science and has studied behavioral differences between conservatives and liberals.

Fortunately, the actual authors of the study were more in touch with reality:

Lead author David Amodio, an assistant professor of psychology at New York University, cautioned that the study looked at a narrow range of human behavior and that it would be a mistake to conclude that one political orientation was better. The tendency of conservatives to block distracting information could be a good thing depending on the situation, he said.

For a comment on the parody of science that Sulloway’s “studies of behavioral differences between conservatives and liberals” constitute, see here

The LA Times journalist who summarized the research led off with this:

Exploring the neurobiology of politics, scientists have found that liberals tolerate ambiguity and conflict better than conservatives because of how their brains work

I would have thought that the study showed the opposite: That Leftists get more het up in an ambiguous situation. But the reason for the vast over-interpretion by the journalist is that it is a very old Leftist trope that conservatives do not tolerate ambiguity well. It is seen as part of a syndrome of “mental rigidity”. The only trouble, however, is that there appears to be no such thing. It has also been known for many years that some people are more rigid in some situations and some are more rigid in others. There is no overall trait of intolerance of ambiguity or rigidy for anyone to have — be they Leftists or Rightists. See here for some references and a fuller treatment here.

And “intolerance of ambiguity” is in any case usually little more than an abusive spin on what would once have been seen as a desire for order. And seeking order in the world is what scientists do. So we could reasonably say that any evidence showing conservatives as “intolerant of ambiguity” is fact shows conservatives as more scientifically oriented. I would not argue with that!

(For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.)

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