Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Curing Conservatism

Having conservative double-plus ungood thoughts? You must be mad! Off to the psych ward with you!

A psychologist reveals some very disturbing "studies" in the psychological literature attempting to show that conservatism is actually a mental disorder.

And no, this isn't coming out of Soviet Russia, but Psychology Today.

The summary of those studies in this interesting three-part series is:
They have gained favorable treatment in both the professional literature and the mass media. But beneath a thin veneer of integrity, these studies are a morass of furious political ideology, circular reasoning, self-serving definitions, and a baffling degree of confirmation bias. Consider some of the sentiments tucked away in the footnotes and references:

Herbert McClosky, whose studies of conservatism shaped both papers, opined that “by every measure available to us, conservative beliefs are found most frequently among the uniformed, the poorly educated, and so far as we can determine, the less intelligent.” McClosky never actually measured his subjects’ intelligence, but instead relied on the demographic data of people he had already branded as undesirable and, therefore, conservative.

In defining their study population, Jost and company characterized Joseph Stalin as a conservative, while they pled the Fifth regarding the likes of Mao, Castro, and Lenin. Militant leftists were thus excluded from the data pool, while fascists like Mussolini were judged to be characteristic of the right. This led to an absurdly skewed definition of contemporary liberalism and conservatism.

Jost and company unequivocally concluded that fear and aggression correlate with conservatism. Their sources? A World War Two-vintage Marxist, a contemporary ideologue who denies the existence of left-wing authoritarians, and a 1999 article offering unquestioning acceptance of each. The circularity is enough to make a person dizzy.
Start with Part 1.


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