What Makes Conservatives Tick

A landmark study by a team of psychologists from Stanford and UC
Berkeley concludes that ‘at the core of political conservatism is
the resistance to change and a tolerance for inequality.’ According
to a press release announcing the study, the four researchers
reviewed more than 50 years of literature on the psychology of
conservatism looking for common patterns and identified five traits
that typify people who adhere to a conservative ideology:

  • Fear and aggression
  • Dogmatism and intolerance of ambiguity
  • Uncertainty avoidance
  • Need for cognitive closure
  • Terror management

‘From our perspective, these psychological factors are capable
of contributing to the adoption of conservative ideological
contents, either independently or in combination,’ the researchers
wrote in an article in the American Psychological Association’s
Psychological Bulletin.

Conservatives are, not surprisingly, less than pleased. Many
conservative webloggers decried the study as pseudo-scientific
left-wing propaganda. ‘In the Berkeley case, the fact that almost
all psychologists have been saying the same thing about
conservatives seems to be taken as good proof that what they are
saying is correct,’ writes John Ray in his weblog Dissecting
. ‘A survey taken in Galileo’s day would have concluded
with equal vehemence that the earth is flat.’

The study’s authors also concluded that conservatives are less
‘integratively complex’ than liberals, meaning that they don’t feel
compelled to come up with complex justifications for their beliefs
and are comfortable viewing the world in black and white.

However, said lead author Jon Glaser, ‘it doesn’t mean that
they’re simple-minded.’
Leif Utne

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Researchers Help Define What Makes a Political Conservative
Berkeley press release)

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