Gye Greene's Thoughts

Gye Greene's Thoughts (w/ apologies to The Smithereens and their similarly-titled album!)

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Cognitive processes of libs and conservs

Well, I usually don't write overtly political blog entries, but my dad forwarded this link to a news article about a psych experiment that demonstrates the differing cognitive processes between self-reported liberals and self-reported conservatives.

Like many psych experiments (and medical studies) that make it to the popular press, the avowed conclusions go beyond the actual empirical findings -- but basically it's that compared to political liberals, political conservatives are more likely to generalize and lump things together, thus overlooking things that don't fit the larger pattern.



At October 05, 2007 2:13 AM, Blogger slag said...

I agree with you on the problem with most studies about political identity and also that this one is pretty good. I find the annoying part of studying this stuff is generally the reaction. It's almost a fatalistic one: you are a liberal; therefore, you see nuance...In a way, it feels like it needs to be stated in the reverse: you see nuance; therefore, liberalism is more appealing to you. It's that secondary space (why do liberals WANT to be liberals) that is more interesting to me. Maybe if we started expressing studies the other way around, it might help take away the fatalistic aspect. (eg, we took a random sample y, x number of y dealt with nuance well, z percent of x thought of themselves as liberal, while n percent of x thought of themselves as conservative.) Headline: More Likely to See Nuance=More Likely to Be Liberal (or whatever). But then maybe that's boring.

At October 05, 2007 12:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Didn't you just lump a broad class of things together? "Like many psych experiments (and medical studies) that make it to the popular press, the avowed conclusions go beyond the actual empirical findings" Does that mean you're a conservative?

At October 05, 2007 11:35 PM, Blogger Gye Greene said...

In response to the preceding comment: Yep -- I **could** be a conservative. :)

But, note that I specified "many" -- rather than implying "all" by stating "Psych experiements that make it to the popular press..." So, I'm stating that it's a majority or general tendency, rather than it's an absolute.

FWIW -- my profession is in the social sciences, with an emphasis on research methodology. So my wife and I tend to pick apart medical-type findings they bandy about in the news , pointing out what they've failed to control for.

The difficulty with most medical studies is that because they come from a tradition of randomized experiments, when they do large-scale NON-randomized experiments, they tend to not compensate for things that Sociologists innately compensate for -- such as social class (higher income and higher education are related to better baseline health, on average -- for a number of reasons).

Also, because medical and psych folks are dealing with the human body (and brain), they assume that it works the same for everyone. Thus, they'll do a study on (for example) middle-class Caucasian males and heart attacks, and assume that their findings apply to everyone. But, as it turns out, there actually **are** some differences in the correlates of heart disease for males and females...

But -- good comment.



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