Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Lib/Con:  Is Conservatism Our Default Ideology?

A research team led by University of Arkansas psychologist Scott Eidelman argues that conservatism — which the researchers identify as an emphasis on personal responsibility, acceptance of hierarchy, and a preference for the status quo — may be our default ideology. If we don't have the time or energy to give a matter sufficient thought, we tend to accept the conservative argument.
We do not assert that conservatives fail to engage in effortful, deliberate thought, they insist. We find that when effortful thought is disengaged, the first step people take tends to be in a conservative direction.

The researchers describe four studies that provide evidence backing up their thesis. In each case, they used a different method to disrupt the process of deliberation, and found that doing so increased the odds of someone espousing conservative views.

Their first method was a time-tested one: inebriation. Researchers stood outside the exit of a busy New England tavern and offered to measure patrons' blood alcohol level if they would fill out a short survey. Eighty-five drinkers agreed, expressing their opinions of 10 statements such as production and trade should be free of government interference.

Bar patrons reported more conservative attitudes as their level of alcohol intoxication increased, the researchers report.

A second experiment featured 38 University of Maine undergraduates who filled out a similar survey. Half did so while working on a distraction task that required them to listen closely to a tape of tones that varied in pitch.

Those who had to do two things at once, and were thus under a heavier cognitive load, were more likely than their peers to endorse conservative attitudes, and less likely to endorse liberal positions.

In a third experiment, participants under time pressure were more likely to endorse conservative viewpoints than those who were not. In a fourth experiment, those asked to give your first, immediate response were more likely to express support for words and phrases linked to conservatism (such as law and order and authority) than those who were instructed to really put forth effort and consider the issue.

For more, see Is Conservatism Our Default Ideology? by Tom Jacobs, March 29, 2012 at Miller-McCune.

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