Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Lib/Con:  Liberals and Conservatives Don't Just Vote Differently. They Think Differently.

There's now a large body of evidence showing that those who opt for the political left and those who opt for the political right tend to process information in divergent ways and to differ on any number of psychological traits.

Perhaps most important, liberals consistently score higher on a personality measure called openness to experience, one of the Big Five personality traits, which are easily assessed through standard questionnaires. That means liberals tend to be the kind of people who want to try new things, including new music, books, restaurants and vacation spots — and new ideas.

Conservatives, in contrast, tend to be less open — less exploratory, less in need of change — and more conscientious, a trait that indicates they appreciate order and structure in their lives. This gels nicely with the standard definition of conservatism as resistance to change — in the famous words of William F. Buckley Jr., a desire to stand athwart history, yelling ‘Stop!'
Now consider another related trait implicated in our divide over reality: the need for cognitive closure. This describes discomfort with uncertainty and a desire to resolve it into a firm belief. Someone with a high need for closure tends to seize on a piece of information that dispels doubt or ambiguity, and then freeze, refusing to consider new information. Those who have this trait can also be expected to spend less time processing information than those who are driven by different motivations, such as achieving accuracy.

A number of studies show that conservatives tend to have a greater need for closure than do liberals, which is precisely what you would expect in light of the strong relationship between liberalism and openness.

For more, see Liberals and Conservatives Don't Just Vote Differently. They Think Differently. by Chris Mooney, April 12, 2012 at The Washington Post.

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