Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Political views are innate

Nicholas Kristof writes:
The researchers ... found that those who had a stronger blink reflex at the noise were more likely to take such conservative positions as favoring gun rights, supporting warrantless searches, and opposing foreign aid. ...

They start by exploring data showing a remarkably strong correlation between state attitudes toward spanking children and voting patterns. Essentially, spanking states go Republican, while those with more timeouts go Democratic.

Professors Hetherington and Weiler contend that the differences stem from profound differences in cognitive styles. Spankers tend to see the world in stark, black-and-white terms, perceive the social order as vulnerable or under attack, tend to make strong distinctions between “us” and “them,” and emphasize order and muscular responses to threats. Parents favoring timeouts feel more comfortable with ambiguities, sense less threat, embrace minority groups — and are less prone to disgust when they see a man eating worms.
This analysis has some obvious flaws, but there could be something to it.

Maybe one way to test it would be to look at how political views differ between the hard and soft sciences. Some fields depend on being able to make strong distinctions, and some do not. Maybe those who have difficulty making strong distinction are more likely to have certain political views and to be in the soft sciences.

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