Sunday, July 29, 2012

Study: Lazy thinking leads to conservatism?

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The Thinker

As usual, my abject ignorance about the proper manner to conduct and examine studies hinders my ability to assess the reliability of this new report, so I post this with naught but a quiet cough:

The authors test the hypothesis that low-effort thought promotes political conservatism. In Study 1, alcohol intoxication was measured among bar patrons; as blood alcohol level increased, so did political conservatism (controlling for sex, education, and political identification). In Study 2, participants under cognitive load reported more conservative attitudes than their no-load counterparts. In Study 3, time pressure increased participants’ endorsement of conservative terms. In Study 4, participants considering political terms in a cursory manner endorsed conservative terms more than those asked to cogitate; an indicator of effortful thought (recognition memory) partially mediated the relationship between processing effort and conservatism. Together these data suggest that political conservatism may be a process consequence of low-effort thought; when effortful, deliberate thought is disengaged, endorsement of conservative ideology increases.

I’ll leave it to my scientific betters to say whether this is a result worth putting any trust in, so for now, allow me to indulge in some psychobabble.

From my perspective, these findings do seem to make some sense. Using myself as an example, I’m aware that moments where I feel more apathetic, tired, angry and otherwise unable (or unwilling) to engage in deeper thinking are also where I’m more likely to speak and act more from gut feeling – short-sighted, quick-response shallow thinking that mostly ignores larger ramifications and even some of the ideals I try to hold myself up to. After all, what good peacenik hasn’t occasionally found themselves shouting in bloodlust when feeling particularly emotionally upset, even when their calmer, more level-headed selves are the first to decry such behavior?

Of course, I’m not using this subjective example as a representation for what happens to everyone else who does engage in such knee-jerk reactionism on a more regular basis. After all, there certainly are plenty of intelligent and deep-thinking conservatives out there, even if their voices are increasingly eclipsed by the rabid dung-flingers who’ve been taking over more mainstream politics over the last few years. I’m fairly certain no-one can reasonably say that popular Right-wing hubs like and Townhall are bastions of meaningful and intelligent discussion. (And the less is thought about Fox News and the WorldNetDaily, the better.)

In the end, maybe it’s just a matter of principles, a set of standards in behavior and modes of thought that some people feel are worth trying to live up to, and others who don’t.

(via @todayspolitics)