Patterico's Pontifications

9/11/2007

LAT: Study Shows Liberals Smarter

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 10:25 pm

The L.A. Times gloats reports:

Exploring the neurobiology of politics, scientists have found that liberals tolerate ambiguity and conflict better than conservatives because of how their brains work.

In a simple experiment reported today in the journal Nature Neuroscience, scientists at New York University and UCLA show that political orientation is related to differences in how the brain processes information.

Who’d have thunk it? Academics found that the liberal brain works better!

Participants were college students whose politics ranged from “very liberal” to “very conservative.” They were instructed to tap a keyboard when an M appeared on a computer monitor and to refrain from tapping when they saw a W.

M appeared four times more frequently than W, conditioning participants to press a key in knee-jerk fashion whenever they saw a letter.

Each participant was wired to an electroencephalograph that recorded activity in the anterior cingulate cortex, the part of the brain that detects conflicts between a habitual tendency (pressing a key) and a more appropriate response (not pressing the key). Liberals had more brain activity and made fewer mistakes than conservatives when they saw a W, researchers said. Liberals and conservatives were equally accurate in recognizing M.

And now comes the triumphalism:

Sulloway said the results could explain why President Bush demonstrated a single-minded commitment to the Iraq war and why some people perceived Sen. John F. Kerry, the liberal Massachusetts Democrat who opposed Bush in the 2004 presidential race, as a “flip-flopper” for changing his mind about the conflict.

Based on the results, he said, liberals could be expected to more readily accept new social, scientific or religious ideas.

“There is ample data from the history of science showing that social and political liberals indeed do tend to support major revolutions in science,” said Sulloway, who has written about the history of science and has studied behavioral differences between conservatives and liberals.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever known anyone who started out life as a liberal, but changed into a conservative (or, God help us, the reverse).

Congratulations! You were witness to a change in someone’s brain!

My definition of a liberal: someone who falls for a B.S. study like this.

43 Responses to “LAT: Study Shows Liberals Smarter”

  1. They were instructed to tap a keyboard when an M appeared on a computer monitor and to refrain from tapping when they saw a W.

    Hmmm, didn’t some Clinton staffers swipe the W’s off the White House keyboards when they left?

    Itsme (6c0913)

  2. “Liberals had more brain activity … than conservatives when they saw a W.”

    Does this mean they are smarter, or just need to use more of their brain to tell an “M” from a “W.”

    Or maybe the “W” just gets them all bothered.

    Kevin Murphy (0b2493)

  3. Some dirty-minded person might also suggest that “W” could be a symbol for flat on one’s back with legs open and up.

    nk (474afa)

  4. “There is ample data from the history of science showing that social and political liberals indeed do tend to support major revolutions in science,”

    * Such liberal “revolutionary science” as:

    …that is OK to kill an unborn child at any time because it is not human and just a cluster of superfluous cells.

    …The globe is warming so fast the oceans will rise 50 feet in 50 years.

    …There is no difference between men and women.

    …42% of liberals believe Bush had pre-knowledge about 9/11.

    Yes – those liberals have keen intellects, just as one.

    Perfect Sense (b6ec8c)

  5. Based on the results, he said, liberals could be expected to more readily accept new social, scientific or religious ideas.

    My definition of a liberal: someone who falls for a B.S. study like this.

    Case closed.

    (Kidding, kidding. This study was poorly done – sample size was I think 48, self-reporting of political instincts, poor sample variance range, etc. I’d like the study to be retried with statistically significant numbers, a wider range of backgrounds, a measure of conservatism other than self-report, and a control group. This was a made-for-press release study. Interesting angle, though.)

    BTW, Itsme: No, the trashing-of-the-Whitehouse story was a plant. Google “whitehouse w key clinton”. That is, if you’re willing to trust followups from the evil MSM that brought you the story in the first place. Wait, who was one of those evil MSM types pushing the nonstory? Tony Snow. Hm.

    fishbane (1f95eb)

  6. I could argue that this test indicates your ability to adapt to and execute mundane activity by reflex allowing you to put your higher brain functions towards other more important tasks. Mundane activities are are reality of most jobs. Making completing mundane activities a reflex so you are not distracted by the mundane is an asset in a worker.

    Therefore this test indicates the likelihood you can acquire and hold a real job.

    jpm100 (d5518b)

  7. “Raise your hand if you’ve ever known anyone who started out life as a liberal, but changed into a conservative (or, God help us, the reverse).”

    Guess I may fall into the reverse. My moderate republican views are not welcome in the party anymore. They make me a traitor, RINO, CINO, etc. Finding a party that respects differences of opinion will be difficult but at this point the Democrats seem to value it more than the Republicans. 30 years of voting straight R and I’m not welcome anymore.
    Feels kind of like the ugly girl on Sunday morning after the QB has had his way with me and won’t return my calls…

    voiceofreason (c99f29)

  8. It would have been better to critique the study Patterico, without using the rigid thinking that the study purports to highlight associated with republicans.

    Psychology is not a hard science and I don’t believe that they claimed that every person who has those traits is a republican. With psychology, 2 + 2 does not = 4 necessarily. 2 + 2 leads to more of a propensity to = 4.

    By the way, individual brains change all the time – even normal people even develop schizophrenia. So a brain changing doesn’t prove anything.

    Assuming the study is true – and one study doesn’t mean much anyway – there is no cause to draw the conclusion that one way of thinking is more intelligent than another from a scientific perspective. Intelligence is largely a philosophical question. I would argue that both traits have their advantages (i.e., are adaptive in their own right depending on the circumstances).

    Psyberian (9a155b)

  9. The idea that a person can be completly “conservative” or “liberal” is simply myopic. The truth is, we’re all both conservative and liberal at the same time, depending on what part of our lives we’re dealing with.

    You don’t “flip” and become a conservative, or a liberal as a person; as your life situation changes, you may be more conservative or liberal on certain issues, because your interest in those issues changes.

    Phil (6d9f2f)

  10. Psyberian, I have a t-shirt that says “2+2=5 (for extremely large values of two)”.

    It’s a joke. It’s mocking.

    This is just a masturbatory study to make them feel superior. They need these studies because they are unable to debate on the merits of an argument. It always drops directly to the person disagreeing with them being a racist, a homophobe, an islamophobe, a chickenhawk, and so on and so on.

    When the debate drops directly to insults, you have lost.

    So they do crap like this, so they can feel good.

    Scott Jacobs (e3904e)

  11. Patterico: Shouldn’t there be a disclaimer here? I vaguely remember you thinking about participating in a study like this and you were warned the result would be junk science to support leftist propaganda.

    dave (639416)

  12. So the study was approvingly commented on in the LA Times by THAT Frank Sulloway. That’s the Frank Sulloway who wrote the book “Born to Rebel,” about how younger siblings are more rebellious. Judith Rich Harris, author of “The Nurture Assumption,” did a careful dissection of Sulloway’s work. She notes: “The idea that birth order has important and persistent effects on personality has been repeatedly debunked by careful reviewers of the data — reviewers without a theoretical ax of their own to grind.” (http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/harris/harris_index.html) If you read Rich’s entire article, you’ll get a feel for the kind of dubious science that Sulloway is involved with.

    Barbara Oakley (c90167)

  13. Scott Jacobs said
    “When the debate drops directly to insults, you have lost.

    So they do crap like this, so they can feel good.”

    Hmm is that kind of like referring to Democrats at large as Defeatocrats, Traitors, Moonbats,Leftards, Unhinged, etc.?

    Voice of Reason (10af7e)

  14. I have to agree that the “Conservative-Liberal” axis is increasingly nonsense. Not only have the terms inverted over the years (with the “Liberals” preserving the status quo welfare state and the Conservatives promoting the free market), but the PARTIES that claim to represent those groups have increasingly drifted toward authoritarian.

    It’s getting so that my choice each election is between the left-wing control freak and the right-wing control freak. The only clear non-statist alternative is the incredibly dysfunctional Libertarians.

    We need new terms.

    Kevin Murphy (0b2493)

  15. It’s true! Go to your most liberal cities like Washington DC or Detroit — They are unlocking all the secrets of the universe in between tokes on their crack pipes.

    j curtis (ecc9cc)

  16. It’s all well and good to do these “studies,” but how do our friends on the left explain that, in the 2004 election, the better educated you were and the more productive you were, the more likely you were to have voted for George Bush?

    Or do they think that educational achievement and earning power are somehow inversely proportional to intelligence?

    The numbers are stark: with every increase in income, the greater the probability you voted for President Bush, while for every increase in educational achievement, with the sole exception of post-graduate degrees (a group heavily dominated by teachers, a Democratic special interest group), the more probable it was you voted Republican.

    But among high school drop-outs, John Kerry was very popular! :)

    It’s real easy to come up with “studies,” but this was a measure of how people actually voted.

    Dana (3e4784)

  17. Or go back to 2000 election when there was an endless supply of democratic voters who just couldn’t execute a vote for Gore correctly. Yeah, intelligence, like beauty, must be in the eye of the beholder/b.s. study scientists.

    doubled (36b8f7)

  18. I wonder if these kid wonders would be interested in some investment opportunities offered by Nigerians?

    Thomas Jackson (bf83e0)

  19. Clearly alphie, ada, and Andrew J Lazarus are the exceptions to the rule.

    JD (f6a000)

  20. Ah, the Matt Yglesias/Ezra Klein faction makes its way onto the LAT (“We’re smart, just ask us!”). Hey, if they really want to impress us with their huge intellects, they could start by attempting to take care of themselves.

    rjwest21 (8f8726)

  21. The only way that anyone would believe the basic concept that liberals are smarter than conservatives would be to believe as well the basic concept that “feelings” are more relevant than “logic.”

    reff (bff229)

  22. I’m wondering if this study was taken from an old Stazi training book?

    syn (7faf4d)

  23. “with every increase in income, the greater the probability you voted for President Bush”

    – Dana

    Makes sense to me (considering whose interests Bush has always had in mind)…

    “while for every increase in educational achievement, with the sole exception of post-graduate degrees (a group heavily dominated by teachers, a Democratic special interest group), the more probable it was you voted Republican.”

    – Dana

    Oh… so for every increase in educational achievement, the more probable it was you voted Republican… or Democrat, if you didn’t have an MBA from an elitist Eastern university. Whoo. Great fact.

    While we’re trying to stick it to one another by turning a bullshit study on its proverbial head, I might as well point out that, whether or not they are “a Democratic special interest group”, the most highly educated segment of the population voted against your boy.

    Nyah, nyah.

    Leviticus (e87aad)

  24. This reminds me of Jack Blocks study of Berkely children that “proved” whiney kids grow up to be conservate, while generous, well adjusted, wonderful children become liberals.

    Or another Berkeley study that found conservatism is mental disease.

    What all this really proves is liberals love to tell each other how smart they are. I blame the whole “self esteem” movement in the schools. “If we can just get kids to generate self-esteem from thin air instead of through accomplishment, think of how much happier the losers will be.”

    Eric (09e4ab)

  25. Well, yes of course, Levi. Their paychecks come from the public trough. Why wouldn’t they?

    Eric (09e4ab)

  26. Funny, I don’t see the claim that liberals are smarter anywhere in the article.

    Project much?

    alphie (99bc18)

  27. Funny, I don’t see the claim that liberals are smarter anywhere in the article.

    Project much?

    Funny, Staunch Brayer, Patterico illustrated the article’s “liberal are smarter” outline in his post.

    Funny how the study’s findings fit exactly with the liberal position on many issues.

    Read much?

    Paul (5efd01)

  28. alf,

    “liberals were 4.9 times as likely as conservatives to show activity in the brain circuits that deal with conflicts, and 2.2 times as likely to score in the top half of the distribution for accuracy.”

    Liberal brains have more “activity” and are more “accurate”. They repeat this two times in the story. The liberal brain also tolerated ambiguity better, which is a nice way of saying that complexity either eludes the conservative brain, or it causes it to seize up.

    Unless I read it wrong. Of course I am a conservative, so perhaps the ambiguity and/or nuance of things exceeded my feeble grasp.

    SteveG (4e16fc)

  29. I forgot to add:

    Or then again maybe if I would have just gone to math class in high school instead of cutting class to go down to the beach to surf and smoke weed and I’d have voted for Kerry. Who knows?
    But I was smart enough to schedule math after lunch, so I could leave at 11:50AM and have the rest of the day off…egads. Maybe I can explain my vote for Carter (come on, I was 18) a little better now.

    SteveG (4e16fc)

  30. your views are sincere, but your brain is defective.

    assistant devil's advocate (a8e9ab)

  31. 68% of all statistics are made up.

    Lord Nazh© (899dce)

  32. The Third Book of Moses hath written:

    While we’re trying to stick it to one another by turning a bullshit study on its proverbial head, I might as well point out that, whether or not they are “a Democratic special interest group”, the most highly educated segment of the population voted against your boy.

    Teachers are, in large part, unionized government workers, Levi, locked in place by tenure and demanding more and more money for less and less performance. They have advanced degrees because almost every state requires that they obtain a master’s degree, but they are still a special interest group pandered to by the Democrats.

    Dana (d671ab)

  33. A true liberal would support equal rights for the W and would therefore tap the keyboard each time either letter appeared.

    tmac (0c909a)

  34. Dana #32:

    #

    The Third Book of Moses hath written:

    While we’re trying to stick it to one another by turning a bullshit study on its proverbial head, I might as well point out that, whether or not they are “a Democratic special interest group”, the most highly educated segment of the population voted against your boy.

    Teachers are, in large part, unionized government workers, Levi, locked in place by tenure and demanding more and more money for less and less performance. They have advanced degrees because almost every state requires that they obtain a master’s degree, but they are still a special interest group pandered to by the Democrats.

    Well, first of all, the category was for people who have done postgraduate studies, not necessarily those who have obtained degrees. You say that the group is dominated by teachers, but I don’t see the logic of that…do you have any evidence? After all, consider how many other professions require postgraduate studies…for example, doctors and other medical professionals, attorneys, MBAs, engineers, economists, geologists, and librarians, to name a few.

    In addition, I think it is a little misleading to say (as you did in an earlier post), that with the exception of those who had done post graduate work, for “every increase in educational achievement… the more probable it was you voted Republican.” But the highest level, postgraduate work, included the lower levels, such as high school and college. Thus, those with postgrad experience had at least the same level of “educational achievement” as those at the lower levels.

    Itsme (dc52c5)

  35. Also to Dana –

    By the way, I don’t know how helpful it is to look at the “stark” numbers regarding income level, unless they’re factored for age, employment, and other indicators. Especially if one wants to equate income level (or even employment) with being “more productive.”

    I mean, most people would consider stay-at-home parents, students, or retirees, for example, pretty productive.

    Itsme (dc52c5)

  36. fishban #5 –

    #

    BTW, Itsme: No, the trashing-of-the-Whitehouse story was a plant. Google “whitehouse w key clinton”. That is, if you’re willing to trust followups from the evil MSM that brought you the story in the first place. Wait, who was one of those evil MSM types pushing the nonstory? Tony Snow. Hm.

    ————————-

    Hi, sorry I didn’t see your post before.

    Yes, I knew that the whole “trashing the WH” story was pretty much debunked, but I thought there actually were a few missing “w’s” in there.

    At any rate, it was just my little yolk.

    Itsme (dc52c5)

  37. With funds going to a study such as this, who even needs Head Start? “Just pull anything out of your ass”, would be my sage instruction for success in life – and then only if needed in really hard cases.

    Or is that Head Start?

    J. Peden (7400e1)

  38. I mean, most people would consider stay-at-home parents, students, or retirees, for example, pretty productive

    I’ll give a pass to stay-at-home parents and retirees (just this once), but the only way you are going to tell me that today’s students are productive is if you count binge drinking, playing Madden 07, and making homemade porn videos.

    JVW (6a3590)

  39. Well JVW, you’re welcome to your opinion. But Dana was the one pointing out all those well-educated people who voted Republican.

    Itsme (dc52c5)

  40. Based on the results, he said, liberals could be expected to more readily accept new social, scientific or religious ideas.

    New ideas; not necessarily good ideas or correct ideas. Sounds like a greater desire to jump onto bandwagons to me. And since when does a college student have fully-formed ideas on politics? There’s a reason why candidates for President have to be at least 35 years old; the founders knew — without the benefit of a junk science experiment for “proof” — that it greatly helps a person to experience a bit of real life in order to form a mature political philosophy. What a coincidence that the conclusions these outside scientists derive from the study is that liberal stereotypes (conservative are stuck-in-the-mud traditionalists, liberals are open-minded and adapt to changing times more readily) have supposedly been proven to be true. What an advantageous event for liberals . . . and liberal scientists.

    But then there’s the quote from the L.A. Times article that Patterico didn’t use; this one from someone who actually worked on the study:

    Lead author David Amodio, an assistant professor of psychology at New York University, cautioned that the study looked at a narrow range of human behavior and that it would be a mistake to conclude that one political orientation was better. The tendency of conservatives to block distracting information could be a good thing depending on the situation, he said.

    So maybe there was some objectivity in the study after all . . . if you think a statement that basically says, “No clear-cut answers can be derived form these results,” adds weight and importance to the whole affair.

    Independent Conservative (f99f62)

  41. Evil athiest agrees with fascist modron. :)

    Alan Kellogg (1c0ba6)

  42. There is ample data from the history of science showing that social and political liberals indeed do tend to support major revolutions in science.”

    This is nothing more than a tautology. By definition, a “liberal” is more open to “new ideas” and a conservative is skeptical of them.

    I’ve been seeing studies like this – purporting to prove that liberals’ minds are more flexible and conservatives’ minds more rigid – since my undergrad days as a Sociology B.S. major. A new one comes out every couple of years, but none’s ever topped the first I ever came across. It was even more circular than the quotation above: Because conservatives’ beliefs were more consistent (“monolithic” was the term I believed the studdy used) with one another, they were deemed deficient. I guess I’m too dumb, because the notion that a consistent belief system – as opposed to one that’s chock full of internal contradictions – makes one less intelligent is moronic to me.

    Dodd (7edc27)

  43. The generally left-leaning Slate.com has an article today that refutes just about every aspect of this study:

    http://www.slate.com/id/2173965/pagenum/2/

    It’s a perfect dissection of the study, showing how the scientist’s methodology GUARANTEED the results would be meaningless.

    Independent Conservative (09a1bc)


Powered by WordPress.

Page loaded in: 0.3896 secs.