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Conservatives are scaredy-cats
September 21, 2008 3:06 PM   Subscribe

The Politics of Fear: Some Political Views May be Related to Physiology video, audio

news stories - BBC, Washington Post, NPR with audio

Plus, a 2006 lecture on the heritability of political attitudes by John Hibbing, one of the authors of the above study - flash video or MPEG4 download, starts at around 10:00 and runs for about an hour (during the intro btw he quips "I'm a social scientist pretending to be a scientist...")
posted by XMLicious (38 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
It seems to me another possible explanation is that liberals may be more inclined to listen to loud music and watch horror movies.
posted by XMLicious at 3:07 PM on September 21, 2008


Conservatives are scaredy-cats or liberals are dense. Who am I kidding conservatives are pussiesy cats.
posted by nola at 3:15 PM on September 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


I startle easily yet vote democratic. Sample size is kind of small, no?
posted by fixedgear at 3:21 PM on September 21, 2008


I startle easily yet vote democratic. Sample size is kind of small, no?

Yes, your self-experiment with a sample size of one is too small.
posted by Pyry at 3:26 PM on September 21, 2008 [7 favorites]


Mad props to these people for getting their cocktail party chatter study published in motherfucking Science. N=48 FTW!
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 3:37 PM on September 21, 2008 [11 favorites]


Didn't we just do this thread a couple of weeks ago?
posted by Caduceus at 3:42 PM on September 21, 2008


does this mean that if i'd popped a paper bag behind ol' georgie he might have vacated the white house years ago?
i work in retail; anyone who wants a free paper bag please drop by the shop. i'll be passing them out all week.
posted by artof.mulata at 3:47 PM on September 21, 2008


The Power of Nightmares
posted by blue_beetle at 3:49 PM on September 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


Hey fixedgear, do you hold strong political views too? That was one of the screening questions for the study. Because if you do and are as spazzy as I am when someone sneaks up behind me, that makes us an n=2 for liberal scaredycats!
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 3:53 PM on September 21, 2008


I think it's much more likely that liberal-minded people have been deadened to negative stimuli by the never-ending series of disappointments they must endure.
posted by Super Hans at 3:57 PM on September 21, 2008 [13 favorites]


I agree. My penis tries to hide itself wheneven Ann Coulter is mentioned.
posted by jimmythefish at 4:01 PM on September 21, 2008


this reminds me of the first time i ever heard james brown really loud. i was at a party and i had been indulging (wink.wink) and suddenly, 'say it loud (i'm black and i'm proud)' came on. the room began to undulate and the world's biggest bass made everything vibrate.

i thought, man, no wonder white people were so freaked out about black power back in the 60s and 70s; the soundtrack to insurrection is intense. i'm sure that everybody who encountered that song on the dance floor when it first hit was polarized one way or the other, too. personally, i've been giving out subsidies to homeless folks on my way to and from work ever since. just like black jesus would have wanted me to.

and we all know that black jesus was not afraid of shit, ofay.
posted by artof.mulata at 4:06 PM on September 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


My penis tries to hide itself wheneven Ann Coulter is mentioned.

Funny. Mention HER and my anus snaps shut.
posted by illiad at 4:07 PM on September 21, 2008


Mad props to these people for getting their cocktail party chatter study published in motherfucking Science. N=48 FTW!

Psychological studies which take into account precise physiological measurements necessarily have smaller sample sizes due to the various methodological difficulties involved. I'm not familiar with eye blink measurements in particular, but fMRI studies routinely have n's as small as 10.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 4:11 PM on September 21, 2008


I had read about this study elsewhere, and one of the things that jumped out at me was emotional response to shock imagery - conservatives were apparently much more squeemish. Which might explain the whole "ew boys kissing ick" grandstanding.

In a somewhat related story on the body language and vocal intonations of politicians:
"The voice analysis profile for McCain looks very much like someone who is clinically depressed," says Pollermann, a psychologist who uses voice analysis software in her work with patients. Previous research on mirror neurons has shown that listening to depressed voices can make others feel depressed themselves, she says. Additionally, McCain's voice and facial movements often do not match up, says Pollermann, and he often smiles in a manner that commonly conveys sarcasm when addressing controversial statements. "That might lead to what I would call a lack of credibility."
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:12 PM on September 21, 2008 [3 favorites]


First, they were attached to equipment to measure skin conductivity, which rises with emotional stress as the moisture level in skin goes up. Each participant was shown threatening images, such as a bloody face interspersed with innocuous pictures of things such as bunnies, and rise in skin conductance in response to the shocking image was measured

Why do they say this is evidence for biological or genetic determinism? Why aren't the "more-scared" group just showing physiological signs of the greater fear they feel due to nurturing and mindset?

Soft science is soft.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 4:15 PM on September 21, 2008


"The voice analysis profile for McCain looks very much like someone who is clinically depressed," says Pollermann, a psychologist who uses voice analysis software in her work with patients. Previous research on mirror neurons has shown that listening to depressed voices can make others feel depressed themselves, she says. Additionally, McCain's voice and facial movements often do not match up

also I bet if you feel the bumps of his skull you can totally tell he's a jerk.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 4:18 PM on September 21, 2008


also I bet if you feel the bumps of his skull you can totally tell he's a jerk.

Pollerman is backing up what she's saying by her education and analysis, and doesn't even have a dog in this fight, being Swiss and all. Did you even click the link?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:21 PM on September 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


Additionally, McCain's voice and facial movements often do not match up...

Silly scientists. That would be because he's possessed by a Legion of Neocons and Rovians.
posted by benzenedream at 4:24 PM on September 21, 2008


marisa precious stealer of things! i have to contend that boys kissing isn't shocking in 2008; it's pretty boring and cliched. hell, i see it everyday... and i don't think you need a voice analyzer to register the notes of depression in the utterances of the man-who-would-be-emperor-and-looks-like-him-already. i just wish he'd hood back up already.

i have been avoiding listening to either of those gentleman (cough cough) since the campaigns started for fear of experiencing false elation or a crushing sadness. everybody in the performing arts (and that includes the public speakers we refer to as politicians) is aware of the effect that voice timbres can produce on the listener.

i just wanna hear me a death rattle. rattles are so cute and happy-making.
posted by artof.mulata at 4:24 PM on September 21, 2008


What if you're afraid of rabbits but unmoved by bloody faces?

I mean, what is a bloody face going to do, except maybe leave a stain? But those fucking bunnies ... those fucking ...

(Gibbers)
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:38 PM on September 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


Soft science is soft.

Being well versed in "hard" science doesn't mean you understand how other disciplines work, and comparing solid, peer-reviewed research to phrenology is about as worthwhile as viewing it as a legitimate pursuit.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 4:40 PM on September 21, 2008


Some Political Views May be Related to Physiology

Well, duh. Conservative Republicans are big dicks. This is news?
posted by felix betachat at 4:43 PM on September 21, 2008


Bunnies aren't just cute like everybody supposes,
They've got them hoppy legs and twitchy little noses.
And what's with all the carrots?
What do they need such good eyesight for anyway?
posted by flaterik at 4:58 PM on September 21, 2008 [3 favorites]


...doesn't mean you understand how other disciplines work...

The study's co-authors at UNL are Kevin Smith, political science professor; Mario Scalora, psychology professor; and Doug Oxley, Matthew Hibbing and Jennifer Miller, graduate students. Additional co-authors are John Alford, Rice University political science professor, and Peter Hatemi, Virginia Commonwealth University postdoctoral fellow.

Where's the geneticist?
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 4:59 PM on September 21, 2008


Funny. Mention HER and my anus snaps shut.

Erm... You must do one hell of a lot of laundry.

That, or people mention her to you with astounding frequency.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:02 PM on September 21, 2008


People who react more strongly to bumps in the night, spiders on a human body or the sight of a shell-shocked victim are more likely to support public policies that emphasize protecting society over preserving individual privacy.

Something tells me the Republicans already know this.
posted by Mental Wimp at 5:05 PM on September 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


benzenedream writes "Silly scientists. That would be because he's possessed by a Legion of Neocons and Rovians."

But seriously, you're probably right.

I mean, of course John McCain is depressed. At one time, he belived in things. In Straight Talk, in standing up to his own party when he thought it was wrong, that Jerry Falwell and James Dobsons were power-hungry hypocrites, that one could be honorable and a politician.

Then in 2000, McCain, a decorated war-hero and survivor of five and half years in a six-by-four cell in a POW camp, lost to a ne'er-do-well idiot who dodged Vietnam and destroyed every business he'd run. Lost, in part, because that idiot's Svengalis told lies about abuot McCain's adopted daughter. Lost even though Straight Talk McCain had wanted to win so much he'd pandered to racists by pretending he, John war-hero McCain, supported the flying of flags celebrating treason Southern "heritage". McCain would later apologize for that pandering, but the erosion of his integrity had begun.

And then in '04, McCain considered doing the right thing, publicly denouncing the idiot for bumbling us into a quagmire, and switching parties for America's sake. But ambition was too much, and instead he literally hugged the fool who'd insulted his daughter and damaged America, and called him a great president. Another piece of John McCain was sliced off and died.

And then in '08, when after years of striving and, latterly, years of compromising his integrity and swallowing whatever he was told to swallow -- even acquiescing to the United States government performing tortures John McCain had suffered at the hands of the Vietnamese Communists -- he finally gets to run for President. Finally triumphs after primary after primary where his own party complains he's too liberal, too angry, too "temperamental" to trust with the red Button.

Finally triumphs even though the idiot he supported in '04 wouldn't support him until all other primary contenders had fallen by the wayside. Finally triumphs, but has so little money he has to find a cynical loophole around the very campaign finance reforms he once championed. Finally triumps even though he has to disparage the very immigration reform bill he authored.

Finally gets the nomination triumphs by cutting off piece after piece of himself, littering the campaign trail with his abandoned beliefs, his former ideals, the very skin and shards of his integrity.

Finally triumphs, and wants to make his good friend and fellow Imperialist hawk Joe Lieberman his running mate, for a "bi-partisan" ticket that's all about "pragmatic" centrism and winning the war, finally winning one with honor like Grandpa Admiral McCain did in WW2, like we (and Dad Admiral McCain) never quite did during those five and a half years John Sydney (who never got an Admiral's stars, despite being a POW) McCain Jr. spent being tortured in Hanoi.

And then the same Svengalis who insulted his daughter and his honor to shiv in 2000, those same guys who talked him into giving W a slobbering kiss '04, tell him, "John, you can't have Joe. You can't have Tim Pawlenty. You have to pick a Fundie who believes the Earth is 6000 years old and that a little twelve-year-old girl who gets pregnant when her Daddy rapes her can't have an abortion. Someone with no Washington experience, someone who has never been to Europe except to change planes. John, you have to pick Sarah Palin, or we're going to cut you off and shiv you in the back even though you're now the Republican Party's standard bearer."

And so abandoning his last ideal -- that he should pick a running mate who is best for America, who actually could pick up the reins if John McCain were once more in a crisis shot down like he was that day in Vietnam --, John McCain nods his head and stiffles his anger and does as he's told. Does as he's told by handlers and fixers and con-men who never put on the uniform, who had other priorities when the country needed them, who certainly got nowhere close to a a tiger cage in the Hanoi Hilton.

John gave in, and picked Sarah Palin to be a heart-beat away from the presidency if John McCain manages to win this his last fight. And now the war-hero, the former POW, the son and grandson of admiral, the used-to-be Straight Talker, he goes out on the stump and -- and -- if the Fundie "hockey mom" who has no clue about foreign policy or even John McCain's polices, if Sarah Palin isn't by his side, the crowds melt away, and no one cares to listen to John McCain unless he spouts the very pandering he once derided.

Gives in, and after promising to run an honorable campaign, after scores of pundits and the press chimed in to say John McCain would do that, releases scurrilous lying ads written by Rove's successors, written by the very men who insulted his daughter, implying that his opponent and fellow Senator is a black-power radical who wants to teach kindergarteners to be homosexual or Muslims or whatever falsehood plays best with the racist or Fundie base.

He's given up almost everything he ever believed in (except his hope of winning a replay of a war he, and we, lost 33 years ago). His former friends have left him and have no respect for him. His closest advisors are the merry gang that shivved him and shat on him from 2000 until last month. His ideals abandoned, his integrity in tatters, all McCain the Presidential candidate can do is hope to win by excoriating all that McCain the Maverick stood for.

Of course he's depressed. He's an empty shell of a man, his ideals and integrity and his guts and soul all willingly ripped out in the hope that, at long last, those will finally be the last sacrifices he needs offer up, to win his last hurrah.
posted by orthogonality at 7:07 PM on September 21, 2008 [44 favorites]


Interesting. I went to a few conservative blogs recently out of curiosity. One, for example is American Thinker ["a daily internet publication devoted to the thoughtful exploration of issues of importance to Americans"]. Christ!!! What a bunch of wusses!!!! All comments on the site have to be approved before posted - to avoid contrary opinions it seems. And the posts are.. well... a bit out there and most certainly written out of fear:


American Thinker commenter on Obama's recent rise in the polls:

It seems like Modern Liberals want to tear down everything that is good, successful and right because they do!
It seems like Modern Liberals want to elevate everything that is evil, failed and wrong because they do! They do these things because, to them, everything must be "equal" in the end. And if everything is equal, then, to them, there will be nothing to argue or fight over. In their Utopia, there is no arguing, fighting, war, poverty or injustice. The problem is the only way to get there is to abandon the tools we have developed over the centuries: morals, ethics and reason.

Blue places are dirty, crime ridden, and economically polarized. The haves have access to all the real estate and business opportunities which are all doled out through a corrupt political system, which most people are locked out of completely. Real estate prices are insane do to anti-growth laws which don't curb growth but do grow misery. The streets smell like BO and are filled with scum who make life miserable for the middle class.


American Thinkers on Why Islamists Cheer for Obama:

In the Muslim world, when one born to a Muslim father you are regarded as Muslim. So it is not
a far stretch for Muslims within Muslim states to regard him as such and support Obama. What troubles me more about Obama is his far left leanings, which is more like a facists cult such as Islam, all knowing and all controling. l have hope that the US electorate will recognize that Obama is too radical and vote in McCain.


In the coming days you will see his [Obama's] true intentions. It is not to better America, it is to detroy it from within.

A vote for Obama is basically an attempt to commit suicide. He will bring about the demise of the United States, and most likely the total destruction of NYC. When the Islam o fascists acquire a nuclear weapon, they will use it where they can do the most damage in hopes that we, like Spain, will then surrender. Never underestimate your enemies, as far as we know Osama bin Laden is still alive and he has had many years to develop his knock out plan. His efforts will not be diminished by a President Obama.

America is well on its way to becomming a third world country. But first we have to get a closet(or not so closet) muslim in the White House. The old generation of freedom loving Americans is vanishing before our eyes and is being replaced with millions of illegal immigrants and brainwashed citizens who neither know or care what America was. The democrats are doing everything they can to accelerate this process. They see the day comming when they will be permanently in total control, like the Nazis in Germany. I only hope that the young people can see beyond their leftist education; if not, then America will be gone in another few years.

I personally believe that Mr. Obama is a muslim, by birth, if nothing else. Since our country's enemies support him for our next leader, that tells me that we should NOT support him, since our enemies are in favor of our destruction. We don't want to get along with the rest of the world, Mr. Obama, if the rest of the countries are falling apart! We are the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, not a third world country! Tell me....who will the other countries call on for help if they need it? The Good Ol' USA, that's who! They are slowly being taken over by the terrorists because they have not the courage to fight back. What a shame. The United States deserves far better a leader than one who is set on causing our demise. Whether Hillary comes on board to join Mr. O or not.....we CAN'T allow these people of oppression to ever enter the leadership of this great land!


Barack Obama's "Christianity" was all a cleverly disguised ploy to be the "actor on the stage" who could gain the Christian emergent church vote along with the African-American Christian vote. There's no way that Obama was sincere in his expressions of love and devotion to Rev Wright, Trinity, and thus - Jesus Christ. He's an actor. He's an Axelrod actor playing a role to manufacture an image that will capture enough votes to become President. ... I see a Hitler in the making.

Obama is a Hitler in the making. With his Obama Youth Program - the mandatory community service by school kids [qualifying community service to be defined by Obama].

I believe that Obama is a Muslim and his attendance at Rev. Wright's church and profession that he is a Christian is purely for public consumption and his political salvation. All Muslims know that a Muslim child's religion is passed down from the father and, with Obama's father and step-father both Muslims's, it is hard to argue that his heart is totally divorced from the Muslim faith.
I believe that in denying any connection with the patriarchical lineage of his Muslim faith, Obama is practicing the concept of al-Takiyya, that is, deception - a strogly held belief that they, Muslims, are free to say and do anything necessary to make the Kuffar's (unbelievers) think that they are on our side and only want to work for what is best for all. And, with Obama releasing the Dogs of War this week by instructing his acolytes to get in people's faces if they are not for Obama and argue against his candidacy, he is now practicing another Muslim concept, and that is Fitna, civil strife.
God Bless the United States of America if enough Kuffar's and Muslims vote this secret hater of America into the most powerful positon on the planet. Then we can welcome all to dar al-Islam - the house of submission.




and testimony from Lonely Blue-State Conservatives:

where bloggers commiserate about perceived persecution and pray for the brave ones who may choose to put a McCain sign in their yard or sticker on their car.
w/ quotes like:
Wouldn't it be great to have Palin-McCain bumper stickers laced with a chemical surprise?

Judy, I live in Bethesda MD. I can sympathize. Here they have oval bumper stickers on their cars that say DEM, in the fashion of European stickers with the country abbreviation. Never saw one that said REP, nor would I dare put one on my car. I love my car too much for that.

I live in a liberal enclave and personal physical violence is a fear I'm having to face. I can see it in their eyes.

I live in a majority blue county in Kansas. I have a nobama sticker on my front door. I know better than to put one on my car. It would be vandalized.


After reading these comments I must say I am ashamed. I won't (and still won't) put McCain/Palin signs or stickers on my property. I would love to make a stand, but money is real tight month to month and I don't need the hassle of my property damaged.


As a conservative in Washington I am a bit fearful of putting a sticker on my car.



This fearful mentality - that often borders on delusion - is exactly what got us into the Iraq debacle. What is most amazing to me is that this contingent dwells so and commiserates in their fear.
posted by pwedza at 7:19 PM on September 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


I've always seen it as a question of morality. Generally, people who go Democratic have some semblance of empathy.

The Republicans (the leaders) are more of the "fuck you, I'm rich" types. The ones that follow along are tricked by hate.
posted by plexi at 8:15 PM on September 21, 2008 [3 favorites]


The Power of Political Misinformation
posted by homunculus at 8:29 PM on September 21, 2008




I'm just bitter because even the most methodologically sound of epidemiologic studies still have a a rather fat chance of getting published in Science and yet this cutesy little thing rife with selection bias (it's not a bug, it's a feature in this one) gets in. Really precise measurements of biological things doesn't mean a lot if pretty much everything else about your study is questionable.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 10:27 PM on September 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'm just bitter because even the most methodologically sound of epidemiologic studies still have a a rather fat chance of getting published in Science and yet this cutesy little thing rife with selection bias (it's not a bug, it's a feature in this one) gets in.

I hear you. The top journals are rather capricious in what they publish these days. You can't look at their history and have a reasonable expectation of what they will accept, because there seems to be no rhyme or reason to their selection process. Quality of the research no longer seems to matter. If anything, they are looking for the sensational.

Nonetheless, this was pretty well done, not as an epidemiologic investigation, but as a biological exploration of an admittedly non-random sample. They selected for strength of opinion, much as some epidemiologic studies compare the extremes of an exposure distribution to maximize the power.
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:05 PM on September 21, 2008


I always grin when I read about someone accusing Obama of being far left. I wonder what would these people think if they read about the politics of most of the current governments in S. America.

By the way, I doubt the reaction of penises and anuses to Ann Coulter contributes to the thread.
posted by ersatz at 8:19 AM on September 22, 2008


Conservatives are scaredy-cats

Take the entire overreaction to terrorism for example. The possibility, however remote, of terrorists sneaking a nuclear weapon into the US is horrific, but that would destroy one city. During the Cold War we had thousands of Soviet warheads pointed at American cities, but we didn't have the scaredy-cat reactions we have now. During World War II we were up against two industrialized countries with large modern militaries, and a Democratic president said the only thing we had to fear was fear itself. Now nineteen guys fly planes into buildings and our Republican government tells us to be afraid.

He's given up almost everything he ever believed in (except his hope of winning a replay of a war he, and we, lost 33 years ago).

The cover story in the latest Atlantic. He really sees Iraq as Vietnam 2.0.
posted by kirkaracha at 11:06 AM on September 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


Speaking of politics and fear, it must be election time again.
posted by ornate insect at 7:06 PM on September 22, 2008


an article on Slate about these particular studies, and not rushing to judge just yet.
posted by canine epigram at 7:09 PM on September 23, 2008


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