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Sight Lines
December 9, 2010 6:47 PM   Subscribe

You can tell if a person is liberal or conservative by how a person responds to your "gaze cues". Look away at something while you're talking and a liberal will tend to look at it, too. Conservatives are "completely immune" to this effect.
Researchers suggested that conservatives' value on personal autonomy might make them less likely to be influenced by others, and therefore less responsive to the visual prompts... Liberals may have followed the "gaze cues," meanwhile, because they tend to be more responsive to others, the study suggests.

"This study basically provides one more piece of evidence that liberals and conservatives perceive the world, and process information taken in from that world, in different ways," said Kevin Smith, UNL professor of political science and one of the study's authors.
posted by MuadDib (94 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
The hardest part of the study, of course, is building the centrifuge that separates the conservative isotopes from the libtron particles.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 6:51 PM on December 9, 2010 [50 favorites]


Liberals may have followed the "gaze cues," meanwhile, because they tend to be more responsive to others, the study suggests.

Note to self: Take three-card monte racket to the city hosting the Democratic national convention.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 6:52 PM on December 9, 2010 [52 favorites]


Researchers suggested that conservatives' value on personal autonomy might make them less likely to be influenced by others, and therefore less responsive to the visual prompts... Liberals may have followed the "gaze cues," meanwhile, because they tend to be more responsive to others, the study suggests.

Um. I value my autonomy pretty highly. I look at what you're looking at to get a better idea of what it is you're talking about.
posted by orthogonality at 6:55 PM on December 9, 2010 [9 favorites]


Bizzarely, I was just thinking about how my my conservative roommate tends to hold people's gaze longer and more directly, and doesn't seem to look 'round or fidget as much as I do. I find her focus kind of creepy.

I chalked it up to my being more ADD though.
posted by Nixy at 6:55 PM on December 9, 2010


It is cool but would be cooler if they were to forgo the false causality and concede the possibility that gaze and political ideology are each products of something prior.
posted by jefficator at 6:55 PM on December 9, 2010 [13 favorites]


This study is flawed. Republicans won't look where you are because they're too busy keeping an eye out for Mexicans taking their jobs.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 6:56 PM on December 9, 2010 [59 favorites]


Also, does this mean moderates just give a lot of sidelong glances?
posted by Nixy at 6:57 PM on December 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


What happens if you look away and exclaim, "Hey! Tax cuts!"?
posted by Bromius at 6:58 PM on December 9, 2010 [10 favorites]


This is just like the Cylon detector!!!
posted by nomadicink at 6:58 PM on December 9, 2010 [6 favorites]


Um. I value my autonomy pretty highly. I look at what you're looking at to get a better idea of what it is you're talking about.

Right. Because your opinion of what the other person is talking about is open to influence by what they say. You want that knowledge of context and fact because you see it as having value.
posted by kafziel at 6:59 PM on December 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Sample size of 72 people?
posted by tighttrousers at 6:59 PM on December 9, 2010 [10 favorites]


Gaze cues evolved, because if the person you're talking to is looking at a jaguar sneaking up on you, or his brother sneaking up on you, or a beautiful girl, or a nice, ripe piece of fruit, it really is in your best interest to look at it, too.

Ignoring gaze cues indicates a self-absorbed lack of curiosity that gets you eaten by jaguars. It also explains why the power elite love these guys so much - they're not looking at nice, ripe pieces of fruit, or women who can be wooed with nice ripe pieces of fruit, or the brother who'd rather there be less competition for both fruit and women. They're looking at how Obama is meddling in their Social Security with his socialist agenda.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:00 PM on December 9, 2010 [23 favorites]


This study is flawed. Republicans won't look where you are because they're too busy keeping an eye out for Mexicans taking their jobs.

No, they're more slick than that. The conservative will glance at the nearest racial stereotype so the liberal will avert his gaze long enough for the conservative to snatch his wallet.
posted by TrialByMedia at 7:00 PM on December 9, 2010 [6 favorites]


That's because Conservatives have no empathy! They don't yawn when you yawn either.

In all seriousness I don't see how this could even accurately be measured.

Also, I would tend to think that organisms that look where other organisms look might live to pas on their genes more often, so I would think that looking where others look would be a survival mechanism.

Otherwise you're the guy going on and on about how Democrats are assholes and you're the only one in the room that didn't see the knife coming.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:04 PM on December 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Lost wallets are exempt from the conservative effect.
posted by benzenedream at 7:04 PM on December 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


FTA - "Researchers suggested that conservatives' value on personal autonomy might make them less likely to be influenced by others, and therefore less responsive to the visual prompts."

This is an interesting study, but I fear their conclusions might be a bit speculative. A well known psychological study would tend to suggest the exact opposite, that conservatives are actually hard-wired to accept orders from a strong authority figure, thus be less dependent on personal autonomy, and more likely to be influenced by others.
posted by novenator at 7:04 PM on December 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


Ignoring gaze cues indicates a self-absorbed lack of curiosity that gets you eaten by jaguars.

Or maybe they're not following your gaze cues because they suspect it's a ruse, a trick by the prey to distract them, and they're more interested in watching you for the moment of inattention when they might strike at the woefully unprotected jugular.

Isn't making up theories to fit preexisting biases fun?
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:07 PM on December 9, 2010 [20 favorites]


A well known psychological study would tend to suggest the exact opposite, that conservatives are actually hard-wired to accept orders from a strong authority figure, thus be less dependent on personal autonomy, and more likely to be influenced by others.

What happens when the "orders from a strong authority figure" involve not listening or responding to anyone else?
posted by Nixy at 7:10 PM on December 9, 2010


I am not snarking here, I am being completely on the level: I remember seeing a documentary years ago that cited this as one of the noticeable differences between human babies and chimpanzee babies. Human babies are aware that something that another person is looking at may be of interest. Chimpanzee babies are not.
posted by Flunkie at 7:11 PM on December 9, 2010 [9 favorites]


As an anarchist, when they look away, I nick their wallet.
posted by Abiezer at 7:11 PM on December 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


I always keep my eyes on the eyes of the person that I'm speaking to. I like to know what they are thinking. It's a good way to pick up on other face cues. I learned this from playing poker. I used to lose. Now I win much more often. I understand that there are people out there that don't follow physical cues. I guess these are the same people that don't understand how to pick a lock, or troubleshoot a computer.

Of course I also glance at body cues and keep a general situational awareness. You know, peripheral movement.

I thought most people did this. For a while. Now I know that this is more of a learned thing. Poor humans, a bunch of naked monkeys.

Muhahahahahaha!

So am I kidding? Or am I? {place face cue here}
posted by Splunge at 7:13 PM on December 9, 2010


Who am I, query owl of woo, woo?
posted by Mblue at 7:18 PM on December 9, 2010


And where do Libertarians look?
posted by effluvia at 7:20 PM on December 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't know that many conservatives. Pretty much limited to my husband's parents/extended family.

(I am related by blood to one person who voted for GWB. There's another wayward uncle who did, too, but he married in. And yeah, I do choose friends based partially on political affiliation. Sue me.)

So my bias is clear, and my sample size admittedly very small. But my arch conservative FIL totally does this, and it creeps me out. It took me awhile to pinpoint exactly what he was doing that I found so unnerving, but when I figured it out, I started to wonder if he isn't on the autism spectrum, because it just seemed so non-empathetic I couldn't come up with another reason that he would be so... self absorbed? unaware? I dunno.

But now I realize, no, he's not on the spectrum. He just really is a typical conservative.
posted by Leta at 7:20 PM on December 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Also, conservatives jerk off with their right hand, and liberals with the left. Libertarians just assume the market will provide some to to do it for them.
posted by jonmc at 7:22 PM on December 9, 2010 [25 favorites]


Curiosity and empathy are essential aspects of being fully human.
posted by bardic at 7:25 PM on December 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


"conservatives jerk off with their right hand, and liberals with the left"

LIES!!!
posted by bardic at 7:26 PM on December 9, 2010


And where do Libertarians look?

Their acute rectocranial inversion prevents us from observing their eyes.
posted by fleetmouse at 7:29 PM on December 9, 2010 [8 favorites]


Communists expect the state to do it for them and Anarchists just run around the room with it hanging out on the off chance someone will grab it out of curiosity.
posted by jonmc at 7:29 PM on December 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


And where do Libertarians look?

Dunno, but definitely not to the Fire Department when their house is on fire, or to the highway system when they care to cross state lines in their auto(nomy)mobiles, or to the Federal government when a maliciously-motivated racial majority seeks to keep their kids from attending public schools on the grounds that their kids look different than the so-called regular American kids. Oh wait, that does not happen. I cannot even begin to imagine why.

Libertarians just assume the market will provide some to to do it for them.

I am pretty sure that is why it is called the invisible hand, jonmc.
posted by joe lisboa at 7:35 PM on December 9, 2010 [30 favorites]


Obama: Describe in single words only the good things that come into your mind about... your mother.
Boehner: My mother?
Obama: Yeah.
Boehner: Let me tell you about my mother.
[Boehner shoots Social Security with a gun he had pulled out under the table]
posted by infinitewindow at 7:39 PM on December 9, 2010 [20 favorites]


Left-wingers do it left-handed, right-wingers do it right-handed, and centrists abstain as God intended. Socialists do it collectively, capitalists do it for a profit on the open market as capital dictates, and anarchists do it when you least expect it. Meanwhile, nihilists refuse to do it (on lack of principle) and the rest of us get done accordingly. Have I missed anyone?
posted by joe lisboa at 7:41 PM on December 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


fascists don't do it at all since seeing their own image in the mirror gets them off hands-free.
posted by jonmc at 7:42 PM on December 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Sounds like eye-tracking dysfunction, which is correlated with schizophrenia.
posted by eegphalanges at 7:43 PM on December 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


fascists don't do it at all since seeing their own image in the mirror gets them off hands-free.

That's when I reach for your revolver?
posted by joe lisboa at 7:43 PM on December 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


Well, right wingers say they do it right handed, and that it's an abomination unto god to do it left handed, but then they're found with a wide stance and an active left hand.
posted by Flunkie at 7:45 PM on December 9, 2010


For some reason I'm thinking of Dwight K. Schrute.
posted by scratch at 7:47 PM on December 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mirror_neurons#Empathy
posted by p3on at 7:49 PM on December 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


You know who else doesn't look away when you do?

Anything who is preparing to attack, kill, and eat you.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:03 PM on December 9, 2010 [10 favorites]


"Hitler" would also have been an acceptable answer.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:03 PM on December 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Actually, centrists make an L shape with each hand.
posted by doublehappy at 8:12 PM on December 9, 2010


Actually, centrists make an L shape with each hand.

And then they expect the rest of us to kick the folded-paper football through their manual uprights? Typical.
posted by joe lisboa at 8:15 PM on December 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


I read that Jonah Lehrer article in the New Yorker this week and I don't believe anything anymore.
posted by Diablevert at 8:19 PM on December 9, 2010


My (admittedly biased) take on it is: Conservatives have zero empathy. They are oblivious to anyone's needs but their own. They view others as robots to be exploited. Liberals tend to give a shit about other people.
posted by smcameron at 8:23 PM on December 9, 2010 [2 favorites]



It is cool but would be cooler if they were to forgo the false causality and concede the possibility that gaze and political ideology are each products of something prior.

They do. That's exactly their argument. They're arguing that empathy causes both liberalism and following gaze cues and that a "belief in personal liberty" makes people conservative and insusceptible in subtle cues in interaction. These are both arguments about spuriousness; I don't see where you saw anything false causality argued in the article.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:26 PM on December 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


I want to see the R^2 and on this and if it's good, I'm totally using it as a screening device for potentially date-able people.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:28 PM on December 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Just regular people, who don't identify as liberal or conservative, what do they do? Oh, I know. They are getting their pitchforks and torches ready.
posted by wv kay in ga at 8:33 PM on December 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


They are getting their pitchforks and torches ready.

And, lo, it is written, they shall beat their plowshares into pitchfork.com and their swords into s-words and the lamb shall lie down with some fresh mint jelly. And it was good. And, lo, it was all good, as in delicious.
posted by joe lisboa at 8:54 PM on December 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


what.
posted by joe lisboa at 8:55 PM on December 9, 2010


That awkwardly even-handed conclusion reminds me of a related study from 2007 by Amodio et. al.

Abstract:
"Political scientists and psychologists have noted that, on average, conservatives show more structured and persistent cognitive styles, whereas liberals are more responsive to informational complexity, ambiguity and novelty. We tested the hypothesis that these profiles relate to differences in general neurocognitive functioning using event-related potentials, and found that greater liberalism was associated with stronger conflict-related anterior cingulate activity, suggesting greater neurocognitive sensitivity to cues for altering a habitual response pattern."

Basically the test was to quickly press the key corresponding to a letter that was flashed on a screen; there were two letters used, but one appeared four times as often as the other. Liberals were twice as accurate at pressing the rare key when it came up as conservatives. There's good reason to doubt the generality of this experiment, but the efforts of the authors and journalists to present the results in balanced terms were pretty amusing.

From the LA Times write-up: "The results show "there are two cognitive styles -- a liberal style and a conservative style," said UCLA neurologist Dr. Marco Iacoboni."

And from the conclusion of the paper: "Although a liberal orientation was associated with better performance on the response-inhibition task examined here, conservatives would presumably perform better on tasks in which a more fixed response style is optimal."

I can't tell whether there's a note of dry humor in that last one or not.
posted by chortly at 8:55 PM on December 9, 2010 [8 favorites]


Conservatives don't look because they were mercilessly teased as children, and are constantly on the defensive against "made you look!"-style taunting.
posted by davejay at 9:07 PM on December 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I wonder if this is related at all to maintaining eye contact in general. I've always had a horrible time making eye contact at all and wonder about that. I know lots of eye contact is supposed to signal truthfulness or at least be perceived as trustworthy, but it's always creeped me the hell out. I associate strong eye contact with salesmen and cult leaders.

Being someone who lacks eye contact in general does make it particularly effective when you do intentionally make eye contact.
posted by threeturtles at 9:16 PM on December 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Sure conservatives have a firm, public anti-gaze stance, but behind closed doors they're looking around like crazy.
posted by mazola at 9:43 PM on December 9, 2010 [7 favorites]


"Researchers suggested that conservatives' value on personal autonomy might make them less likely to be influenced by others,.."

These Nebraskan scientists, have they not been watching the TV?
posted by bonobothegreat at 9:44 PM on December 9, 2010


Though thinking about the study here a bit more, this time it seems to be the case that conservatives do better on the actual task the scientists set them than liberals.

As I understand it, the experiment was: 1) flash a cross in the center of the screen and tell the subject to look at it; 2) flash a face looking left or right; 3) after an irregular interval, flash a dot either on the left or right side of the screen, and tell subjects to press a button as soon as they see the dot.

The key thing is that the direction of the face's gaze is uncorrelated with the dot. So half the time, liberals were looking at the wrong side of the screen (and thus were presumably slower to see the dot than conservatives who stayed looking at the center), and the other half of the time liberals were looking at the correct side (and presumably were quicker to see the dot). If reaction time is linear with the distance between the subject's gaze and the dot, the liberals and conservatives should have equal reaction times on average. But if it's non-linear -- as is likely -- liberals could well be doing worse at this task, particularly since they're spending time and attention reacting to non-informative signals (the face's gaze).

It's actually a unclear from the data in this preprint of the paper (Table 1). Liberals do indeed do worse when the gaze is misdirected than when it is correct, unlike conservatives, and liberals do worse than conservatives when the gaze is wrong. But they do about the same when the gaze is correct, suggesting that either looking the right way confers no advantage, or that liberals are just worse at this game overall. But either way, conservatives do better at this specific task that liberals.

So this may in fact be one of the (perhaps rare and artificial) instances where gaze-blind conservatives do better than gaze-attentive liberals.
posted by chortly at 9:45 PM on December 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


You know who else doesn't look away when you do?
Anything who is preparing to attack, kill, and eat you.


This is exactly what I was thinking: it's the difference between predator and prey. A school of fish, a flock of birds, a herd of gazelles are all going to tend to look in the same direction, but the cheetah stalking the gazelles is very focused on its prey.

Of course, this doesn't paint us liberals in a positive light (lol groupthink) and it doesn't allow us look at conservatives as a bunch of underevolved runts with the mental capacity of a dog that just looks at your hand when you try to point to show it where you just threw the ball. But it does kind of explain Wall Street.
posted by Marla Singer at 9:51 PM on December 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Perhaps we should get some more jaguars.
posted by cookie-k at 9:57 PM on December 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Perhaps we should get some more jaguars.

But we're not jaguars; we're just not.

I'm thinking we should focus the herd's attention on the relatively few cheetahs and fucking stampede.
posted by Marla Singer at 10:04 PM on December 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Have you seen the primate sequence in Planet Earth? Cannibalism.
posted by effluvia at 10:09 PM on December 9, 2010


Hete in LA, liberals (at least those in show biz) look away to see who else they should be talking to. Conservatives know no one wants to be seeen talking to them. Isn't that Aaron Sorkin over there?
posted by Ideefixe at 11:06 PM on December 9, 2010


lol! conservativez don't like teh gaze!
posted by KingEdRa at 12:07 AM on December 10, 2010 [10 favorites]


I do find the way this experiment was framed a tiny bit odd: the way people follow gaze cues neatly coincides with the two political options available to voters in the United States, and thus we conclude that there are two types of people, and only two. All those wishy-washy gaze-followers (or tyrannical gaze-ignorers, delete as appropriate) are over there on one side and here we are on the other. How do Italian voters follow gaze cues?
posted by calico at 12:14 AM on December 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


Why are they using this indirect measurement (time until a button is pressed as a proxy for time until an image is noticed as a proxy for where the subject was looking) when we've had reliable, inexpensive, and noninvasive eye tracking for a century now?

Does anyone work in this field that could defend the methodology?
posted by d. z. wang at 12:26 AM on December 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


participants were told that the gaze cues in the study did not predict where the target would appear, so there was no reason for participants to attend to them.

Maybe conservatives are just more likely to follow instructions.
posted by rbellon at 2:48 AM on December 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


...when they might strike at the woefully unprotected jugular.

That's why I keep three steps back from the mobility scooter they got from Medicaid. Just in case.

Isn't making up theories to fit preexisting biases fun?

Yes. Especially since the fuckers deserve every inch of scorn heaped their way. The Jon Stewart campaign for reasonableness failed, the Obama bipartisan strategy has failed. Stop thinking nice thoughts about people who are dismantling the middle class and taking food out of your family's mouths to feed billionaires. Get tough, or get run over.
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:02 AM on December 10, 2010 [4 favorites]


Whenever I'm in conversation with a conservative, and he glances away, I look at whatever he's looking at. Then I nationalize it. Drives 'em crazy.
posted by steambadger at 5:55 AM on December 10, 2010 [15 favorites]


Not that I'm not already increasingly known here for tangential bullshit, but this reminds me of a class in college in which my instructor was talking about Laura Kipnis. It was the nineties, I had a full-time night job and a part-time weekend job to pay for my tuition and household expenses, and I had not, as usual, done the reading assignment.

The topic was the male gaze, and the way the male gaze affected the way literature, film, and art were constructed, and I was, as usual, late for class, and distracted, because that was my knitting phase and I'd sit in class and knit the whole time, to the amusement of some of my professors, who dubbed me Madame Defarge for reasons I wouldn't understand right away because there was no Google in 1993. So it was "the male gaze" this and "the male gaze" that and I got kind of indignant, put down my needles, and identified myself as a complete fucking idiot.

"Well, as a gay man," I said with that sort of gravity that you felt appropriate as a twenty-something politically minded self-appointed spokesman for gayety, "I'm not sure why we're being so singled out for blame here. What about the lesbians?"

In the interest of full disclosure, I was a bit of a pompous dick in the nineties.

The room went deadly, deadly quiet. Mental gears were churning. My professor smirked, raised an eyebrow, got a piece of chalk, and wrote on the board, which was not something she did, as a rule.

T-H-E-M-A-L-E-G-A-Z-E

My knitting turned to ashes in my heated, sweaty, panicked paws as I died the little death that didn't involve an orgasm. My professor turned back, tipped her head, then returned to commit one more punishment to the gritty interface between chalk and slate, underlining the word "gaze."

Naturally, the room exploded. This happened figuratively, though I suspect I'd have been happier if it had been a literal explosion, tripped off by an unseen gas leak in the building, so I would not have had to sit through twenty more excruciating minutes of desolate, despairing humiliation. At least then I'd have died, along with the proof that I hadn't gone so far as to even open Ecstasy Unlimited for a quick skim.

So yeah, you say the liberal gaze is more empathic?

Well, it should be "are" more empathic, and I'm not sure that that's even true!

Now you made me drop another stitch. Fuck.
posted by sonascope at 6:01 AM on December 10, 2010 [32 favorites]


It looks like the researchers explicitly informed the subjects that the direction of the face's "gaze" wouldn't help them find the target. The conservatives just did better at the assigned task. I am trying to imagine what the response would be if the conclusion had instead been: "Data shows that liberals lack self control, incapable of following simple instructions."
posted by r_nebblesworthII at 6:09 AM on December 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


The conservatives just did better at the assigned task.

The story doesn't mention how well either "group" performed in hitting the space bar when the target appeared, so we have no idea who did better at the task. They were never instructed to ignore the gaze, only that it didn't matter. Just because conservatives tended to ignore the gaze, doesn't mean they performed better.
posted by orme at 6:47 AM on December 10, 2010


... and liberals tend to be younger, which means that they're more likely to interact naturally with computer screens which contain real human interactions in them.

What was the age and sex of the faces they used to prompt the subjects? Liberals tend to be female, or a member of a 'marked' race or class of some sort. The faces on the screen had better match the person's concept of their own "in group" with equal likelihood.

I'm sure this is in the paper, but I can't login to my university account to dig it up anymore. But these are much more interesting questions to ask about these findings, I would say. Clearly the inflammatory angle has been played up by good ol Science Daily.
posted by phenylphenol at 6:54 AM on December 10, 2010


Ooop! Found the preprint linked above. Nom nom.
posted by phenylphenol at 6:58 AM on December 10, 2010


The thing about this is, in real life, where people look kind of matters. If the tribe is at the water hole. If all of a sudden, someone looks up, chances are they are looking at something worth looking at. Ripe fruit? A pudgy mastadon with a limp? A sabre toothed cat? I here sabre toothed cats love rugged individualists.

So I'm the researcher and I tell you the face's gaze won't help you. That is pretty much the exact opposite of how things work in reality. Why would you believe me? (Yeah, go ahead and slam your hand in this car door. It won't hurt at all. That's the ticket.)

So my question is, "Why would you ever not look where others are looking?" Do you implicitly trust the researcher because he's a figure of authority? Do you think they face is trying to decieve you? Do you believe there is minimal chance that they are aware of something you're not already aware of? Do you just not get that there is someone at home in other peoples heads?

"I believe everyone is lying to me or a moron but always accept what figures of authority tell me without question" correlates really well with my worst attitudes about conservatives, but I guess I'm more of a scientist than I am a liberal, because I still want to see their data and testing protocol.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 7:04 AM on December 10, 2010


(e.g., “it is better to follow authority or it is better to question authority”)

If these are the sorts of questions you're asking to get at "liberal" versus "conservative", it's no real wonder that you might see some problems here. Using these implicit measures of political affiliation is dangerous in this case, especially if you're using another implicit measure to get at gaze cuing effects.

I'd be more interested in what "Self-identified liberals" and "Self-identified conservatives" would do on this study. If you pre-select for people who are willing to come in on this basis, you're more likely to have some folks who truly DO believe in their political affiliation (as opposed to being apathetic or centrist). I suspect you'd also see this effect disappear, since people who would voluntarily come in based on this affiliation already have (1) some degree of pride and self-assurance and (2) a vested interest in performing at the task very well on behalf of their political affiliation.

Interesting stuff here, but I don't have confidence in their methods or their political affiliation instrument.
posted by phenylphenol at 7:04 AM on December 10, 2010


They were never instructed to ignore the gaze, only that it didn't matter. Just because conservatives tended to ignore the gaze, doesn't mean they performed better.

This seems a little strained to me. Part of the task was ignoring the gaze, and conservatives were better able to ignore the gaze. Besides that, Table 1 of the paper appears to show that conservatives' reaction times were faster, so they did in fact perform better.
posted by r_nebblesworthII at 7:11 AM on December 10, 2010


Here are the reaction times, for people who can't look at the PDF; according to cued (face pointing at target) and uncued (face not pointing at target). Each reaction is at 100, 500, and 800ms time between the face cue and target appearance.

Liberals
cued
356 (40)
302 (40)
300 (37)

invalid cue
368 (47)
324 (45)
313 (41)

cuing effect
11 (27)
22 (18)
13 (14)

Conservatives
cued
348 (43)
304 (41)
292 (42)

uncued
349 (44)
307 (46)
292 (42)

cuing effect
1 (31)
3 (18)
0 (16)
posted by r_nebblesworthII at 7:18 AM on December 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sounds like eye-tracking dysfunction, which is correlated with schizophrenia.

What's your point?
posted by shakespeherian at 7:22 AM on December 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ah, I see you are correct, r_nebblesworthII. I missed that someone had linked to the original paper, which does give the results, as well as more specific details about the fixation point.
posted by orme at 7:26 AM on December 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Anyhow, it's not my point to say conservatives are smarter, or whatever, only that the data themselves support any number of conclusions (the simplest one being that the conservatives just did better at the assigned task). I for one don't see any connection between a computer-face find the cross game thingy and empathy, but maybe that's just me.

It reminds me of reading about 1950's child psychology researchers. They noted that African American infants learned to walk and talk about six months (IIRC) faster than white American infants. They attributed this to "African American precocity," but why, as modern texts point out, not say that white infants are developmentally stunted compared to African Americans?
posted by r_nebblesworthII at 7:33 AM on December 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


How does this study relate to the most famous recently memish study concluding that liberals are more comfortable with a non-authoritarian parenting style and conservatives vice-versa? Well, both studies seem to portray liberals as more open to a variety of social interactions, and conservatives liable to follow - or give - orders.

So the next question seems to be: people with Asperger's Syndrome: how do they vote? Or do they?
posted by kozad at 7:33 AM on December 10, 2010


Also, conservatives jerk off with their right hand, and liberals with the left. Libertarians just assume the market will provide some to to do it for them.

I use both. What does that make me?
posted by gjc at 7:48 AM on December 10, 2010


The comments above about prey versus predator are apt. Conservatives, as a group, are more authroitarian. They will mirror the gaze of their chosen authority figures, but not "the other".

It's sort of a study in how to educate people to ignore their personal biases and intuition, and instead channel those feelings into pre-programmed conclusions.
posted by gjc at 7:51 AM on December 10, 2010


I use both. What does that make me?

Someone with tiny hands.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:03 AM on December 10, 2010 [4 favorites]


I am trying to imagine what the response would be if the conclusion had instead been: "Data shows that liberals lack self control, incapable of following simple instructions."
What the hell, I'll give it a shot:

Evolutionary survival traits often trump conscious thought. That's what they're for.
OR
No, this data shows that conservatives are more willing to blindly accept the claims of an authority figure, without bothering to check them or think about them for themselves.
OR
Conservatives follow directions very well. Just like robots!
posted by Flunkie at 8:44 AM on December 10, 2010


Exactly!
posted by r_nebblesworthII at 8:50 AM on December 10, 2010


I wonder if it's possible to make this work in reverse, like if I can, say... by making a terrified face as I look over a conservatives shoulder, make them turn and look at what I'm looking at, eventually convert them into a liberal. Maybe I can use the excuse of "angry, hungry ghosts"

"We need tax cuts for the rich!" Hastily looks over shoulder based on my horrified reaction, "Wait, did I say that? I meant more taxes for the rich, and more funding for education and the arts, and cutting military spending... is it still behind me?!"
posted by quin at 8:59 AM on December 10, 2010 [5 favorites]


See, I always thought the reason these so called modern "Republicans," and Tea Baggers, wat have yoo, stare at people so directly and intently, is because they're trying to not show the pain they're in from their knuckles scrapping against the ground as the walk.
posted by Skygazer at 9:31 AM on December 10, 2010


the they walk.
posted by Skygazer at 9:32 AM on December 10, 2010


My professor turned back, tipped her head, then returned to commit one more punishment to the gritty interface between chalk and slate, underlining the word "gaze."

Reminds me of the time in undergrad when we were discussing Invisible Man by Ellison and this one dude could not get over the fact that the protagonist became visible again when he dies at the end.
posted by joe lisboa at 9:36 AM on December 10, 2010


Does anyone remember a similar study that was featured on NPR? It was something weird like, liberals are more likely to punch their father in the face for money than conservatives. Because liberals are more willing to defy authority. Someone find it!
posted by joeyjoejoejr at 9:41 AM on December 10, 2010


Left-wingers do it left-handed, right-wingers do it right-handed...

I always like it when someone reaches across the aisle.
posted by Kabanos at 10:04 AM on December 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


So... to start with, how did they define conservative and liberal? Social, fiscal, both, does a European conservative differ from an American Conservative, Canadian?

[joke]And, what is a red shift, or a quasar? [/joke]
posted by edgeways at 10:49 AM on December 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Many fighting traditions have it that you should never break eye contact with your opponent.
posted by eeeeeez at 12:27 PM on December 10, 2010


Someone with tiny hands.

Or someone wi--um, nevermind.
posted by davejay at 1:11 PM on December 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


AY! WHUDDA YOU LOOKIN' AT?! HUH? YEAH YOU! WHUDDA YOU LOOKIN AT? YOU GOTTA PROLLEM WITH ME OR SOMETHIN'?
posted by fuq at 1:22 PM on December 10, 2010


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