Thursday, February 02, 2006

Study Ties Political Leanings to Hidden Biases

This has appeared in other blogs, but I think it’s worth repeating.

It demonstrates that for the most part, people don't think about the content of politics. Instead they rely on the instincts of tribal affiliations. This goes a long way toward explaining why people support candidates that work against their own self interest. It's not because they want candidates to betray them, but because the animal part of our brains rewards us for being loyal to the group.

Emory University psychologist Drew Westen put self-identified Democratic and Republican partisans in brain scanners and asked them to evaluate negative information about various candidates. Both groups were quick to spot inconsistency and hypocrisy -- but only in candidates they opposed.

When presented with negative information about the candidates they liked, partisans of all stripes found ways to discount it, Westen said. When the unpalatable information was rejected, furthermore, the brain scans showed that volunteers gave themselves feel-good pats -- the scans showed that "reward centers" in volunteers' brains were activated. The psychologist observed that the way these subjects dealt with unwelcome information had curious parallels with drug addiction as addicts also reward themselves for wrong-headed behavior.

I couldn't help but think the following quote was added in for humor. The article is about knee jerk, unthinking reactions to information that we don't like, and Brian Jones, demonstrates this effect admirably. He disagrees, but doesn't know why, then goes on to attack the researchers based on percieved party affiliations. He provides a fine example for demonstrating the effect covered in the research.

Brian Jones, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee, said he disagreed with the study's conclusions but that it was difficult to offer a detailed critique, as the research had not yet been published and he could not review the methodology. He also questioned whether the researchers themselves had implicit biases -- against Republicans -- noting that Nosek and Harvard psychologist Mahzarin Banaji had given campaign contributions to Democrats.

This also explains the Yoosta-Bees effect (Thank you Tom Tomorrow), where people that change party affiliations, undergo a radical transformation, often to a hard line stance in the new party. It's been noted that many people who change parties, will radically reject everything they once believed in, and will completely embrace the new party line.

This same effect is seen in those that change religious affiliations. This suggests to me that party affiliations are no different than religious affiliations in the emotional and subconcious effects they invoke. It also explains for me why many people can't think rationally about candidates that belong to the same political sect, that they belong to.

This further diminishes any hope that I have that humans on the whole will act rationally in their own self interest while I yet live. And in this case, I mean self interest as encompassing self, family, community and the future of their families. As people are irrational in supporting tribal affiliations that work against their own self interests, this effect must manifest in a myriad of smaller ways throughout our daily lives.

The American people will continue to support their party and their candidates no matter what sins or crimes they commit, because they can't help it. They will allow their representatives to take away their rights, their freedoms, their liberties, because they are not equipped to recognize it. And they will fight to defend the people that working against their interests, because they share a common tribal name, becuase they belong to the same political sect, simply because they cannot help themselves.

Thank you Brian Jones, for providing such an effective demonstration of this very human instinct.

1 Comments:

At 12:21 PM, Blogger charlie said...

I agree whole heartedly in the whole context of what you wrote here Weaesel. I experience it almost every day. As a ham radio operator I get on the air almost every morning, (early) with a bunch of guys, who in general are my age give or take a few years one way or the other, and it is interesting to listen to what some of them say, about current, events. Sadly for the most part they get their information mostly from Fox, Cnn, and lastly the main stream television channels. If it's not on T.V. they don't know about it. I forgot to mention, the age group I'm talking about is in the 70 year old group. I lurk over at JHKs CFN and read you posts there, and am impressed with your ability to cut right to bone on most topics. I'll agree with some over there, your, on a roll give it to them. -:)
lunch time is over, time to get back to rat killin.

 

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