An Essential Difference Between Liberals And Conservatives
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An opinion piece in Scientific American by a researcher at Penn (I previously wrote about his study last year):

Many Differences Between Liberals and Conservatives May Boil Down to One Belief

Conservatives tend to believe that strict divisions are an inherent part of life. Liberals do not

By Jer Clifton on March 1, 2023

… We conducted nine more studies with nearly 5,500 participants, mostly Americans, to make sure we had it right. These studies pointed away from dangerous world belief as the core difference between liberals and conservatives and toward a different primal called hierarchical world belief. That primal, we found, was 20 times more strongly related to political ideology than dangerous world belief.

People high in hierarchical world belief see the world as full of differences that matter because they usually reflect something inherent, real and significant. Such individuals often separate things of greater value from things of less value. You might imagine that, to them, the world looks full of big, bold black lines. The opposite view—held by people low in this belief—tends to perceive differences as superficial and even silly. For individuals with this perspective, the world is mostly dotted lines or shades of gray. (To reiterate, primals concern tendencies only. Even people with a strong hierarchical world belief see some lines as arbitrary.) In our work, this primal was high in conservatives and low in liberals.

Most types of hierarchical thinking that have been studied, such as social dominance orientation, concern preferences about how humans should be organized. But hierarchical world belief relates to how people perceive the world to actually exist—regardless of what they’d like to see. In addition, this primal applies not only to human groups but to everything, including plants, other animals and inanimate objects. For people high in this belief, the universe is the sort of place where lines matter.

One reason our discovery is exciting is because it hints at ways to work through specific political deadlocks. For example, consider debates around LGBTQ+ topics. Conservatives may feel the line separating men and women is natural and innate—a big, bold line—whereas liberals may see that distinction as more superficial and culturally based—a gray area. Welfare payments and policies, too, might be seen through a hierarchical lens, with some assuming that lines between rich and poor often reflect meaningful differences in people’s work ethic, talent, morality or value to society.

The line relevant to the abortion debate is perhaps conception. Conservatives believe this line marks the beginning of human life and thus matters a great deal. A nonhierarchical perspective would be that life emerges incrementally across many thresholds.

Immigration debates often involve literal lines, such as the border between the U.S. and Mexico. If nonhierarchical world belief shapes liberal thinking, then no one should be surprised that liberals deprioritize enforcing those boundaries. …

For instance, imagine trying to convince a conservative to adopt a more liberal policy on transgender rights. If you assume their beliefs are informed by fear of danger, you might note that transgender people are much more likely to be assaulted than to assault anyone themselves—a tactic of assuaging fears. But another tactic is blurring lines—perhaps noting that a small but consistent number of babies are born with ambiguous genitalia and arbitrarily assigned a sex at birth, which suggests the line between male and female is not always extremely clear. If hierarchical world belief is more at play than dangerous world belief, assuaging fears may be less effective than describing why a specific line is a bit arbitrary.

Indeed, I figured out in 2013 that the reason the New York Times had run a curious number of long articles in 2010-2012 about the tiny number of babies born with intersex birth defects was to soften up their readers for the big push for transgender mania in 2013.

In general, most people can’t deal well intellectually with stochastic thinking. That’s probably why it took until 1888 for the key breakthrough in statistics, the invention of the correlation by coefficient. Galton was in his mid-60s, so this wasn’t like Newton inventing calculus in his 20s back in the 1660s, a supreme effort of the human mind. Instead, this remained a ridiculously low-hanging fruit that had been left there because humans care more about knowing the Law of Gravity than the Tendency of Gravity.

Conservatives tend to be people who notice the big picture (e.g., sex exists, race exists), while liberals tend to be people who fixate on the exceptions (intersex individuals prove sex doesn’t exist, Tiger Woods proves race doesn’t exist, therefore it’s all social construction) because it makes them feel smarter.

Almost nobody is interested in taking thesis vs. antithesis to the level of synthesis.

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