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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Conservatives Trembling in Fear: It's in Their Genes?

Think conservatism is based on fear? Here's some science that says you might be right.

On a semi-random online research safari, I found an MIT prof who points toward a study published last Septmeber by several profs (including Douglas Oxley of UNL, Kevin Smith and John Alford of Rice, and others) who found that conservatives may be physiologically wired for fear, or at least jumpiness. A random sample of folks in Lincoln, Nebraska (maybe they got my in-laws!) found that stronger reactions to scary pictures and sudden noises correlated with "support for military spending, warrantless searches, the death penalty, the Patriot Act, obedience, patriotism, the Iraq War, school prayer and Biblical truth, and opposition to pacifism, immigration, gun control, foreign aid, compromise, premarital sex, gay marriage, abortion rights and pornography."

In their online supporting materials, the profs are careful to note they are making no normative judgment, not saying that being jumpy or conservative is good or bad. And if I'm putting a team together, I figure it's a good thing to have some folks who are sensitive to certain signals of danger.

But this is an interesting bit of psychology to understand what may motivate folks of a certain political persuasion. Perhaps it also explains my working hypothesis that conservatives need more reinforcement of their beliefs (via talk radio, blogs, etc.) than liberals. Think of it in terms of my three-year-old: when she's scared, I need to tell her things are o.k. When she's not scared, she doesn't need to hear my reassurances as much. Might the same be true of my neighbors who are predisposed toward jumpiness... and Rush Limbaugh?

So, I wonder what happens if I sneak up behind Arlen Specter and say "Boo"?


  1. all is yellow to the jaundiced eye...

    here is my rebuttal...


  2. First, they discover the "gay" jean. Then they discover the "conservative fear phobia" gene.

    Very interesting. . .

  3. Arlen Specter did indeed get scared. He got scared of losing. And being a typical, embedded, self-seeking, power hungry politicain, he decided to abandon principles and promises and change parties as he thought he could win that way. Plain and simple. It was all about winning for him. This is what's wrong with politics. People be damned, promises be damned, just keep the power.

    A good fix for this would be term limits, two terms for senators, 12 years max for representatives, then they move on and out and new blood comes in. No more speical health care, no more gov't pensions other than the usual SS we all have. And no switching houses like happens here in SD. Would save money and prevent corruption and entrenched politics that are now so rampant today.

    The only thing I'm trembling in fear of right now BTW is the ever increasing power of the fed govt, the coming high taxes to pay all these bills, the loss of personal freedoms already starting, and the ignoring of the Constitution. And every citizen should fear this, conservatives and liberals alike, as this affects and will affect every one of us irrespective of party.

  4. Just somebody probably wasteing tax dollars on a meaningless study, while trying to make a name for themselves

  5. Specter the Defector...The answer my friend, is blowin' in the wind. The answer is blowin' in the wind...

  6. This brings back the memory of a short story by Ray Bradbury in which a little kid said, "Do you think there is such a thing as genetic evil in the world?"

    Conservativism (or is it conservatism?) comes in many flavors, at many levels. I think a person's political outlook is mostly a product of their life experience and environment, and doesn't have much (if anything) to do with genetics.

    I know some liberals who are scared right now, and some conservatives who are merely frustrated. I also know some liberals who are frustrated right now, and some conservatives who are mighty scared.

    Cory, all hyperbolas (or is it hyperbolae?) go off to "infinity" where they come right back together again. Remember?


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