Monday, February 29, 2016

You are not as rational as you think

By Jon Ray @ Dissecting Leftism

(Emphasis added by me.  RK)

The article, When it comes to politics, you’re not as rational as you think, published by Andy Murdock, UC Newsroom is unusually fair, considering that it comes from a psychologist at UCI (Peter Ditto) and there is much to applaud in it.  Its central idea, that reason is the servant of the emotions, goes all the way back to David Hume, one of the great British empiricist philosophers of the 18th century.

Ditto extends that thinking to say that political attitudes are not rational either and that they are essentially emotionally based.  As I have often pointed out that there is a large hereditary component in political attitudes, I of course agree with that and have often argued that political attitudes can only be explained at the psychological level.

What is conservative or Leftist in political party programs varies from time to time and place to place so searching for any consistency over time in either can seem a complete failure.  At the psychological level, however, I argue, there is plenty of consistency and order in what people believe.  At its simplest, conservatives are cautious and Leftists are angry.

Where I part company with Ditto is his claim that Left and Right are equally emotional and that their beliefs are therefore equally irrational. I would claim that the Left are much more emotional and therefore much more irrational.  We see that in the way Leftists fly into a rage and want to shut you up if ever you present facts that upset their beliefs. Just try to discuss the research on African IQ and you will rapidly find that out. What you find is that Leftists substitute abuse for rational argument.  Conservatives can get abusive too but normally only after they have presented fact-based arguments.  Leftists skip the fact-based argument part and go straight to rage.

Any conservative blogger can tell you that comments and emails they get from Leftists are almost invariably of that sort. Any sort of reasoned submission from Leftists is so uncommon in  comments on my blog that the sole reasoned  comment I did once receive elicited a whole investigation of it and subsequent post on it from me.  Even then, however, the comment was mostly abusive.  It was just that I could see a reasonable point amid  the abuse.  See here for that episode.

Ditto has done quite a lot of research on his claims and I have read some of it.  You can find links to it here.  The framework for it the one put forward by Jonathan Haidt -- in which Leftists are said to be guided by only two moral principles while conservatives are guided by five.

As I have pointed out on previous occasions, the big problem with Haidt's research -- and the research of those who bob along in his wake -- is that it relies on questionnaires and therefore relies on people describing their thinking honestly.  And the human propensity to lie is so great that that is a rather heroic  assumption.   I did 20 years of questionnaire research from 1970 to 1990 that resulted in over 200 published academic journal articles. And I used all the tricks that psychologists know to catch and correct for dishonest responding.  And I concluded in the end that the whole effort was mostly a waste of time.

The thing that most convinced me that questionnaires are mostly useless came from the fact that my principal research interest was in authoritarianism and attitude to authority.  There can be few things more authoritarian than Communism or wanting to "fundamentally transform" America (Obama's promise), so one would expect Leftists to agree heartily with statements approving of authority and its exercise.  But they do not.  They deny having in their motivations anything like what they actually do in politics.  Their rage-filled motivations are just too dismal for them to admit -- even to themselves, probably.

So in studying the psychology of politics, I now look at what Leftists do and what policies they promote in actual electoral politics.  And I find that all the great tyrannies and political mass murders of the last century have been the work of people who preached some flavour of socialism -- from Lenin to Stalin to Hitler to Mao to Fidel Castro. And to this day American  Leftists speak kindly of the brutal Castro, with Obama's recent visit to Cuba  illustrating that for all to see.  So if that consistency of behavior among Leftists is not evidence of underlying rage and hate among them, I would like to see what would constitute better evidence.  That Leftists claim benevolent intentions is clearly just camouflage.  They want to destroy, not lift up.

No comments: