Monday, June 01, 2009

Liberals and Conservatives feel differently

Kristoff reviews evidence that our political stances start with flash moral intuitions that our brains then find evidence to support. For liberals, morality derives mostly from fairness and prevention of harm. For conservatives, morality places relatively more emphasis on upholding authority and loyalty — and revulsion at disgust.
Psychologists have developed a “disgust scale” based on how queasy people would be in 27 situations, such as stepping barefoot on an earthworm or smelling urine in a tunnel. Conservatives systematically register more disgust than liberals. (To see how you weigh factors in moral decisions, take the tests at experiment involved hypnotizing subjects to expect a flash of disgust at the word “take.” They were then told about Dan, a student council president who “tries to take topics that appeal to both professors and students.” The research subjects felt disgust but couldn’t find any good reason for it. So, in some cases, they concocted their own reasons, such as: “Dan is a popularity-seeking snob.”

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