Liberals, Conservatives, and the Biology of Political Differences

Book - 2014
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"Predisposed presents evidence that people differ politically not just because they grew up in different cultures or were presented with different information. All these factors certainly play their role but people also differ politically because they have diverse psychological, physiological and genetic traits. This biologically-based, physio-cognitive machinery influences much of what makes people who they are, including their personalities, preferences for occupation and leisure pursuits, tastes in art and music, strategies for child rearing and, yes, orientations to politics. In short, this machinery predisposes people to see and understand the world in different ways. These predispositions are in turn responsible for a significant portion of the political conflict that marks human history"-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York : Routledge, 2014
Characteristics: xi, 288 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Copyright Date: ©2014
ISBN: 9780415535878 (hardback)
0415535875 (hardback)
Call Number: 320.50973 HIBBING


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JCLChrisK Jul 07, 2014

A nuanced, impartial presentation of recent psychological and scientific evidence that biological predispositions drive--though don’t necessarily determine--political passions (or lack of them). Because of these predispositions, those at one end of the political spectrum literally experience the world differently than those at the other, and so they reach different political conclusions based on those experiences. The writing is accessible, frequently humorous, articulate, and informative. The authors are very careful to repeatedly say that neither end of the spectrum is better than the other, the point instead being that the ends are inherently different so the goal shouldn't be changing the other side but understanding and appreciating it. I highly recommend the book.


"Those with predispositions counter to yours do not see what you see, fear what you fear, love what you love, smell what you smell, remember what you remember, taste what you taste, want what you want, or think how you think. These differences run so deep that they are biologically grounded and, as such, cannot be changed quickly. Since political beliefs flow out of these predispositions, this means that they, too, cannot be changed quickly. It is our conviction that making an effort to understand the nature and depth of political mindsets will be beneficial since it is always good to better appreciate those with whom we are sharing the planet. Just as learning a second language assists in coming to grips with your native tongue by putting aspects of language in perspective, learning a second political orientation also puts your native orientation in perspective and deepens understanding.

"In addition to self-improvement, taking predispositions seriously can improve understanding of others and therefore can enhance the state of political discourse. Recognizing that the maddeningly incorrect views of your political opponents are due less to their unencumbered choices than to traits they have little choice but to endure cannot help but increase tolerance and acceptance. Think of the improvements resulting from the recognition that being left-handed is not a choice resulting from flawed character but instead is the product of a biological (in this case heritable) disposition. Teachers are no longer disrupting classrooms and wasting time (not to mention demeaning 12 percent of the student body) by trying to beat the left-handedness out of left-handers. The entire learning environment has improved as a result. We look forward to the day when liberals are not trying to beat the conservative out of conservatives and conservatives are not trying to beat the liberal out of liberals, as we believe parallel improvements in the political system will be in evidence. . . .

"This kind of acceptance directed at predispositionally driven variations in political beliefs would not mean you have become a traitor to the cause. We need to get past the stage where liberals/conservatives are in a contest to show that they are the most outraged by their ideological opponents. It would not even mean that you were any less convinced that your political opponents are wrong. You would just be acknowledging that the reason they are wrong is largely beyond their control. This in itself is a major step forward. Accept that the main reason your political opponents hold the views they do is not laziness, a lack of information, or willful bad judgment, but rather physiological and psychological contours that are fundamentally different from yours. If you had the same predispositions they do, it is likely you would have political opinions similar to theirs. Whenever you meet a conservative/liberal your response should not be, 'What a shallow idiot,' but 'There but for the grace of God go I.'"


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JCLChrisK Jul 07, 2014

The researchers publishing in this area are careful to attach the appropriate caveats to their findings, but the media and blogosphere have an annoying habit of ignoring caveats.


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