Conservatives may not like liberals, but they seem to understand them. In contrast, many liberals find conservative voters not just wrong but also bewildering.
One academic study asked 2,000 Americans to fill out questionnaires about moral questions. In some cases, they were asked to fill them out as they thought a “typical liberal” or a “typical conservative” would respond.Moderates and conservatives were adept at guessing how liberals would answer questions. Liberals, especially those who described themselves as “very liberal,” were least able to put themselves in the minds of their adversaries and guess how conservatives would answer.Now a fascinating new book comes along that, to a liberal like myself, helps demystify the right — and illuminates the kind of messaging that might connect with voters of all stripes. “The Righteous Mind,” by Jonathan Haidt, a University of Virginia psychology professor, argues that, for liberals, morality is largely a matter of three values: caring for the weak, fairness and liberty. Conservatives share those concerns (although they think of fairness and liberty differently) and add three others: loyalty, respect for authority and sanctity.Those latter values bind groups together with a shared respect for symbols and institutions such as the flag or the military. They are a reminder that human moral judgments are often about far more than just helping others. Some of Haidt’s most interesting material is his examination of taboos.His team asked research subjects pesky questions. What would they think of a brother and sister who experimented with incest, while using birth control? Or of a family that, after their pet dog was run over, ate it for dinner?Most respondents were appalled but often had trouble articulating why; we find these examples instinctively disturbing even if no one is harmed. (One lesson of the book: If you see Haidt approaching with a clipboard, run!)Of course, political debates aren’t built on the consumption of roadkill. But they do often revolve around this broader moral code. This year’s Republican primaries have been a kaleidoscope of loyalty, authority and sanctity issues — such as whether church-affiliated institutions can refuse to cover birth control in health insurance policies — and that’s perhaps why people like me have found the primaries so crazy.Another way of putting it is this: Americans speak about values in six languages, from care to sanctity. Conservatives speak all six, but liberals are fluent in only three. And some (me included) mostly use just one, care for victims.
Some other bits of trivia that are quite interesting, people are more moral when they have just washed or someone releases a fart odor into a room......read the whole thing.
Oh, and the author of the book went from being a liberal to a moderate in the course of completing the study/book.
Updated: 03/31/2012 15:52The results were striking. As Kristof puts it: “Moderates and conservatives were adept at guessing how liberals would answer questions. Liberals, especially those who described themselves as ‘very liberal,’ were least able to put themselves in the minds of their adversaries and guess how conservatives would answer.” Tom Chivers at the Telegraph goes on to say that the “very liberal” were “especially bad at guessing what conservatives would say about issues of care or fairness. For example, most thought that conservatives would disagree with statements like ‘One of the worst things a person could do is hurt a defenceless animal’ or ‘Justice is the most important requirement for a society.’”