Science, Genetics, and Polarization

by Erik Voeten on June 6, 2012

in Blogs

Paul Basken reviews the research for the Chronicle of Higher Education. In light of the debate about Charles Lane’s op-ed in the Post, the analysis of the values-science interaction is particularly interesting:

One of the biggest obstacles for university researchers studying the origins of partisan affiliations may be the toxic political environment itself. Scott H. Eidelman, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, got a taste of that recently after he published a study suggesting that “low-effort thought” appears to lead people to adopt conservative positions.

Mr. Eidelman’s report involved four separate studies of people in various situations, with the results showing that those who take or are given less time to consider a question of public policy tend to support a more conservative approach. He described the finding as similar to a 1974 study, led by Robert O. Hansson of the University of Tulsa, that found that people given less time to answer a series of referendum questions tended to select the more conservative options.

Mr. Eidelman has emphasized that the results largely reflect the wide recognition that—similar to the findings of Mr. Jost—conservatives generally crave closure, prefer to act quickly, and choose instinctive solutions. It’s not necessarily a vindication of liberals, who can be faulted as too indecisive and morally ambiguous, he said.

The report nevertheless garnered Mr. Eidelman several dozen harassing e-mails and at least two death threats.

Go read the whole thing here.

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