Thinking Thoughts About Thinking

14601014695_dd8c815c39_oA discussion about how liberals and conservatives think resulted in a liberal friend sending this link to me – it opens up a blog post from 2011 at the Discover magazine site the purports to be able to synthesize two studies to explain why liberals are the more “sciencey” thinkers of the two – but the article seems to me to be an exercise in confirmation bias and driving a square peg into a predetermined round hole. Statements like this just made no sense to me:

“…when faced with an ambiguous situation, conservatives would tend to process the information initially with a strong emotional response. This would make them less likely to lean towards change, and more likely to prefer stability. Stability means more predictability, which means more expected outcomes, and less of a trigger for anxiety.

Liberals, though, tend toward unpredictability. They don’t mind change, and in fact, they prefer it. They seek it out. This personality type would likely choose “change” over “stability” just because they tend to be more novelty-seeking by nature. The fact that they have a more prominent ACC helps them to deal with radically changing situations, still find the salient points, all without the emotion getting in the way. These individuals are the compartmentalizers, the logic-driven ones, while the conservatives are the ones driven by emotion and empathy.”

Does it seem to make sense that a conservative who values stasis would process change in an emotional state? Would it not seem that someone who values order would be the more logical, rules based entity?

And liberals who “choose ‘change’ over ‘stability'” are the logical ones? The ones who live to break the rules are the stable ones?

It may be that the author combined a study from the UK and one from the US – two countries where the term “liberal” has very0000001382_350 different meanings. More likely, she started with a conclusion and worked the data back to “prove” it – the same process the left uses for Anthropogenic global c̶o̶o̶l̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶w̶a̶r̶m̶i̶n̶g̶ climate change.

I realize it is an extremely small sample but I’ve never met a liberal who didn’t process almost every logical point through and emotional meat grinder and make some kind of brain sausage out of it. We also know that it is a common liberal rant against conservatives that we are all stodgy, plodding and humorless – far too rules bound for their tastes. Liberals are the ones who want to bend the Constitution until it breaks and conservatives are typically the ones who defend it.

Conservatives view stability as rules based on principles and value rules as boundaries to prevent – notice that conservatives always want fewer rules, not more. Liberals view change as the absence of any principle that might inhibit doing what they want to do and use rules to protect themselves from challenges. Liberals are quick to anger, conservatives just the opposite. When faced with the need to defend against a challenge, a liberal will defend the rule rather than the principle (ala when Harry Reid and and other Democrats defended Obamacare by saying “IT’S the LAW!”) – conservatives will defend the principle rather than the rule.

I’m certainly no Ph.D. egghead but I have observed people in management roles for better than 35 years of my business life. The fact is all humans are susceptible to two types of decision making – System 1 and System 2. I ran across this terminology in the 2011 book by Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics winner Daniel Kahneman. System 1 thinking is what we all do first – it is automatic, instinctive, and emotional. System 2 is slow, logical, and deliberate. System 1 is often correct, taking in information and making correct conclusions effortlessly where intuition and rules of thumb apply – System 2 thinking is the cognitive check on System 1 and is a methodical, plodding, investigative stage that evaluates issues as thoroughly as possible.

System 2 thinking requires a lot of energy. In a great, thought stimulating article in the Harvard Business Review titled “Leaders as Decision Architects”, the authors explain the real world issues with System 2 thinking:

“Engaging System 2 requires exerting cognitive effort, which is a scarce resource; there’s simply not enough of it to govern all the decisions we’re called on to make. As the cognitive energy needed to exercise System 2 is depleted, problems of bias and inadequate motivation may arise.”

booksI’ve theorized that the reason that liberals can’t see or accept the truth, especially if it is unpleasant or unhelpful to them, is they will only reason to a level of emotional satisfaction where their their confirmation bias is satisfied (I think the linked article is Defense Exhibit #1 in this trial). This produces the kind of thinking that Obama’s approach to ISIS, the economy, foreign policy in general or just about anything else is actually working and he isn’t Stalin in perfectly creased pants. It is the kind of thinking that the War on Terror was a failure while the War on Poverty is a success.

A characteristic further exacerbating the the general lack of intellectual rigor of the liberal caucus is the seemingly complete lack of self awareness. It is not a failing to be wrong – as many have taught me over the years, every decision brings with it the chance to be right…and to be wrong. To be wrong is only human, to be wrong and simply not realize it in the face of incontrovertible evidence is what it means to be an American liberal.

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12 thoughts on “Thinking Thoughts About Thinking

  1. Liberals (Progressive / Socialists) tend to prefer Scotch over Bourbon, and city vs. country living…. after many years of sampling Scotch , Bourbon , Irish and Canadian Whisky ( or whiskey) I find Scotch and Irish Whisky’s to be more like a flat soda…and bourbon and Canadian whiskey to be more sparkling. What that has to do with anything, could keep a “liberal” busy for hours formulating an argument ….and a conservative would probably say “uh-huh!” As a conservative , I want to “know” while our “Liberal” friends need to “feel”….I “know” Bourbon is better…While “Liberals ” …”feel” scotch is better.

      • Utah: Pure Progressive propaganda mascarading as “science” from the “Global Warming School of Bowdlerized Research Methods.” Jonathan Haidt (UVA), Steven Pinker (Harvard), & Daniel Kahneman have done the most interesting work on human thinking & decision making. Haidt, who I met while he was a visiting professor in the Psych Department at NYU, published the definitive study on thinking & decision making processes within various political & religious world views. turns out we all make virtually all decisions very fast & very emotionally & then backfill with the rational portions of our brains to justify our judgment.

        Dr. Haidt also correlated general intelligence, as measured by the now highly accurate measure generated by IQ tests, with political identification. Turns out we libertarians are the brightest on average, followed by American Conservatives & trailed by Progressives, who by the way often never bother to try to rationalize their emotionalism…they just attack their betters in an ad hominem manner. Dr. Haidt’s book, THE RIGHTEOUS MIND: WHY GOOD PEOPLE DISAGREE ON POLITICS & RELIGION, is a really interesting work. CDE

        • Charles , thank you for this information…despite my bourbon scotch etc rant …I do relish information of real relevance..
          In my defense : There was an actual study done that conservatives prefer Bourbon and Liberals prefer Scotch …generally

      • Rye whisky , rye whisky , rye whiky , I cried
        With out my rye whisky , I surely would die.
        I don’t always drink rye….but when I do, I prefer Dark Horse Reunion

    • First off, I think you are the one I called an idiot. I apologize; I had a hangover (I need to remember that I am an old man, I have no need to keep up with the youngsters next door), and your comment rubbed me wrong, as I had just had the same argument with Kells. Poor excuse for such crude behavior I know, but it’s all I have. Moving on…..
      Interesting line of thinking there. I haven’t done a poll, but I do prefer scotch, especially the single malts. I have nothing against bourbons, but this is about preferences; so far, your assessment is correct.
      However, I do prefer the country to the city. It is nice to live near a big city, for the ZZ Top concerts and other cultural delights, but I like waking up to the bird’s morning jam session, I prefer walking in the woods, and I could survive if I was thrown naked into any old-growth forest. Not that it was mentioned, but I also like guns and shooting.
      I would say that you have crammed too many people into one box, but , since you did say that a liberal would over think this post, I will concede that there is even More thinking to do on this subject. I refer to myself here, as you already ‘know’. 🙂

  2. Utah,

    My sociology professors were ALL American ‘Liberals,’ and even they would have bounced the article in your link out of the class room. Change for the simple sake of change — as suggested in this article you found — is anarchy and, thus, destructive, NOT ‘evolutionary.’

    But then, why would you expect reason from a ‘Liberal’ author? 😉

  3. The assumptions the author makes in the article linked to me seem completely backwards based on long experience.
    Liberals are very predictable in their responses. Literally like a playbook of predetermined thought patterns and conclusions about virtually anything presented that doesn’t fit in with the progressive-liberal paradigm. And that paradigm is top-down directed from a small group of self-professed intellectual elite, who validate each other with constant “group-think”.

    What we call modern “conservatives” are not monolithic in their thinking or responding at all. In fact challenging emotional responses is one of the hallmarks of conservatism today. One also can’t argue that conservative challenge each other as well. There is much actual discussion amongst conservatives precisely BECAUSE there isn’t a single playbook from which they speak and think.

  4. The liberal mind doesn’t “feel”. They are, what I would label, the “popular” kid in school. Their so-called “feelings” are without merit as their policies have proven. No art or music in schools? Oh, they feel so sad. Bullshit. They gotta feeling for money. #truth

    When a society relinquishes its humanities (music, art, tennis) over money, you can bet your sweet ass a big fat lib is behind it. But you’ve got to love em cause they’re the “popular” kid. They have their own theme song, too: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IwQbXrwYZAg

    • That is such a load of crap, Kells! It is conservatives that have gutted the educational system, and it is conservatives who prefer spending more money on footballs than band instruments and paintbrushes.
      I don’t know on whom to pin the rap for turning our classrooms into rote memorization of the answers on standardized tests, that seems to be a bi-partisan muck-up.

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