A 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 very 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.”
I’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.