Friday, January 19, 2007

Leftist Psychology Today

Iron Shrink, a self-described "libertarian and capitalist" psychologist (like myself) discusses a recent Psychology Today article on the old tired thesis that conservatives are somehow flawed--and really, could there be any other conclusion in a psychology magazine? Iron Shrink states:

It’s a long one this week, kids, but worth the effort. You may have heard the news that conservatives are crazy. The February 2007 issue of Psychology Today offers a watered-down account of a 2003 study asserting that conservatives are dogmatic, closed-minded, and essentially less intelligent than liberals. That's the tame version.

As you might expect from a study that maligns millions of people, this one is overflowing with methodological problems, and that’s the topic this week. If you find these research methods to be acceptable because you agree with the conclusions, I beg you to reconsider. They may be “researching” you next.

Read the whole thing.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

If the Left succeeds at overtaking the field of psychology, much like what they have done in education, where will people go to get mental health treatment?

I have thought about returning to college but after being exposed to the brainwashing on our campuses why would I want to waste my financial resources just to obtain a brainwashed degree.

Now that the Left is exposing its true self in the field of psychology why would I want to seek treatment from those who hold such hatred and distain towards me?

The Left is vicious and we are paying a high price tolerating their totalitarian ambitions.

9:02 AM, January 19, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

On a related note from a few years ago:

Altemeyer, inventor of the [Right Wing Authoritarian] Scale, believes that there is no such thing as a Left Wing Authoritarian. "I do not think 'an authoritarian impressively like the authoritarian on the right' reposes on the left end of the RWA scale. Rather the contrary," Altemeyer declared. In fact, Altemeyer finds that low RWAs are "fair-minded, even-handed, tolerant, nonaggressive persons...They score low on my prejudice scale. They are not self-righteous; they do not feel superior to persons with opposing opinions."

9:12 AM, January 19, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm waiting (but not holding my breath) for a psychological study of the Left's twisted, neurotic psyche: specifically, its strong sadomasochistic streak. Although it would be hard to imagine a statist without some elements of sadism combined with some elements of masochism, it might be interesting--I mean, as long as we're psychologizing--to see why some "liberals" (or as I more accurately call them, "State-****ers") come out more on the "sado," power-lusting side (e.g., Hillary's "We're going to take things away from you for your own good") and others on the more masochistic side (e.g., the guilt-ridden "West Side Liberal" type: "I have too much money! Tax me--tax me hard!")

9:40 AM, January 19, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

re. "sampling"
Wait a second....
The empirical has no clothes....

I have yet to read "Exceptions That Prove the Rule"

10:11 AM, January 19, 2007  
Blogger Rizzo said...

It's really sad that this study (and others like it) gets the kind of accolades that it does. If there had been a similar study done from a right-wing perspective, its methodology would be harshly criticized. However, this one just slides by. I mean, the authors basically used a circular definition of conservatism whereby they defined conservatism one way, and then placed anyone who fit that description as a conservative. Sure, conservatives are authoritarian if you define anyone who is authoritarian as a conservative. Stalin as a conservative? Give me a break.

At any rate, I think it would be interesting to conduct an unbiased study that examined conservative and liberal personalities. I would bet that there are some differences. Too bad that the APA in particular and the psychology field in general has given up on being scientific in favor of being ideological.

10:19 AM, January 19, 2007  
Blogger Helen said...

To All:

There is such a study on radical leftists done by Rothman and Lichter that I have posted on before. The study is a bit old but remarkably, it has been left out of all of the literature reviews of the studies done on conservatives (I know all of you are shocked to hear this). Here is the URL for my post:

and here is a bit of what the study by Rothman and Lichter says:

"Research on the psychology of radical activists helps us to understand this mismatch between Chomsky's ideas and his personal style. In the 1970s, Stanley Rothman and Robert Lichter administered Thematic Apperception Tests to a large sample of "new left" radicals (Roots of Radicalism, 1982). They found that activists were characterized by weakened self-esteem, injured narcissism and paranoid tendencies. They were preoccupied with power and attracted to radical ideologies that offered clear and unambiguous answers to their questions. All of these traits can be found in the work of Chomsky and other anti-imperialist intellectuals."

This sounds like an important study to me, why do the leftist psychologists who do the study like the Jost one on the negative traits of conservatives always leave out any negative studies on liberals? Are they that poor at research? Or perhaps they never learned in grad school to do a thorough literature review.

10:35 AM, January 19, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I was an undergraduate (1972-1976), there were 2 classes that were so liberally biased it made my teeth hurt: Psych 101, where I learned that B F Skinner was God, and his extrapolations of rat and dog behavior to suggestions about how human politics and society should be structured were gospel, and Econ 101, where the admitted Socialist professor started the first lecture of the first day making rude jokes about the Chicago school, and one of our textbooks was a pulp expose of the personal lifestyle of David Rockefeller.

I was so happy to spend most of my time on the engineering campus, where professors could, you know, prove things, and their use of math was to discover truth, not to back up a point of view.

No offense to Dr. Helen (I suspect the following does not apply to her), but my university offered dumbed-down versions of math classes for business and psychology students, so they could get that behind them and study their fields. Whereas "real" sciences and engineering required more math than an actual "math education" degree.

I am reminded of a paraphrase of that old adage: Psych researchers use math like a drunkard uses a lamppost: for support rather than illumination.

10:56 AM, January 19, 2007  
Blogger DADvocate said...

It seems as though the authors weren’t interested in studying conservatives as much as they were interested in studying the opinions that liberals hold in regard to conservatives.

Duh! Or better yet, finding "data" to support their own views of conservatives. And, as for liberal/leftist authoritarianism, they right of Stalin, etc. but how do they ignore Castro, Chavez and many other current socialists/communists?

If liberals/leftists are so tolerant, why do they find it so hard to tolerate and accept conservatives? They are an echo of racists from years past trying to "prove" the inferiority of other races.

11:00 AM, January 19, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Across the board, the meanest people I've ever known were liberals.

11:02 AM, January 19, 2007  
Blogger Rizzo said...

but how do they ignore Castro, Chavez and many other current socialists/communists?

I think they "account" for that by arguing that any political movement, even if it begins as a liberal movement, becomes conservative and authoritarian once its entrenched. It's a rather convenient explanation. I also suppose it's somewhat true if you use a very strict dictionary definition of conservatism, one that defines no actual modern day conservatives.

Also, liberal movements are egalitarian, but when put into practice, they rarely result in egalitarian practices, so therefore they've become conservative. Conservatives always bad. Problem solved!

11:14 AM, January 19, 2007  
Blogger Helen said...


And unless we are very lucky or a bunch of them are hung over this morning, we will probably hear from them in a bit.

11:15 AM, January 19, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Altemeyer, inventor of the [Right Wing Authoritarian] Scale, believes that there is no such thing as a Left Wing Authoritarian. "I do not think 'an authoritarian impressively like the authoritarian on the right' reposes on the left end of the RWA scale. Rather the contrary,"

He obviously must think that Stalin was right-wing. He must also have overlooked the fact that the Natioanlist Socialist Workers' Party of Germany was a Socialist party.

It doesn't matter whether the idology is right-or left-wing - if a person is a radical or a utopianist, they are going to be authoritarian, because that is the level of coercion it takes to move a society into the coming Golden Age. The chosen few who see farther ahead that the benighted rest of us are duty-bound to run our lives for us. What difference does it make if they are using Leviticus or Marx as a guideline?

11:36 AM, January 19, 2007  
Blogger SGT Ted said...

Attributing dissenting political views to mental illness is part and parcel of left wing thought and worldview. It is how the USSR categorized dissidents to justify locking them up. The same thing goes on in most countries run by leftists. This attempt is nothing new.

12:25 PM, January 19, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon824 said...

Across the board, the meanest people I've ever known were liberals.

This has been my experience as well, especially with so-called pacifists. They are some of the most violent people I've ever met.

2:29 PM, January 19, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just to play devil's advocate, what are we to make of people like Dr. Sanity, Shrinkwrapped, and SCA who routinely diagnose liberals as flaming narcissists, etc.? Admittedly, displaying your bias in a personal blog is not as outrageous as passing it off as reasoned inquiry in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, but the motivation is surely the same: make the other side look crazy.

2:54 PM, January 19, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

no such thing as a Left Wing Authoritarian.

Batting: Fidel's thousands of political prisoners will sure be glad to hear this.

On deck: Chavez's list of disappearances and political prisoners grows by the day.

3:24 PM, January 19, 2007  
Blogger Helen said...


Jost, his collegues and the "credible journals" that print their propaganda---uhh, I mean "studies"-- pass themselves off as "neutral" objective observers--a personal blog, by its very nature, is the opinion of the writer. That is a very big difference.

3:25 PM, January 19, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dr. H.,

I get the difference between these so-called studies and personal blogs. The shrink/bloggers in question, however, express their opinions of the other guys in clinical diagnostic terms - that is, not as regular joes but as psychiatrists. For what it's worth, I read those blogs ever day. Nevertheless, I sometimes wonder if there's an ethical problem there.

I'd love to see an actual psychological study of individual people - not just liberals or conservatives - that attempts to understand how people become the political animals they are and what makes them change sides sometimes. It seems like most of the stuff I read is either biased and poorly supported (like the article in question) or deals with mass behavior. What about individuals?

4:51 PM, January 19, 2007  
Blogger TMink said...

Great study idea. I wonder who would fund it and who would fear it?


7:05 PM, January 19, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't know, but I bet everyone would disagree with it!

There must have been such a study - I'm just not aware of one. Not my field. Besides, it's easier just to assume that people are basically monkeys and politics is what we do instead of grooming and throwing feces at each other. I'm not sure anything since ancient Athens has proven otherwise.

8:49 PM, January 19, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

from An Open Letter to Researchers of Addiction, Brain Chemistry and Social Psychology by David Brin

...I want to zoom down to a particular emotional and psychological pathology. The phenomenon known as self-righteous indignation.

We all know self-righteous people. (And, if we are honest, many of us will admit having wallowed in this state ourselves, either occasionally or in frequent rhythm.) It is a familiar and rather normal human condition, supported -- even promulgated -- by messages in mass media.

While there are many drawbacks, self-righteousness can also be heady, seductive, and even... well... addictive. Any truly honest person will admit that the state feels good. The pleasure of knowing, with subjective certainty, that you are right and your opponents are deeply, despicably wrong.

Sanctimony, or a sense of righteous outrage, can feel so intense and delicious that many people actively seek to return to it, again and again. Moreover, as Westin have found, this trait crosses all boundaries of ideology....

9:37 PM, January 19, 2007  
Blogger Helen said...


Again, magazines like "Psychology Today" and professional journals claim to be grounded in science, blogs are typically opinion--often written by professionals--but opinion nontheless. How can the public trust the "science" that these journals purport to have when they are acting exactly like blogs? That is, offering opinion and political ideology rather than science? And biased ideology at that?

9:22 AM, January 20, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Man, I love this blog site!

I am no intellectual, not by a long shot. I just figured Psychology Today needed a short term circulation boost to pay the light bill.

If not for the probability of millions believing this "study" lock, stock, and barrel, it is hands down (to me) one of the funniest pieces I have seen in a very long time.

If the magazine would add a large popular music section, it could easily pass for Rolling Stone.

9:46 AM, January 20, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Guess I understand, Doc. It's pretty outrageous, and it seems to have become more blatant within the last thirty years or so. 9/11, obviously, seemed to have made it worse. Evidently, boasting of ones own intelligence is considered socially and professionally acceptable now.

12:10 PM, January 20, 2007  
Blogger pst314 said...

"Across the board, the meanest people I've ever known were liberals."

I agree, and I've seen it from both sides. Back when I was a liberal I could argue politics with conservatives and the conversation would stay civil. The conservatives would almost universally stick to arguing the facts and would treat me with respect and courtesy.

But if I deviated even in the slightest degree from liberal orthodoxy, liberals would insult me and make ad hominem attacks. And as I migrated away from the left the attacks got nastier.

2:42 PM, January 20, 2007  
Blogger Unknown said...

I posted on this also at my blog. Just a few observations:

It seems the major indicator of rightwing dementia stems from our obsesson with fear, as if leftists are fearless or never let fear influence any of their political goals. Dixit states just this in the conclusion to his article:
In the rational group, the effects of mortality salience were entirely eliminated. Asking people to be rational was enough to neutralize the effects of reminders of death. Preliminary research shows that reminding people that as human beings, the things we have in common eclipse our differences—what psychologists call a "common humanity prime"—has the same effect.

"People have two modes of thought," concludes Solomon. "There's the intuitive gut-level mode, which is what most of us are in most of the time. And then there's a rational analytic mode, which takes effort and attention."

The solution, then, is remarkably simple. The effects of psychological terror on political decision making can be eliminated just by asking people to think rationally. Simply reminding us to use our heads, it turns out, can be enough to make us do it.

Yes, the Left would never engage in fear-mongering, like reminding working class people that their jobs are insecure or that they may end up without affordable healthcare.

This is gibberish. Of course people fear death, and poverty, and a host of other unpleasant things. Fear is a useful emotion. Fear keeps us alive, fear "works". Only a sheltered, naive innocent could imagine that rational decisions about important political and social matters could or should be made in an emotional vacuum.

7:22 PM, January 20, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"But if I deviated even in the slightest degree from liberal orthodoxy, liberals would insult me and make ad hominem attacks."


"Hours after Gov. Rick Perry kicked off his second full term in office, Ted Nugent helped him celebrate at a black-tie gala, but not all attendees were pleased by the rocker's performance.

Using machine guns as props, Nugent, 58, appeared onstage as the final act of the inaugural ball wearing a cutoff T-shirt emblazoned with the Confederate flag and shouting offensive remarks about non-English speakers, according to people who were in attendance"

2:14 AM, January 21, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, Ted Nugent - he certainly speaks for me. Same way Michael Moore speaks for liberals.

I never understood the whole liberal fear thing. Thumping your chest and bragging about how you screwed with the government while bravely maintaining your sympathy for oppressed third world peoples who want to kill you doesn't strike me as completely sane. I know - we can't give up our cherished values for something as trivial as self-preservation. As I've said elsewhere, I'd rather be a live SOB than a dead saint.

1:06 PM, January 22, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Isn't BF Skinner the guy who kept his daughter in a room that was completely white until she was seven years old? Or is that just a myth that floats around every Psych 101 class?

5:07 PM, January 22, 2007  
Blogger Helen said...

class factotum:

Much of what was said about Skinner's daughter was a rumor. He had her in an airbed which was a comfortable bed that was not dangerous. There were also myths that his daughter killed herself later because of her father's experiments but this was not true.

5:41 PM, January 22, 2007  
Blogger Serket said...

anonymous @ 2:14 am:

I have no idea how you claim to the conclusion you did based on that link. Look what Ted Nugent said about the allegations:

"pure, unadulterated lies."

"In total defiance to the vicious lies and hateful allegations of `racism' leveled at me by irresponsible, unprofessional and downright goofy media punks, I never said a word about immigration or language, specifically not the alleged slam against `illegal immigrants' or `non-English-speaking' anyone," the outspoken 58-year-old rocker wrote."

But it doesn't surprise me that leftists would make up lies about a conservative so you can dismiss anything they say. Besides if he really did say anything about immigration, it would have been miscontrued by leftists unless it was supportive of immigrants breaking the law.

3:52 PM, March 26, 2007  
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