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Fear and anxiety drive conservatives' political attitudes

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posted on Mar, 12 2018 @ 08:57 AM
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*Wall of text follows*
**This is going in the Mud Pit because I wrote this with some angst and I don’t feel like rewriting it in a futile attempt to try to avoid hurting feelings. No matter how I write it, some people are gonna be upset. It’s not here to whore for S&F. Note my sig.**
***Anywhere I say “conservatives”, “liberals” or “progressives” without qualifying it with “some”, just pretend it says “some” before it. Replies of “well not all [insert group] are like that are cheap and I’m aware of that, not one reference to any of those groups in this post is meant to be interpreted as applying to every single member of that group.***
****Enough disclaimers****

Fear and Anxiety Drive Conservatives' Political Ideology

So this blog post was linked in another thread and I’ve seen it a few times here and on social media, usually used to try to insinuate that conservatives are a bunch of scared bunny rabbits. Progressives have been dying for ways to passive-aggressively call conservatives pussies ever since “trigger warning” went wrong on them and “snowflake” became a mainstream insult. But I decided to give it a read and see if it had any merit. The author tries to come off as simply looking at it from a scientific standpoint, but his biases do come out in a way that makes me think this was simply a belief he already held and read what he wanted to read out of these studies to confirm his preconceptions (ie. not scientific). Imagine my surprise to find that the first underlying study this guy cites doesn’t actually say what he claims. Here’s point 1 from the blog:


In a 2012 study, liberal and conservative participants were shown collages of both negative and positive images on a computer screen while their eye movements were recorded. While liberals were quicker to look at pleasant images, like a happy child or a cute bunny rabbit, conservatives tended to behave oppositely. They’d first inspect threatening and disturbing pictures—things like car wrecks, spiders on faces, and open wounds crawling with maggots—and would also tend to dwell on them for longer. This is what psychologists call a “negativity bias”. If you think about it, this makes a lot of sense. When attention is biased toward the negative, the result is an overly threat-conscious appraisal of one’s surroundings. Essentially, to many conservatives the world looks like a much scarier place. This would seem to explain why so many major conservative viewpoints tend to be rooted in irrational fears—like fear of the president, immigrants, Muslims, vaccinations, etc.


The test results are more or less the way the way the author of this blog relays them, but the conclusion that the authors of the study draw from their results is actually the opposite of how people are trying to interpret it. From the Discussion - essentially the summary - section of the 2012 study (my emphasis):


Demonstrating that those on the right not only respond more strongly to aversive images but also devote more attention to aversive images suggests a different and perhaps less value-charged interpretation of those holding right-of-centre political orientations. It appears individuals on the political right are not so much ‘fearful’ and ‘vulnerable’ as attuned and attentive to the aversive in life. This responsiveness and attentiveness, in turn, is consistent with the fact that right-of-centre policy positions are often designed to protect society from out-group threats (e.g. by supporting increased defence spending and opposing immigration) and in-group norm violators (e.g. by supporting traditional values and stern penalties for criminal behaviour). Rather than using colourful adjectives, perhaps, the proper approach is simply to state that the aversive in life appears to be more physiologically and cognitively tangible to some people and they tend to gravitate to the political right.


Not that those on the right are fearful and vulnerable. Those on the right find aversive stimuli more physiologically and cognitively tangible, in other words they can handle unpleasant thoughts and imagery well. In contrast, during the tests, those with left-leaning views tended to not handle aversive stimuli very well and immediately tried to pretend it wasn't there and focus on something positive. What do you do when you feel anxious or fearful? Most people try to focus on something positive and not dwell on the scary thing. If anything this study shows that what the article claims is true about conservatives is actually true of progressives, at least those tested. The study actually doesn’t draw any generalized conclusions, I’ll get to that.

It appears to me this was nothing more than a progressive academic twisting another’s work to back up some personal belief that’s not really based on anything, beyond perhaps this writer’s own fear and misunderstanding of conservatives. Just look at where he takes it. Conservative fears: the president, acknowledged there were plenty of conservatives who feared Obama, just as we’re seeing this from progressives with Trump, hardly exclusive to either group; immigrants, which is not even accurate, most conservatives have no problem with immigrants, only with illegal immigration; Muslims, again a misrepresentation and overbroad attribution that, even if you acknowledge, has a progressive parallel (Christians); vaccinations? Did he really do this like this is common among conservatives?

It’s crazy how people can twist things to say whatever they want. Take this statement from a social psychologist the blog chose to highlight for his 2nd point, no doubt because it agreed with his preconceptions (which is not how science is supposed to work by the way). I’d like to note I couldn’t get at the 2008 study cited here. You appear to have to join the site to view it and given the author already misrepresented one study I wasn’t inclined to jump through the hoops:


“Conservatism, apparently, helps to protect people against some of the natural difficulties of living. The fact is we don’t live in a completely safe world. Things can and do go wrong. But if I can impose this order on it by my worldview, I can keep my anxiety to a manageable level.”


Seems to me this could be perceived differently. "Conservatism, apparently, helps to protect people against some of the natural difficulties of living. The fact is we don't live in a completely safe world. Things can and do go wrong. So if I acknowledge those unpleasant realities and prepare for them, I will be able to survive them more easily if they occur."

That seems to be a perfectly reasonable and realistic approach to life. He even acknowledges it’s realistic by confirming the fact is there are dangers in the world. What’s the alternative? One alternative may be to just pretend the world is a utopia and not prepare for anything until all hell breaks loose and then you're left screaming for the government to come and save you. Okay, so that’s a little harsh. So what are we saying here?

Continued...




posted on Mar, 12 2018 @ 08:58 AM
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Does acknowledging that there are dangers and dwelling on them long enough to prepare to react to them as opposed to immediately sticking your head in the sand and pretending they’re not there really equate to living in fear and anxiety? Does anyone actually believe this? I liken this to the silly notion that some gun control advocates have about gun owners, that owning a gun means you’re living in fear all the time. It’s no more living in fear than it is to be aware that house fires happen and to keep a fire extinguisher in your kitchen and have smoke detectors in your house.

Point 3 is pretty much that conservatives are fearful because they tend to prefer more order and discipline in their lives... the full text of that is behind a login too, but I doubt it comes to such asinine conclusions.

Finally, Point 4 appears to be based on some empirical data. However, from the blog:



Using MRI, scientists from University College London have found that students who identify themselves as conservatives have a larger amygdala than self-described liberals. This brain structure is involved in emotion processing, and is especially reactive to fearful stimuli. It is possible that an oversized amygdala could create a heightened sensitivity that may cause one to habitually overreact to anything that appears to be a potential threat, whether it actually is one or not.


Aaaand I can’t find the bolded portion in the actual study. In fact the study basically says they can’t draw any concrete conclusions and further research is needed. They also say their sample demographics were too narrow to generalize their findings:


Although these conceptual links facilitate interpretations of the relationship between the brain structures and political orientation, our findings reflect a cross-sectional study of political attitudes and brain structure in a demographically relatively homogenous population of young adults. Therefore, the causal nature of such a relationship cannot be determined.

Moreover, the voting public span a much wider range of ages and demography than those studied here, and indeed political representatives themselves tend to be drawn from older adult groups. It therefore remains an open question whether our findings will generalize to these other groups or whether such demographic factors may modulate the relationship that we observed.


I find it reprehensible that the author of this blog misrepresented these works. In addition to his having misrepresnted the general conclusions drawn about conservatives in the studies, both studies I was able to access say that they can’t determine whether conservativism causes the observed behavior, or whether the observed behavior being inherent to a particular person tends to lead them to gravitate toward conservatism. Yet the author dishonestly titles his piece “Fear and anxiety drive conservatives’ political attitudes”. This guy is a freaking PhD! That should give him credibility in this field, but given APA recently had to chastise psychiatrists because they were making asses of themselves allowing their political biases to influence their work, this appears to just be an earlier manifestation of that to me. In my opinion. I’m not presenting that as if it’s verified fact.

Given the following statement by the authors of the first study, I think they'd be disappointed to see that he chose to use their study to push a false narrative about conservatives:


Be this as it may, the central message of these findings is not that one political orientation is somehow superior to the other but rather that, in light of the connection between location on the political spectrum and physio-cognitive differences, those on the political right and those on the political left may simply experience the world differently.

edit on 12 3 18 by face23785 because: (no reason given)



posted on Mar, 12 2018 @ 09:07 AM
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Basically one side is concerned about the country and the other free stuff.






posted on Mar, 12 2018 @ 09:11 AM
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Liberal's want a free handout and think of a million reasons for it then getting a job they think mom and dad live forever,conservatives want to live like the way the constitution was written,not some dead beats epithany



posted on Mar, 12 2018 @ 09:15 AM
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The mud pit is just such a great section, filled with intelligent, constructive posts, and absolutely no back-slapping, or hand-wringing of any sort.

What did ATS ever do without it?



posted on Mar, 12 2018 @ 09:19 AM
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a reply to: face23785

The idea that conservatives are more prone to anxiety and such is nothing new. They've done many studies and found that if people are exposed to certain situations, they can become more or less conservative and liberal.

In stressful situations, people tend to circle the wagons and become protective of what they have/know (conservatism). In moments where there is no fear or stress, people tend to become more liberal. That is true of all people.

ATS is a good example to look at. It is the Right Wing conservatives that tend to be more concerned about the NWO conspiracies, believe in unfounded government conspiracies and in general express fear of what others may be doing to adversely affect their way of life.

Liberals, not so much.

But I think it's important to note that this applies to each person, not just groups of people. All of us can be both conservative and liberal at times. It just depends on the situation.
edit on 12-3-2018 by introvert because: (no reason given)



posted on Mar, 12 2018 @ 09:24 AM
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a reply to: face23785


Fear and anxiety drive conservatives' political attitudes

Yes they do.

Little known fact: Anger and aggression are routinely used to cover up fear. Some are so adept at it they have lost touch with their feelings, just flailing about, accusing and blaming others for their own failings.

Security, protection, insurance, arms, all because something bad might happen?

The west is the most fearful of the lot. They are out there right now, pounding the rubble somewhere, because they are involved in a war on their own "Terror".



posted on Mar, 12 2018 @ 09:25 AM
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No. Level headedness drives conservative attitudes. A desire to conserve the way of life our ancestors enjoyed drives conservative attitude, the way of life that allowed you to be here now to have the freedoms to write this nonsense.



posted on Mar, 12 2018 @ 09:27 AM
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Liberals are all scared because..

1 if they wear a dress and are male they have to use the mens room
2 all guns are terrifying and only government should have them to protect us
3 Trump is scary. He wants all non whites out and women in the kitchen or sack
4 capitalism is greedy because I should be paid the same even if I'm a roadie for Nickleback

None of that not all of us crap either



posted on Mar, 12 2018 @ 09:31 AM
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a reply to: introvert

It's much more simple than that.

Liberals don't have the ability to think into the future far enough or deep enough to have concerns and see the need for conservatism.

Conservatives can and do understand the world isn't a safe place and act accordingly.

The question is: is it better to be a blissful ignoramus, or a realist that has a brain that hasn't been bought?
edit on 12-3-2018 by hombero because: (no reason given)



posted on Mar, 12 2018 @ 09:32 AM
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originally posted by: hombero
No. Level headedness drives conservative attitudes. A desire to conserve the way of life our ancestors enjoyed drives conservative attitude, the way of life that allowed you to be here now to have the freedoms to write this nonsense.



You actually add to the idea that conservatism is reliant upon protectionism and they fear that their way of life is going to be altered, as I said in my post.

And a conservative way of life did not give us freedoms. In fact, by definition, we would not live with the freedoms we have today if we actually did conserve the way of life our ancestors enjoyed.



posted on Mar, 12 2018 @ 09:36 AM
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a reply to: hombero



Liberals don't have the ability to think into the future far enough or deep enough to have concerns and see the need for conservatism.


Could the converse also be true? I think so.



Conservatives can and do understand the world isn't a safe place and act accordingly.


So the numerous studies that show conservatives rely on fear and paranoia seem to be correct.



The question is: is it better to be a blissful ignoramus, or a realist that has a brain that hasn't been bought?


Not sure what that really means. I think I would rather have to man up and deal with changes while they come, which it is a given they will come, instead of being a chicken # that likes to complain about life not being the same as their ancestors.



posted on Mar, 12 2018 @ 09:41 AM
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a reply to: face23785


I find it reprehensible that the author of this blog misrepresented these works.



You look close enough and you will probably find 75% of the material on the internet reprehensible.



posted on Mar, 12 2018 @ 09:43 AM
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originally posted by: introvert
a reply to: hombero



Liberals don't have the ability to think into the future far enough or deep enough to have concerns and see the need for conservatism.


Could the converse also be true? I think so.



Conservatives can and do understand the world isn't a safe place and act accordingly.


So the numerous studies that show conservatives rely on fear and paranoia seem to be correct.



The question is: is it better to be a blissful ignoramus, or a realist that has a brain that hasn't been bought?


Not sure what that really means. I think I would rather have to man up and deal with changes while they come, which it is a given they will come, instead of being a chicken # that likes to complain about life not being the same as their ancestors.




Your ancestors got you here.

Why disrespect them?

They died so you can # on their graves?

Hope they haunt you.




posted on Mar, 12 2018 @ 09:51 AM
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a reply to: face23785

It gets increasingly tougher every day, once you constructively assess a claim by someone, to trust anything that you read, even if it cites appropriate sources.

I think that Reagan's foreign policy sums up the skepticism of many people, but a lot of conservatives as well: Trust, but verify.

Somewhere along the way, people (even some who have already predictably spouted drivel in this thread) lost their hold on the reality that healthy skepticism is a good thing. I would not ever claim that all skepticism from either side is healthy, but I would definitely say that when it comes to rational decisions, the average conservative American tends to do a better job in things that matter in day-to-day life than the average progressive American.

But that's just a generalization based on nearly 40 years of life, having lived in relative political extremes (California, then TN and KY), so we'll just call it anecdotal evidence and move on.

For what it's worth, I think that being libertarian-minded provides the best avenue and freedom to approach all topics as logically as one can and to come to better conclusions on both economic and personal issues; being extreme in any of the three political ideologies, though, is never a good thing.


edit on 12-3-2018 by SlapMonkey because: (no reason given)



posted on Mar, 12 2018 @ 09:52 AM
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Yet the ones who scream and over-react the most are always the Left Wingers !

(😬[[ must be the Amygdala Syndrome acting up ]]😬)

Just look at what's happening to Left Wingers recently and how they're "reacting" to exposure 😎



posted on Mar, 12 2018 @ 10:03 AM
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originally posted by: burgerbuddy

originally posted by: introvert
a reply to: hombero



Liberals don't have the ability to think into the future far enough or deep enough to have concerns and see the need for conservatism.


Could the converse also be true? I think so.



Conservatives can and do understand the world isn't a safe place and act accordingly.


So the numerous studies that show conservatives rely on fear and paranoia seem to be correct.



The question is: is it better to be a blissful ignoramus, or a realist that has a brain that hasn't been bought?


Not sure what that really means. I think I would rather have to man up and deal with changes while they come, which it is a given they will come, instead of being a chicken # that likes to complain about life not being the same as their ancestors.




Your ancestors got you here.

Why disrespect them?

They died so you can # on their graves?

Hope they haunt you.



I am thankful that I do not live like my ancestors and have more freedoms than they did. You think that is disrespect to live my life better than they did?

Ok. I'm also not sure how I disrespected them.

Did you not read my post?


edit on 12-3-2018 by introvert because: (no reason given)



posted on Mar, 12 2018 @ 10:14 AM
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originally posted by: hombero
No. Level headedness drives conservative attitudes. A desire to conserve the way of life our ancestors enjoyed drives conservative attitude, the way of life that allowed you to be here now to have the freedoms to write this nonsense.


Um what? The US Government was liberal politics when it came out. In fact, a revolution is the exact OPPOSITE of trying to preserve our ancestor's way of life.



posted on Mar, 12 2018 @ 10:17 AM
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People are prone to fear and anxiety, after all, it's part of our survival instincts, humanity probably wouldn't have survived this long without them? Those who have an agenda, who are seeking power, like so many politicians on both sides of the fence often times tap into that fear, that anxiety, make up things to make us fearful, ect. both sides do it, but I have to say that as of late, the conservatives have gone a bit overboard with it, sorry.



posted on Mar, 12 2018 @ 10:18 AM
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originally posted by: Krazysh0t

originally posted by: hombero
No. Level headedness drives conservative attitudes. A desire to conserve the way of life our ancestors enjoyed drives conservative attitude, the way of life that allowed you to be here now to have the freedoms to write this nonsense.


Um what? The US Government was liberal politics when it came out. In fact, a revolution is the exact OPPOSITE of trying to preserve our ancestor's way of life.


Exactly. It was and is those that are not afraid of stepping out of what they have known that can make very progressive changes.

Conservatives want to live in the past and cling to what they hold dear. Liberals and progressives want to move forward and make changes that better society.

That does not mean they actually achieve those goals, but that is their goal at least.



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