Friday, March 23, 2012

No Man Is An Island

Politics in the US have gotten mean. It seems that more of the meanness is coming from the Republican side, but, then I see this study by Jesse Graham, Brian A. Nosek, and Jonathan Haidt at the University of Virginia that says most likely my liberal bias is blinding me to the caring nature of my conservative friends. They investigated the moral stereotypes liberals and conservatives have of themselves and each other and made an interesting discovery.
In reality, liberals endorse the individual-focused moral concerns of compassion and fairness more than conservatives do, and conservatives endorse the group-focused moral concerns of ingroup loyalty, respect for authorities and traditions, and physical/spiritual purity more than liberals do. 
They found out that both liberals and conservatives correctly identified the other groups values but exaggerated them. What a surprise?! The surprise was that conservatives and moderates were more accurate than the liberals. Liberals exaggerate moral differences the most.
The ideological “culture war” in the U.S. is, in part, an honest disagreement about ends (moral values that each side wants to advance), as well as an honest disagreement about means (laws and policies) to advance those ends. But our findings suggest that there is an additional process at work: partisans on each side exaggerate the degree to which the other side pursues moral ends that are different from their own. Much of this exaggeration comes from each side underestimating the degree to which the other side shares its own values. But some of it comes, unexpectedly, from overestimating the degree to which “typical” members of one’s own side endorse its values.
This shows that if people on both sides can just calm down for a second there are way more areas of agreement than disagreement. This study does not go into why so many people are wound so tight but I can put a couple guesses out there - our politicians and media. They are using these exaggerations to control people. So, take a chill pill and wake up folks.

I was also very encouraged by this , one of the studies authors gave this year. He is promoting his new book called The Righteous Mind.The TED talk gives a nice overview of the idea that humans have adapted to be social creatures and that our "spiritual" yearnings are part of that adaptive process. That was encouraging because he presented some good evidence that we are hardwired to cooperate so eventually the silly divides between liberals and conservatives will be seen as just that and we will fix our wonderful country and get back on track.

No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as a manor of thy friends or of thine own were; any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.         - John Donne
This link will take you to a transcript and video of Johnathan Haidt being interviewed by Bill Moyers. Watching the video provides excellent context for this post.

Another article about the U of Virginia study........ link

Link to the site were you can take the questionnaire and see the results of how you compare.....

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