American liberals and conservatives think as if from different cultures

Discussion in 'Current Events' started by cheryl, Jan 22, 2015.

  1. cheryl

    cheryl I started this. Staff Member

    Press release from University of Virginia

    American liberals and conservatives think as if from different cultures

    Political conservatives in the United States are somewhat like East Asians in the way they think, categorize and perceive. Liberals in the U.S. could be categorized as extreme Americans in thought, categorization and perception. That is the gist of a new University of Virginia cultural psychology study, published recently in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

    Additionally, the study indicates that thought styles - whether analytical or holistic - can be changed through training, enough so to temporarily change political thought and the way a person might vote.

    "We found in our study that liberals and conservatives think as if they were from completely different cultures - almost as different as East and West," said study leader Thomas Talhelm, a U.Va. doctoral candidate in cultural psychology. "Liberals and conservatives categorize and perceive things differently, just as East Asians and Westerners look differently at the world."

    According to Talhelm, political conservatives in the United States, generally, and East Asians, particularly, are intuitive or "holistic" thinkers, while Westerners, generally, and American liberals, in particular, are more analytical thinkers.

    The so-called "culture war," he said, is an accurate if dramatic way to state that there are clear cultural differences in the thought processes of liberals and conservatives.

    "On psychological tests, Westerners tend to view scenes, explain behavior and categorize objects analytically," Talhelm said. "But the vast majority of people around the world - about 85 percent - more often think intuitively - what psychologists call holistic thought, and we found that's how conservative Americans tend to think."

    Holistic thought more often uses intention and the perception of whole objects or situations, rather than breaking them down to their parts - such as having a general feeling about a situation involving intuition or tact.

    Analytic thinking styles tend to look at the parts of a situation, and how they work together toward the whole. This involves "slicing up the world and analyzing objects individually, divorced from context," Talhelm said.

    Studies show that analytical thinkers predominate in Western, educated, industrialized, rich and democratic societies (termed "WEIRD" societies in 2010 by a team of cultural psychologists at the University of British Columbia). But they make up only about 15 percent of the world's population.

    So in a WEIRD society, such as the United States, analytically thinking liberals are "extreme Americans," Talhelm said, in the sense that they are particularly disinclined to think in the style of a vast majority of the rest of the world, including their holistic-thinking conservative countrymen.

    There is value in both ways of thinking, Talhelm said. Intuitive thinking likely is the "default" style most people are born with, while analytical thinking generally must be learned, usually through training, such as in Western-style school systems.

    Psychologists test thought styles by giving study participants a short battery of tests to determine if they are holistic or analytic thinkers.

    One such test asks participants to choose two of three items to categorize together, such as a mitten, a scarf, and a hand. Analytic thinkers usually match the scarf and mitten because they belong to the same abstract category - items of winter clothing. Holistic thinkers usually match the mitten and hand because the hand wears a mitten.

    When Talhelm and his colleagues matched thought styles with political leanings of participants, they found that the liberals tended to be analytic thinkers and the conservatives holistic thinkers.

    They further found that political thought was somewhat malleable. They discovered that if they trained holistic thinkers to think analytically, for example, to match scarf with mitten, they would subsequently start viewing the world more liberally (though not on economic policy). Likewise, liberals, if trained to think holistically, would come to form more conservative opinions.

    "The change in thought style, we found, can be enough to change people's opinion on social issues like welfare or criminal sentencing," Talhelm said. "The switch was actually large enough that it would have changed the outcome if it had been a vote."

    He noted that liberals in the West tend to live in urban or suburban areas and often have fairly weak social and community ties, move more often and are less traditionally religious. They are more individualistic than conservatives and very unlike most people in Eastern cultures. Conservatives, on the other hand, tend to be more connected to their communities and may live in the same areas throughout their lives, maintaining strong social and familial bonds and commitments, and are more traditionally religious. This puts them more in line with the holistic-thinking majority of the world.

    "This study shows that the two sides in the 'culture war,' conservatives and liberals, really approach the world as if they came from two very different cultures," Talhelm said.

    His study participants were primarily university students and adults who participated online.
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  2. oldngray

    oldngray nowhere special

    Interesting study that makes a lot of subjective claims that can't be proven.
  3. BrownArmy

    BrownArmy Well-Known Member

    And yet, the premise that American 'liberals' and 'conservatives' seem to be two different cultures, that rings true, no?
  4. bbsam

    bbsam Moderator Staff Member

    To a holistic conservative it should, to an analytical liberal, maybe but further testing is needed.;)
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  5. bottomups

    bottomups Bad Moon Risen'

    Kind of like the bible.
  6. upsgrunt

    upsgrunt Well-Known Member

    You're hot and heavy against Religion, the Bible, Christians, etc. If you don't believe, that's great- I'm not seeing anybody on here forcing it down your throat. In fact, it's the complete opposite the way you campaign AGAINST it. You're forcing your views on everyone else.
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  7. wkmac

    wkmac Well-Known Member

    I don't disagree with your point but there is a better time and place to make it and this isn't it.
  8. realbrown1

    realbrown1 Annoy a liberal today. Hit them with facts.

    I've always thought of it being more like:
    Liberals think with their heart and ignore their brain
    Conservatives think with their brain and ignore their heart.
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  9. bbsam

    bbsam Moderator Staff Member

    Then it would appear that you have it somewhat backward.
  10. wkmac

    wkmac Well-Known Member

    I've always been fascinated that conservatives embrace many of the founding fathers as their own. Yet these founding fathers were described as classical liberals.

    But then to understand this, one would have to understand the origins of the terms conservative and liberal, along with right and left, in the first place and how 20th century political American turned things on their head.
  11. bbsam

    bbsam Moderator Staff Member

    Now that would have a silencing effect on Republicans claiming Lincoln as their own.;)
  12. realbrown1

    realbrown1 Annoy a liberal today. Hit them with facts.

    By definition, they are conservatives. Championing the rights of the INDIVIDUAL over the state.
  13. realbrown1

    realbrown1 Annoy a liberal today. Hit them with facts.

    Nope. Lincoln helped to found the Republican Party.
    Pesky little things these facts are.
  14. bottomups

    bottomups Bad Moon Risen'

    Then explain to me why that INDIVIDUAL cannot have the right to marry someone of the same sex if they so choose?
  15. realbrown1

    realbrown1 Annoy a liberal today. Hit them with facts.

    I don't know. I also don't know why a person can't marry their pet goat or their sister. Nor do I care.
  16. bbsam

    bbsam Moderator Staff Member

    A rose by any other name...
  17. realbrown1

    realbrown1 Annoy a liberal today. Hit them with facts.

    Whatever helps you sleep at night......
  18. superballs63

    superballs63 Well-Known Troll Troll

    Because it's icky.

    Why can't people light up a joint in 48 states without fear of arrest?
    Why can't I punch people in the head as I walk down the street?

    The answer is the same for all of those questions:
  19. bbsam

    bbsam Moderator Staff Member

    Of course our positions on the matter are proving the author correct.
  20. realbrown1

    realbrown1 Annoy a liberal today. Hit them with facts.

    You like reading revisionist history?