Political ideology and morals

Yglesias highlights the findings of a study looking at how basic moral value dimensions are related to political beliefs.  Short version:

there are five main categories of moral concern — harm, fairness, loyalty, authority, and purity. Liberals care a lot about harm and fairness, and not much about loyalty, authority, and purity. Conservative, by contrast, care about all five values about equally and they care about them all less than liberals care about harm and fairness but more than liberals care about loyalty, authority, and purity.

And, of course, you are just dying to know where Steve Greene fits in on all this.

I’m pretty much a typical liberal on harm, fairness and loyalty.  Somewhat split the difference on purity (I probably had the least confidence in my answers on those) and am basically a conservative when it comes to authority.  Honestly, that didn’t actually surprise me all that much.  My mom used to joke that my Dad, born Jewish, would make a good Nazi due to his ready support for authority.  I think I inherited that to some degree (and these things definitely are heritable).   That said, if you asked me to rate the importance of these dimensions, I would definitely place harm and fairness as the most important and loyalty as the least important.

Find out where you rank on these matters here.

Are men funnier?

Thought this Slate blog post was interesting– highlights an experiment in which cartoon captions were perceived to be funnier when people believed they were done by men instead of women:

Not perfect, because the most interesting findings of the study weren’t about the relative ratings of humor of men and women, but the biases of the test subjects when it came to measuring humor levels of men and women. While the subjects rated men’s and women’s caption-writing abilities roughly equally in a gender-blind test, they were so devoted to the stereotype of women being less funny that the subjects misinterpreted their own rankings.

As expected, funny captions were remembered better than unfunny ones. The authors of funny captions were remembered better too. But humor was more often misremembered “as having sprung from men’s minds,” the researchers write. And, even more telling, Mickes said, when the study participants were guessing at authors’ gender, unfunny captions were more often misattributed to women and funny captions were more often misattributed to men.

The title of the post is “men aren’t funniner than women, but we’ll keep pretending they are.”  The author continues with personal observations:

Most women who have a sense of humor can tell you about a time they’ve told a joke, had it blatantly ignored by their friends and family, and then heard a man tell the same joke (having subconsciously stolen it from the ignored woman) to peals of laughter. That stopped happening to me after my career as a writer took off, which functionally gave me male status when it came to joke-cracking in various social circles, though I still find with family that people kind of stare at me when I make jokes that would cause convulsions if I were a man…

This doesn’t surprise me one bit, considering my personal experiences of watching women’s jokes get ignored, stolen by men, or regarded as gross and unladylike. Half the reason to make jokes is so people laugh at them, and if your femaleness prevents people from laughing at your jokes, you’re going to give up.[emphasis mine] Unless you’re like me, and just compulsive about it.

This last part really got me thinking, men probably are funnier than women.   If men are continually rewarded for being funny, of course they are going to keep working at, improve, and actually get funnier.  If women constantly receive negative feedback from trying to be funny, all but the “compulsive” will give up and not continue to develop the skills involved in being funny (and yes, practice matters).  In short, if it seems to me that you are going to blame society for encouraging men’s humor and constantly suppressing women’s attempts at humor, the natural implication of that is that society creates funnier men than women.  So, of course there are plenty of very funny women out there, but this piece ultimately suggests to me that, on average, men really are funnier than women.

On a related note, I recently was contacted by the NCSU Alumni magazine for an article they are doing on Alums who have succeeded in the comedy field.  They also wanted to do a bit on how NCSU professors effectively use humor in the classroom.  Apparently, my name came up.  I’m amused at how much of an ego boost that is for me.  Winning a teaching award: $1000; being considered one of NCSU’s funniest profs: priceless.  I’ll give the credit do my gender.

Cain and race

Well, I realized I better make this post before anyone still cares about him.  My guess is that in 2016 people will be like, “Oh yeah, Herman Cain, that was interesting.”  Anyway, Jon Chait (I hate that he is just part of a group blog now) had some interesting observations that reminded me of some nice Political Science research.  Chait:

But conservatives cannot resist pointing out the racial implications of his rise. Charen’s column, quoted above, is headlined, “‘Racists’ for Cain.” The supposed irony of his skyrocketing support is too delicious for them to ignore. And Cain himself does, in fact, invoke race constantly. The context is almost always to absolve conservatives of racism, to assure them that they are less racist than the left. Here he is referring to the “Democratic plantation.” Here he is saying that, “A lot of these liberal, leftist folk in this country, that are black, they’re more racist than the white people that they’re claiming to be racist.” Here he isannouncing that “most people have gotten past color, especially the Republican party.”

What’s also worth noting is that conservatives give an extra bump of support for Blacks who counter their stereotype of Blacks who leech off the system.  I.e., Hermann Cain isn’t just a successful businessman, but being Black, he may be perceived even more positively than a similar white Pizza magnate.  Back in grad school I read a really interesting book by a couple of Political Scientists: The Scar of Race (cannot find a decent on-line summary now).  They conducted a bunch of survey experiments where they asked people to respond to a specific description of a person receiving government benefits or being quite successful without (or something like that– it’s been 15 years).  Anyway, they gave identical descriptions varying only race of the hypothetical person.  What I recall is that when it was a successful Black person, conservatives actually rate that person higher/more worthy than the white person.  Thus, the Hermann Cain effect.  Of course, given that this is about all he’s got going for him, I do expect the Cain star to burn out soon.

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