Liberal and conservative minds

Chris Mooney is at it again (damn, this guy sure knows how to do an all-out multi-media assault for a new book– perhaps I should take note), yesterday with a nice Op-Ed in the Post.  This particular version concentrates on a couple of “Big 5” Personality traits and how they are related to political ideology.  I found this particular part most interesting:

Perhaps most important, liberals consistently score higher on a personality measure called “openness to experience,” one of the “Big Five” personality traits, which are easily assessed through standard questionnaires. That means liberals tend to be the kind of people who want to try new things, including new music, books, restaurants and vacation spots — and new ideas.

“Open people everywhere tend to have more liberal values,” said psychologist Robert McCrae, who conducted voluminous studies on personality while at the National Institute on Aging at the National Institutes of Health.

Conservatives, in contrast, tend to be less open — less exploratory, less in need of change — and more “conscientious,” a trait that indicates they appreciate order and structure in their lives. This gels nicely with the standard definition of conservatism as resistance to change — in the famous words of William F. Buckley Jr., a desire to stand “athwart history, yelling ‘Stop!’ ”

I read this and thought, “whoa, that’ s not me” for the liberal description (and anybody who knows me well would surely think the same thing).  Generally, I don’t like change.  I find something I like and I stick with it.  Perhaps, this is why I’ve always felt like I was a liberal with a conservative personality.  Anyway, a little more investigation of this “openness to experience” dimension and some on-line tests, and I’m actually above average after all.  Looks like I get credit for liking new ideas and culture in general (e.g., books, art, etc.).  I guess I’m more open to experience than I realized.  I’m just not the least bit spontaneous and it really depends upon the experience.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

3 Responses to Liberal and conservative minds

  1. Pop psychology bullshit. I have a BA in Behavioral Science and went to grad school for Clinical psych. I am very open to new experiences as are most of my conservative friends. In fact I have been on a life long quest to become the modern day Renaissance Man

  2. Mike in Chapel Hill says:

    Yes John, because you have a credential you are right and everyone else is wrong. Evidence, experiments, and data be damned, right? You know what you know and nothing will ever shake your knoweldge. So, how old is the earth? Did dinosaurs and people share the earth at one time?

  3. Hey Mike
    I have a very healthy dose of skepticism. I got into writing because I used to be an award winning contractor. All the DIY articles and books were written by writers with no real world experience sold to editors with no real world construction experience. These writers just re-plagiarized older articles declared as gospel when they were completely innaccurate, usually highly incomplete and sometimes actually dangerous. When I confront editors they just don’t care.

    Many journalistic institutions have very professional sounding canons of journalistic integrity and then routinely flout them with impunity because unlike other professions which kick you out for violations of their professional codes, journalism’s are all voluntary. There are no journalistic police out there.

    So you can be sarcastic all you want to, you have not negated my premise.

    John Wilder

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