Friday, January 24, 2014

Good people and bad people

The governor of New York State last week on Republican candidates in his state:
Are they these extreme conservatives who are right-to-life, pro-assault-weapon, anti-gay? Is that who they are? Because if that’s who they are and they’re the extreme conservatives, they have no place in the state of New York, because that’s not who New Yorkers are.
Governor Cuomo was soon walking back the statement but his intolerance sounds familiar to many of us who live in a liberal environment. Jonathan Haidt's research may be helpful in understanding liberal lack of empathy for those with whom they disagree:
.... One other point that I find really interesting and important about Haidt’s work is his findings on the ability of different groups to empathize across these ideological divides. So in his book (p. 287) Haidt reports on the following experiment: after determining whether someone is liberal or conservative, he then has each person answer the standard battery of questions as if he were the opposite ideology. So, he would ask a liberal to answer the questions as if he were a “typical conservative” and vice-versa. What he finds is quite striking: “The results were clear and consistent. Moderates and conservatives were most accurate in their predictions, whether they were pretending to be liberals or conservatives. Liberals were the least accurate, especially those who describe themselves as ‘very liberal.’ The biggest errors in the whole study came when liberals answered the Care and Fairness questions while pretending to be conservatives.” In other words, moderates and conservatives can understand the liberal worldview and liberals are unable to relate to the conservative worldview, especially when it comes to questions of care and fairness.

In short, Haidt’s research suggests that many liberals really do believe that conservatives are heartless bastards–or as a friend of mine once remarked, “Conservatives think that liberals are good people with bad ideas, whereas liberals think conservatives are bad people”—and very liberal people think that especially strongly. Haidt suggests that there is some truth to this. .... [more]
Of course these are generalizations and I know quite a few liberals who behave as though they don't think I'm evil.

Jonathan Haidt on Psychology and Politics | The Volokh ConspiracyThe Volokh Conspiracy