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Psychology of Political Ideology

There is a new manuscript online which I will undoubtedly find interesting, I bet, once I find time to read its 52 pages (OK, double-spaced TXT with a long list of references and an Appendix of stats):

The Secret Lives of Liberals and Conservatives: Personality Profiles, Interaction Styles, and the Things They Leave Behind (pdf) by Dana R. Carney, John T. Jost, Samuel D. Gosling, Kate Niederhoffer and Jeff Potter.

ABSTRACT: Seventy-five years of theory and research on personality differences between political liberals and conservatives has produced a long list of dispositions, traits, and behaviors. Applying a “Five Factor Model” framework to this yield, we find that two traits, Openness to Experience and Conscientiousness, parsimoniously capture many of the ways in which individual differences underlying political orientation have been conceptualized. In four studies we investigate the relationship between personality and political orientation using multiple domains and measurement techniques, including: self-reported personality assessment; explicit beliefs, values, and preferences; nonverbal behavior in the context of social interaction; and personal possessions and the characteristics of living and working spaces. We obtained consistent and converging evidence that personality differences between liberals and conservatives are robust, replicable, and behaviorally significant. In general, liberals are more openminded in their pursuit of creativity, novelty, and diversity, whereas conservatives seek lives that are more orderly, conventional, and better organized.

So, you read it before me and tell me what you think…

(Thanks to Chris for the heads-up)


  1. #1 greensmile
    January 9, 2007

    Wow. Great find. Thanks for pointing it out. Its gotta be one of the great universal topics. I am often going through a cycle of hopeful anticipation followed by let downs. Lakoff did not quite hold up to the hype though he contributed to our vocabulary. another prospective rosetta stone of the political mind, another stab at “what makes us tick”…I am always hungry for these.

  2. #2 Deep Thought
    January 11, 2007

    Skipping all the controversy about Big Five surveys, I was pleased to see that the authors admitted the low value of their first phase (the ‘Openness, Conscientiousness’ etc. work). The problems inherent in a survey that starts with the creation of subjective questions and moves on to self-reporting attitudes and outlooks are pretty big.
    The sample for Study 2 was woefully small and (just like study one) terribly narrow. I understand research limits, but ‘The Secret Lives of Liberals and Conservatives” is an awfully ambitious title for a report that looks at a small sample of college students and a handful of internet responders.
    There is also a potential for a tautology. They found that Conservatives are more ‘explicitly hostile’ to Blacks. What is the evidence for this? Conservatives were more likely to display certain physical behaviors when speaking with Blacks. But why are these behaviors seen as ‘anti-Black’?

    Wait for it.

    Because they are behaviors associated with Conservatives! That’s right, circular reasoning.So Study 3 has some issues beyond a small, narrow sample.

    I particularly liked Study 4 (*especially* when combined with the ‘personal hygiene’ parts of Study 2) that found that Liberals are poor at cleaning, organizing, laundry, and regular showers. But the books they leave scattered about *are* poetry!

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