Posted by The Situationist Staff on November 18, 2008
Below, we’ve posted titles and a brief quotation from some of the Situationist news items of October 2008. (They are listed in alphabetical order by source.)
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“Evolutionary psychology prides itself on being a valid, scientific account of human psychology (and behaviour) by tying itself to the scientific theory of natural evolution. But evolution is an explanation of physical, anatomical traits . . . The plausibility of evolutionary psychology rests on the question of whether psychological attributes (patriotism, altruism, romantic love, aesthetic judgments, logical reasoning, recollecting your grandmother’s birthday, and studying to get into college) are analogous to anatomical structures in their origins and in their functioning. If they are not analogous, then it is a mistake to explain them in terms of evolutionary theory which explains physical, anatomical features determined by biological mechanisms.” Read more . . .
“America can pull through the current economic crisis with a dose of political maturity and a bit of luck. Success will mean the end of the Reagan era, of an ideology that has brought the country to its knees.” Read more . . .
“Love and hate are intimately linked within the human brain, according to a study that has discovered the biological basis for the two most intense emotions.” . . . “Scientists studying the physical nature of hate have found that some of the nervous circuits in the brain responsible for it are the same as those that are used during the feeling of romantic love – although love and hate appear to be polar opposites.” Read more . . .
“U.S. presidential candidates have been stumping for nearly two years with their every move being analyzed and reported ad nauseum. Logically, voters should be able to tap into lots of information when they make their decisions come November. But it turns out there’s a lot more going on when we step behind the curtain to cast our ballot.” Read more . . .
“Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin received a media lashing last week when word trickled out that her makeup artist snagged $22,800 in the first half of October. Pundits warned that such royal treatment might undermine her “down home” persona, but the makeover may have been a savvy move: New research adds more weight to the idea that voters value attractiveness more than competence in the faces of female politicians.” Read more . . .
“When you cut away its many layers, our fixation on popular culture reflects an intense interest in the doings of other people; this preoccupation with the lives of others is a by-product of the psychology that evolved in prehistoric times to make our ancestors socially successful. Thus, it appears that we are hardwired to be fascinated by gossip.” Read more . . .
Posted in Abstracts, Emotions, Ideology, Life, Politics | Tagged: Add new tag, attractiveness, evolutionary psychology, gossip, hate, Ideology, love, Politics | 1 Comment »
Posted by Al Sahlstrom on October 28, 2008
In just over a week, we will see a referendum on “Joe Six-Pack” politics. Over the past decade or two, the Republican Party has promoted a political fiction that conflates wholesomeness, independence, tradition, and common sense with anti-intellectualism and suspicion of outsiders. More recently, Sarah Palin has championed the effort to highlight the supposed division between secular liberal coastal elites and “normal” Americans. By her own words, Palin believes that small towns are “the real America” and she has warned that Barack Obama “is not a man who sees America as you see it and how I see America.” While it might be comforting to dismiss these efforts as a desperate appeal to emotional voters who don’t know or don’t care about the substantive issues in this election, the persistence of these “us vs. them” arguments in our current political paradigm hints at deeper reasons for concern.
Regardless of policy expertise, is there reason to think that makes a difference whether Sarah Palin is a moose-hunting, “Joe Six-Pack” conservative Christian? Yes. Humans are fundamentally social and those distinctions matter – no matter which side of them you may be on. In fact, our affinity for those with similar backgrounds provides an important means of making sense of the world and strengthening ties with others. We have such a natural predisposition for “birds of a feather” to “flock together” that even groups formed with no prior connection among the members (or no meaningful connection at all) can demonstrate a preference for their comrades over those outside the group. Social psychologists call this the “minimal group” paradigm: Individuals randomly assigned to one group over another, absent any rational justification, engage in self-evaluation that favors their new group and strengthens their affiliation with its members. In cultural, family, or political groups, our affiliation with others can provide a comforting means of evaluating the immense, complex web of incomplete information with which we are presented in everyday life. Psychologists have even found that identification of a policy proposal as being from one’s own party can be more determinative of an individual’s approval than the actual content of the proposed policy.
Because our evaluation of policies and political candidates is not purely rational, candidates like Sarah Palin can invoke existing or imagined group affiliations to reframe the political landscape and override other, more rational considerations.
All of this matters because, regardless of who draws the lines in the sand, these tactics do not uniquely manipulate one segment of the country or one end of the political spectrum. Rather they impact all of us by contributing to a situation that alters our perceptions, incites prejudice, and affects behavior across the board. When political tacticians push small town Americans to claim moral superiority over the rest of the country, the resulting climate encourages liberal, college-educated Americans to ignore the complexity in regional and local politics in favor of their own self-serving views. In short, the idea that liberals are more rational or intellectual than conservatives perpetuates a simplistic, partisan view that precludes empathy and interferes with positive change.
It is neither novel nor surprising that this presidential campaign has seen attempts to mobilize support based on identity appeals and false dichotomies. But as we decide which candidate will best face the domestic and international challenges of the next four years, it is worth remembering that our perceptions of those issues and ideas are inherently shaped by how we view ourselves in relation to those with different backgrounds and opposing perspectives. Unless we account for how “Joe Six-Pack” politics manipulate and polarize our political views, Conservatives will never be independent and Liberals will never truly be rational.
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For a related Situationist post, see “Without the Filter.”
Posted in Conflict, Ideology, Politics | Tagged: groupism, Ideology, McCain, minimal group paradigm, Obama, Palin, Politics | 3 Comments »
Posted by The Situationist Staff on October 8, 2008
The Situationist Staff urges you to urge your friends (and, to those of you who are bloggers, your readers) to take, the “Policy IAT 1.0.” We are eager to encourage individuals of all political and ideological orientations to take the on-line test designed to examine whether and to what extent people have implicit preferences for certain types of policy options.
To learn more or to take the Policy IAT (a roughly 15-minute task), click here.
Posted in Ideology, Implicit Associations | Tagged: Ideology, Implicit Associations, Policy IAT | 1 Comment »
Posted by The Situationist Staff on August 16, 2008
Joshua Furgeson, Linda Babcock, and Peter Shane have a fascinating paper, “Behind the Mask of Method” (Ohio State Public Law Working Paper No. 41 (June 2005) – Law Hum. Behav. 2007) on SSRN. Here’s the abstract.
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This empirical paper demonstrates that political orientation affects the interpretive methods (e.g., originalism) that individuals prefer to use to interpret the Constitution. As a consequence, the sworn allegiance of a judge (or judicial candidate) to a particular interpretive methodology, even if faithfully followed, simply cannot guarantee constitutional adjudication that is apolitical in motivation.
The paper begins by recognizing that certain interpretive methods often favor either liberal or conservative policies, and then propose that an individual’s policy goals subconsciously bias their interpretive preferences. We test this hypothesis in two empirical studies. The first study surveys federal law clerks about their interpretive preferences. We find that liberal clerks are significantly more likely than conservative clerks to favor the current meaning of the constitutional text, while conservatives are much more likely to prefer the original meaning. Liberals also prefer to interpret the Constitution a great deal more expansively than conservatives. The second study demonstrates that altering the policy implications of expansive interpretation can shift interpretive preferences, implying that political orientation actually causes, and is not just related to, interpretive preferences.
This relationship between political orientation and interpretive preferences challenges both traditional constitutional jurisprudence and contemporary politics. Interpretive methods are often cited because they appear to provide legal, rather than policy-based, guidance. Consequently, judges often frame their judicial rulings as an application of their interpretive preferences to the facts of the case. More controversially, many judicial nominees have argued that their personal beliefs will be irrelevant to their judicial decisions, as their interpretive preferences will guide them. Our findings imply, however, that judges cannot reduce the influence of their policy preferences by relying on interpretive methods, because their interpretive preferences were likely affected by their policy goals.
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To read some related Situationist posts, see “The Political Situation of Judicial Activism,” “Ideology is Back!,” “The Situation of Judges,” “Blinking on the Bench,” “The Situation of Judging – Part I,” “The Situation of Judging – Part II,” and “Justice Thomas and the Conservative Hypocrisy.”
Posted in Abstracts, Deep Capture, Ideology, Law, Legal Theory, Politics | Tagged: cognition, Ideology, interpretation, judging, judicial decisionmaking, originalism | 1 Comment »
Posted by The Situationist Staff on July 20, 2008
Below is a ten-minute BloggingHeads clip from a one-hour interview of social psychologist Jonathan Haidt.
To watch the entire video, click here. For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “The Motivated Situation of Morality,” “Jonathan Haidt on the Situation of Moral Reasoning,” and “Moral Psychology Primer.”
Posted in Ideology, Morality, Video | Tagged: conservative, foundations of human morality, Ideology, Jonathan Haidt, liberals, moral psychology, Morality | 2 Comments »