Sunday, October 18, 2015
Personality and politics
Even since 1950, psychologists have been trying to predict one's politics from one's personality. The idea was that conservatives all had personalities that were defective in some way. It was a big topic in the '50s and 60s but still burbles on today at a low level. The exciting connections discovered early on have all gradually withered away under criticism of various sorts -- but a last redoubt remains in the form of research with the Altemeyer "Right wing authoritaranism" (RWA) scale -- an attitude inventory that does have a few weak correlations here and there.
One of the old warriors who is still plugging on is John Duckitt -- originally a white South African but now escaped to New Zealand. Duckitt was for a long time an uncritical acceptor of the conventional wisdom but after some pointed criticism from me (here, here and here) he gradually seems to have become more cautious.
His latest paper reflects that. He has become very cautious about what the RWA scale measures. He says: "measures such as the RWA scale cannot be assumed to be assessing anything more than what their items are directly reflecting—a dimension of social attitudes of a broadly ideological nature". How vague can you get?
In other words he says "search me!" when asked to put a name to what the RWA scale measures. I would say the same. He does however continue elsewhere to refer to it as a measure of authoritarianism and seems to regard it as a measure of some sort of conservatism, without presenting any evidence to that effect.
In using the RWA scale he inherits an extensive body of prior research that purports to tell us what causes RWA attitudes, with "Openness to experience" being a major candidate. High RWAs are not very open to experience, it is alleged.
Duckitt has however turned his current skepticism about what the RWA measures onto measures of "Openness to experience" also. And he concludes, as I also tend to do, that the concept is overly broad. He has decided that the concept can fruitfully be broken down into two parts: Openness to intellectual experience and openness to aesthetic experience -- which seems reasonable enough.
But what does he discover when he relates those different sub-components to RWA? He finds that it is only openness to intellectual experience that predicts RWA. So a lot of the excitement seems to have gone out of RWA. There is now only one thin personality dimension that predicts it substantially. Very thin pickings for 65 years of research!
But here we come to the big question: What does it all mean for behaviour? Duckitt has been churning questionnaire answers through his computer for many years but what connection does any of it have with behaviour -- with what people do? The original measure of authoritarian attitudes -- the F scale -- went out of favour because it had almost NO connection with behaviour. And Altemeyer himself -- author of the RWA scale -- says that answers on it do not predict vote to any important extent. When used in Russia it predicts Communist loyalties! So much for the "Right-wing" tag attached to it: Right-wing Communists??
So Duckitt's correlations would seem to have nothing to do with real-life. In psychometrician's terms, neither his Intellectual Interest scale nor his RWA scale are satisfactorily validated. What they really measure as general concepts is just speculation. So let me suggest some possible meanings to Duckitt's findings. I actually think they are enlightening.
It seems to be early days for us to KNOW what the intellect scale measures but I would have a substantial bet that it is largely a measure of our ubiquitous old friend: IQ. It is high IQ people who are expressing intellectual interests. That sounds pretty likely, does it not?
And that in turn throws some light on what the RWA scale measures. High scorers ("authoritarians") on the RWA scale score low on the intellectual interest scale. So now we know: the RWA scale measures dumb opinions! It too probably correlates negatively with IQ, though I have not seen anything on that. The RWA does not measure just ANY dumb opinions, however. There is a universe of dumb opinions and the RWA measures just one subset. My suggestion would be that the RWA scale reflects primarily the political issues of yesteryear -- old-fashioned attitudes.
UPDATE: I have now got around to checking my speculation about RWA and IQ and find I was spot-on. McNamara, P. "Where God and science meet" Vol. 1. Westport, Praeger. 2006. p. 42. report a correlation of -.37 between them in an adult twin sample
But let's get back to behaviour. Duckitt at one point does list what he sees as relevant behaviours:
(a) pressures to opinion uniformity among group members,
(b) endorsement of an autocratic leadership and decision making structure,
(c) intolerance of diversity in group composition
(that betokens the potentiality for dissent),
(d) rejection of opinion deviants and extolment of conformists,
(e) in-group favoritism and out-group derogation,
(f) attraction to groups (both in- and out-groups) possessing strong shared realities,
(g) conservatism and adherence to the group’s norms,
(h) loyalty to one’s in-group to the degree to which is constituted a ‘good’ shared reality provider.”
Any conservative would immediately identify that list of behaviours as what he encounters whenever he talks to Leftists, and to Warmists in particular. Duckitt seems to think that those attributes define conservatives but I would like to see the evidence on that.
But conservatives and climate skeptics know from experience who behaves like that. If you want to encounter closed-mindedness just try to discuss the evidence for global warming with a Leftist. They just won't listen. They quote their supreme authority -- Al Gore -- and just get abusive if you talk about such things as the satellite temperature record. They are so closed-off that they usually don't even know the basic facts about global temperature. See below for how much the president of the Sierra club knows about it:
And see here and here for the sort of scholarly rejoinder that climate skeptics get from true believers. [/sarcasm]
And for the flood of Fascist-style attempts from the Left to suppress free speech, see here for just one recent summary.
So Duckitt is happy in his little world of weakly correlated attitude statements but whether they tell us anything about the world outside his window is very dubious. They certainly do not tell us that conservatives are either authoritarian or closed minded -- JR.
The End of the American Century?
In a 1941 Life magazine article, Henry Luce, a publishing magnate once described as "the most influential private citizen in America," coined the phrase, "the American Century" to advance his vision of America becoming a benign global superpower that would use its influence to build a new world order based on political and economic freedom. Historians and political scientists have sometimes adopted the phrase to describe our own times, dating the beginning of the American Century from the end of World War II in 1945.
The American Century has been, as Luce had hoped, on the whole a period of unprecedented peace and prosperity. World War III was avoided. Freedom and human rights have become international norms, largely due to the military, economic and political power of the United States.
Like the Roman Empire's golden age of peace and prosperity called "the Pax Romana," the American Century has been a "Pax Americana," without imperialism, advancing freedoms and human dignity everywhere. The American Century, it is no exaggeration to say, has surpassed the Pax Romana as a golden age, not only for the American people, but for friends and allies and for all mankind fortunate enough to be within the circle of America's benign influence.
Perhaps the apex of the American Century arrived when the United States prevailed over the Soviet Union and the Cold War ended with the collapse of the totalitarian USSR - one of the most unfree societies in history - in 1991. The following year, Francis Fukuyama's book, "The End of History," proclaimed that the centuries-long struggle between freedom and tyranny had finally been decided in favor of freedom.
And many in the Free World believed, and all hoped, that this might be true.
But 2015 may well mark the end of the American Century. It has not lasted as long as a real century - only 70 years.
In 2015, American power and influence is in decline and retreat everywhere. Totalitarian and authoritarian actors are on the march against the United States and the entire Free World.
Russia, under de facto dictator Vladimir Putin, has annexed the Crimea and invaded Ukraine, exposing as worthless the security guarantees made by U.S. President Bill Clinton to Kiev under the Budapest Agreement, in exchange for Ukraine giving up the hundreds of nuclear missiles based on its territory. Russia is embarked on a massive buildup of nuclear missiles and conventional forces against a United States and European NATO that are militarily a pale shadow of the alliance that prevailed during the Cold War.
Russia's return to the Middle East, allied with Syria and Iran, successfully challenging and displacing the United States with military strikes on U.S.-backed Syrian rebels in October, may mark the exact date of death of the American Century. Suddenly, Russia has replaced the U.S. as the dominant power in the Middle East, in a world still dependent on oil.
This latest is perhaps the decisive humiliation, canceling the credibility of U.S. security guarantees that upheld "peace through strength" to contain aggression and sustain the American Century. It was preceded by many other blows:
China is modernizing and multiplying its nuclear missiles and conventional air and naval forces at an alarming rate, challenging the capability of a weakened U.S. Navy to protect allies in the Pacific.
North Korea, a failed state in everything except its capability to make nuclear missiles, can now make a nuclear strike on the U.S. mainland with its KN-08 intercontinental missile, moving the North American Aerospace Defense Command to spend nearly $1 billion to better protect its underground command post inside Cheyenne Mountain from an electromagnetic pulse attack.
Iran has prevailed over the United States in nuclear negotiations that will end economic sanctions and enrich the mullahs with $150 billion, even though Iran probably already has the bomb, or can soon acquire one. This even though Iran is the world's leading sponsor of international terrorism, has toppled a U.S. ally in Yemen, and has virtually taken over Iraq.
Terrorism grows ever stronger. The Islamic State is the first terror state in history, waging genocidal war against Christians and all who oppose it. Muslim migrants are inundating Europe and the Americas, bringing with them the seeds of terrorism and Shariah law, which is incompatible with Western values.
Russia, China, North Korea, Iran and terrorism are a greater collective threat to freedom than were the USSR or Nazi Germany.
President Obama has in six years virtually destroyed the credibility of the United States as the security guarantor of the Free World, a legacy that was painstakingly built and maintained over six decades by 11 previous presidents and was the foundation of the American Century.
How far will the forces of tyranny and chaos march during the final two years of our transformational president?
Military Strategist: Obama’s Middle East Policies ‘Have Accelerated Christian Genocide’
Retired Lt. Col. Robert Maginnis, a military strategist with the Pentagon, said on Wednesday that President Obama’s foreign policy in the Middle East has “accelerated Christian genocide” and left the region in chaos.
“[Obama’s] Middle East policies – what they are – not only have accelerated Christian genocide but have left the region totally in turmoil and inflamed,” said Maginnis at a discussion about his new book at the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C., where he is a senior fellow.
Maginnis said he believes Obama has shaped his foreign policy -- including the fight against the so-called Islamic State and other terrorist groups that are perpetrating genocide -- around his administration’s efforts to cut a nuclear deal with the Islamic state of Iran.
“I think the real reason behind this is because he put that all aside – it was a deal he made with a devil, which is in Tehran and [Obama] says, ‘I won’t do this stuff, which interferes with you, as long as I get a deal with you,’ and, of course, we know that the Iranian deal is his legacy,” he said.
Maginnis described his book, “Never Submit: Will The Extermination of Christians Get Worse Before It Gets Better” as a “call to action to help those that are facing genocide in the Middle East.”
He cited statistics that show that when the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, there were 1.5 million Christians living in the country. Now it is estimated that the Christian population in Iraq has declined to around 200,000.
“After all, Saddam Hussein allowed Christians to worship openly. They were part of his government,” Maginnis said. “The removal of Saddam and others, I would argue, started this ugly Shia/Sunni revolution that, in turn, spawned ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria), and arguably as well started the Arab Spring, which started in Tunisia and spread across the region.”
Maginnis doesn’t, however, blame only Obama for the ongoing persecution and extermination of Christians throughout the Middle East, including beheadings, the enslavement and rape of women and forced conversions. He claims that the current genocide dates back to toppling Saddam Hussein after the U.S. and its allies invaded Iraq in 2003.
In his remarks, Maginnis laid out the solution to ending the genocide in the Middle East, including providing enclaves throughout the region where Christians can live safely, identifying the enemy as Islamic terrorists, and U.S. support for officially declaring the situation in the Middle East as genocide.
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Posted by JR at 1:33 AM