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Negativity merchants

I just saw this in our Twitter feed:

 

This comes on the heels of a hilarious August 7 segment on Colbert Nation on the Ebola panic that makes the serious point that an Ebola outbreak is something we’re being told to be afraid of, even though no one has come down with Ebola in the United States yet.

 

All of this gives some context for a new university study published in Behavioral and Brain Sciences that says that conservatives tend to be more responsive to negative news than liberals. Salon.com refers to the study in their July 29 article, “Secrets of the right-wing brain: New study proves it—conservatives see a different, hostile world.

The more nuanced journal article (which unlike Salon doesn’t mention birthers) says:

…A rapidly growing body of empirical evidence documents a multitude of ways in which liberals and conservatives differ from each other in purviews of life with little direct connection to politics, from tastes in art to desire for closure and from disgust sensitivity to the tendency to pursue new information, but the central theme of the differences is a matter of debate. In this article, we argue that one organizing element of the many differences between liberals and conservatives is the nature of their physiological and psychological responses to features of the environment that are negative. Compared with liberals, conservatives tend to register greater physiological responses to such stimuli and also to devote more psychological resources to them.

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12 Responses to Negativity merchants

  1. avatar
    Andrew Vrba, PmG August 9, 2014 at 12:41 pm #

    What is tcot?

  2. avatar
    Andrew Morris August 9, 2014 at 12:43 pm #

    So on an entirely upbeat note, Orly seems to be the only person who doesn’t realize the the Asst. US Attorney’s answer to her “deport all immigrants except me” lawsuit pretty much guarantees the end of her latest litigation. I’d be very surprised if she is required to travel to Hanen’s court for a hearing.

  3. avatar
    Bonsall Obot August 9, 2014 at 12:56 pm #

    Andrew Vrba, PmG:
    What is tcot?

    Top Conservatives on Twitter. They think a great deal of themselves.

  4. avatar
    Bonsall Obot August 9, 2014 at 1:01 pm #

    So since these rocket surgeons are so concerned about ebola, which doesn’t actually pose a threat to them, they’re going to be really most sincerely concerned about anthropogenic global climate change, which actually poses an existential threat to all humanity, right?

    Right?

  5. avatar
    CCB August 9, 2014 at 1:28 pm #

    An interesting discussion of the psychological differences between liberals and conservatives can be found in “The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion” by Jonathan Haidt. I think Haidt is a colleague of two of the authors of this article at the University of Nebraska.

  6. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy August 9, 2014 at 3:17 pm #

    And always a good time to plug Schneirs’ book:

    Beyond Fear: Thinking Sensibly About Security in an Uncertain World

  7. avatar
    JPotter August 9, 2014 at 4:16 pm #

    @Bonsall Obot: heck no. Fearmongers only monger over nonexistent threats. Getting lathered up over genuine threats could lead to perceived liability for actual expertise and effectual action. Far too risky! Fo the purpose of shilling, the best thing about imaginary threats: no risk of anyone solving the imaginary problem and making it go away!

    There was a greay recent book about the human tendency to worry about all the wrong things. Would link to it, if not on my crap phone!

  8. avatar
    Notorial Dissent August 9, 2014 at 10:05 pm #

    I think the full quote on that should be “see a different, frightening, hostile world”.

  9. avatar
    RanTalbott August 10, 2014 at 1:00 am #

    Now, this is spooky. Recently, I’ve started whacking birthers with the musical question: “Most people who choose to live in fantasy worlds pick one that’s better than reality. Why have you chosen one that’s far worse?”

    Which, of course, never goes anywhere: any birther capable of that level of introspection has long since returned to something closer to reality.

    But I’ve been attributing it to the same factor I’ve been blaming (perhaps erroneously: I probably should read a few of Doc’s recommended books…) for what I call “Our National Nervous Breakdown” after 9/11: that the comparatively soft and sheltered life we live in this country (relative to most of the world) has all-but-obliterated our ability to do rational threat assessments. Thus the loonier provisions of USAPATRIOT, the Iraq War, and much of the xenophobic talk (and, sadly, violence) of a decade ago. One of my favorite tactics of the time was to remind people who insisted that we had to “do something” (usually something drastic and foolish) because “3000 Americans died that day” that it was actually about 9000, because about 6000 Americans die _every_ day.

    (I also blame this for some of our ridiculous “consumer product safety” regulations, like requiring that lawnmowers can only be started through the team efforts of two full-sized adults and a genetically-engineered double-jointed dwarf)

    There was _some_ skew towards (soi-disant) “conservatives” in the distribution of that madness, but I attributed that to the rise of neandercons, who are more like tribe members than ideologues, and who gravitated toward that brand of faux “conservatism” because it promises them the simple answers to complex questions that they crave (i.e., they’re stupid).

    Obviously, I’m going to have to re-examine some of that analysis. But it opens the possibility for some new fun, pointing out to rabid homophobes that “it’s been proven” that they’re “born that way” ;-)

  10. avatar
    JPotter August 11, 2014 at 11:22 am #

    JPotter: There was a greay recent book about the human tendency to worry about all the wrong things. Would link to it, if not on my crap phone!

    Here’s the tome I had in mind:

    The Science of Fear

    Not as familiar with, but looks promising:

    The Culture of Fear

    Proper risk evaluation/management is a discipline unto itself …. and almost entirely focused on finance …. and mostly there again on business finance. Actual personal risk management seems thinly covered (too squishy?). But here is a start:

    Risk: A Very Short Introduction

    In my dream school system, risk analysis would join philosophy as additions to K-12 curricula.

  11. avatar
    Keith August 12, 2014 at 12:48 am #

    JPotter: In my dream school system, risk analysis would join philosophy as additions to K-12 curricula.

    Ahhh, Back to Basics: Teach the Four ‘R’s?

  12. avatar
    Crustacean August 12, 2014 at 12:57 pm #

    RanTalbott: I also blame this for some of our ridiculous “consumer product safety” regulations, like requiring that lawnmowers can only be started through the team efforts of two full-sized adults and a genetically-engineered double-jointed dwarf

    Brilliant! The mental image of three people trying to start a lawn mower reminded me of something from Woody Allen’s “Insanity Defense”, as he describes his confusion over the performance of a mime:

    “Next, he elaborately removed his shoes, except that I’m not positive they were his shoes, because he drank one of them and mailed the other to Pittsburgh. I say “Pittsburgh,” but actually it is hard to mime the concept of Pittsburgh, and as I look back on it, I now think what he was miming was not Pittsburgh at all but a man driving golf cart through a revolving door – or possibly two men dismantling a printing press.”