I guess I fail the test, since I answered "no" to both questions, though I suppose Brad Andresen from college (the one who always said of me, "You're more liberal than you think you are.") would be happy to hear that I'd be more likely to think it alright to slap my dad in a skit than to worry about touching a faucet.

Posted by Jon Daley on May 29, 2009, 10:39 am | Read 14175 times
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Hmmm. Disgust as a measure of one's political leanings? I would probably slap my father in a skit if he asked me to, but only if I could make it look effective without hurting him (i.e. sound effects would be needed). And it doesn't disgust me to touch the faucet in a public restroom, but simple prudence (the faucet is what people touch after using the toilet and before washing their hands) convinces me to turn it off with a paper towel rather than my newly-washed hands. So does that make me liberal or conservative?

What does disgust me is this guy's analysis of the difference between the moral values of liberals and conservatives: One of the main divides between left and right is the dependence on different moral values. For liberals, morality derives mostly from fairness and prevention of harm. For conservatives, morality also involves upholding authority and loyalty — and revulsion at disgust. Bizarre, I say. Doesn't fit anything (or anyone) I know of in real life.

Posted by SursumCorda on May 29, 2009, 12:44 pm

How would you analyze the differences (if any?) between the moral values of liberals and conservatives and the differences (if any?) in the genesis of those values?

For the record, I hadn't previously thought of not using my hands to turn off the tap.

Posted by Stephan on May 30, 2009, 9:39 am

I don't think one can possibly categorize moral values as liberal or conservative, certainly not in the sense of applying the categorization to real people. My experience is that most people have, at core, values that are quite similar; it is in application and emphasis that they diverge. For example, respect for human life and liberty leads some to oppose abortion and others to fight for right to that procedure -- the one focuses on the life of the child, the other on the life of the mother. Those who oppose the death penalty generally do so out of respect for the life and dignity of the human being -- and the possibility of error in the legal process that would convict an innocent man -- while its proponents are thinking of the life and dignity of the victims -- and the possibility of an error in the legal process that would put a murderer back on the streets to kill again. There are those who support factory farming, genetically modified foods, stem cell research, infant vaccination, you name it, for their potential in relieving suffering -- and those who oppose them for the same reason.

I'm not saying that there aren't people who are motivated by greed, lust, anger, or any and all other sins, nor am I saying that one side is not more right and/or more righteous than another on any particular issue. But I don't think the motivations divide up neatly into liberal and conservative.

The bathroom faucet thing is not nearly as disturbing as watching a restaurant employee exit the bathroom without having washed her hands and then proceed to prepare one's food...but it's a logical extension.

Posted by SursumCorda on May 30, 2009, 10:43 am

Stephan's question reminds me of a talk I found on TED.com that I found thought provoking but didn't want to bother people with. Since it directly address the question in a relatively balanced, if not completely satisfactory way, I'll pass it on now. Jonathan Haidt on the moral roots of liberals and conservatives

Posted by IrishOboe on May 31, 2009, 9:59 am

Interesting. Clearly the writer of the article read the same research. I don't know what to think, other than, once again, there's some odd stereotyping going on. I know he's playing to his audience, but I do dislike the clear sense that of course liberals are right, high-minded, kind, and open to the truth, whereas conservatives are primitive, dumb, mean, and narrow. And eat at bad restaurants!

But even though it seems to me as if the speaker hasn't done enough of it himself, I do appreciate his preaching the need to step outside of your own universe long enough to understand another's point of view. It reminds me of some friends who have an incredible marriage...but only after years of pain and struggle and counseling. One of the most important things their counselor told them right at the start, they will tell you, was "If you are here because you think the other person needs help, you're dead wrong. The place where change needs to happen is in your own heart."

Posted by SursumCorda on May 31, 2009, 5:00 pm

I couldn't resist signing up for the studies at http://www.yourmorals.org/, mentioned in Janet's link. At one time I avoided all such questionnaires, on the grounds that personal questions were none of the surveyor's business, but then I realized that if I don't participate, I shouldn't shake my head and say, "Where did they get that idea; they never asked me!"

The first survey I took was "Moral Foundations," in which it was clear they were asking about the five "innate" moral factors mentioned in the TED talk: harm/care, fairness/reciprocity, ingroup/loyalty, authority/respect, purity/sanctity. What astonished me is that, even though I thought many of my answers were only slightly in the "conservative" position, and some were clearly "liberal" -- I matched the conservative results nearly point for point. Only in harm/care was I in the center zone. I suspect that strongly believing that children should be taught respect for authority was partially responsible, but maybe I'm just as conservative as my brother thinks I am. :)

Posted by SursumCorda on June 1, 2009, 4:05 pm

On the other hand, the Personality Scale tells me I'm more extroverted than average (of those who have taken the survey on the website, anyway), so what do they know?

Posted by SursumCorda on June 1, 2009, 4:16 pm

Hrm - their quiz must be skewed or something, since I scored lower than average for the extroverted-ness.

I have no idea what they are talking about: "(Just think about the kinds of foods likely to be served at very liberal or very conservative social events.)".

I am happy to score quite low on the "neuroticism" scale: 1.8/5.

Posted by jondaley on June 1, 2009, 6:39 pm

Disgust quiz:

"I would rather eat a piece of fruit than a piece of paper" I am probably more likely than an average adult to eat a piece of paper, but who would prefer paper to fruit?

For this quiz, I was average for all categories, which the averages were all low.

Gratitude quiz: I was lower than both "liberals" and "conservatives" which were basically the same on this site. It is often hard for me to remember to be grateful for lots of things.

I am not sure how useful these comparisons are to the subset of the general public who took these tests.

Posted by jondaley on June 1, 2009, 6:44 pm

Last quiz for today, the first one with the five categories:

Harm, Fairness, Loyalty, Authority, Purity

2.2, 2.0, 2.2, 2.2, 3.0

3.0, 3.0, 3.1, 3.3, 2.9

3.7, 3.8, 2.1, 2.1, 1.3

It is interesting that the values for conservatives do not match what their research says it should. Perhaps the "conservatives" (out of the 55K liberals, and 8K conservatives) who are taking these quizzes are the more left-leaning conservatives, since the "hard-core" conservatives wouldn't bother watching a video on TED, or join Jonathan Haidt's studies?

Or perhaps, it is all just a bunch of junk anyway, so doesn't mean anything.

Posted by jondaley on June 1, 2009, 6:53 pm

This is kind of fun, but I sure don't see any relevance. Disgust scale: I was below average in everything, except 1/10 above average in "contamination." But what do you expect when you ask a genealogist to rank, "I would go out of my way to avoid walking through a graveyard." :)

But I hit the maximum on the gratitude quiz, and considerably better than both liberals and conservatives on religion/spirituality, though the questions did not seem the most useful to me. I gave up on the "social dominance" survey, which was full of unanswerable questions, talking about "groups" without defining what distinguished the groups.

Posted by SursumCorda on June 1, 2009, 10:26 pm
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