As I've noted in other blog posts, morality has an enormous impact on political considerations. Along these lines come some very interesting observations from the New York Times:
"If you want to tell whether someone is conservative or liberal, what are a couple of completely nonpolitical questions that will give a good clue?
"How’s this: Would you be willing to slap your father in the face, with his permission, as part of a comedy skit?
"And, second: Does it disgust you to touch the faucet in a public restroom?
"Studies suggest that conservatives are more often distressed by actions that seem disrespectful of authority, such as slapping Dad. Liberals don’t worry as long as Dad has given permission.
"Likewise, conservatives are more likely than liberals to sense contamination or perceive disgust. People who would be disgusted to find that they had accidentally sipped from an acquaintance’s drink are more likely to identify as 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 is much more — it also involves loyalty, upholding authority and striving for purity. (Purity is related to the part of the moral mind that fuels our revulsion at disgust and makes us see carnality as degrading.)
"Liberals and conservatives don’t just think differently, they also feel differently. This may even be a result, in part, of divergent neural responses." Because of differences in the function of the medial prefrontal cortex of the brain, liberals sometimes have a blunted response to situations and objects that should elicit strong feelings of disgust.
Psychologists believe that disgust is "a protective mechanism against health risks such as feces, spoiled food or corpses." Societies apply the same emotion to social threats. "Humans appear to be the only species that registers disgust, which is why a dog will wag its tail in puzzlement when its horrified owner yanks it back from eating excrement."
"Psychologists have developed a 'disgust scale' based on how queasy people would be in 27 situations, such as stepping barefoot on an earthworm or smelling urine in a tunnel. Conservatives systematically register more disgust than liberals."
I would tend to conclude that conservatives should be thankful for their sophisticated medial prefrontal cortex and proud of their uniquely human and highly developed disgust mechanism. But of course the NY Times concludes that because of these disgust-related hangups, conservatives minds are superstitious, close-minded and dishonest. (They also note that Obama is brilliant — because he has all this figured out and has transcended the tribal morality of yesteryear.)
Snobby conclusions aside, I think there are some important lessons we can learn here.
Leftists cannot be expected to respond to the morally sophisticated arguments that conservatives try to present. And even if they understand the intellectual component of our arguments, they won't necessarily react with the same emotional depth that we would expect from fellow conservatives.
So let's be patient, and let's recognize that liberals and moderates need an education that they can understand and appreciate.
Update, from adagioforstrings:
Psychologists believe that disgust is "a protective mechanism against health risks such as feces, spoiled food or corpses." Aha! So that's why so many dead people vote Democratic!
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What do you find disgusting? Explore the disgust scale. My results:
My scores are shown in green, compared to the average of all other people (in purple) who have taken the scale.