Saturday, January 03, 2015

Back To Help Request

No one has popped up with a link to the research requested below, so I'm going to go at it tentatively.

The article was a summary of a study, so there is already a filter through the author of the piece.  Next, you are reading this from me, so we have your biases and mine added in.  Initially, there were whatever biases the researcher had in designing, interpreting, and publishing the results.  We don't know how much actual light is making it through, here.

Topping it all off, the purpose of this post will be to look at what some of the weaknesses in the conclusion there might be, even if everything is exactly as advertised and remembered.  If you are wondering why I am bothering at all with so many caveats, well, I wonder that myself. Practice in being suspicious of results that tell me (mostly) what I want to hear, perhaps.

The claim was that everyone but social conservatives was influenced in their moral beliefs by what they thought others believed as well. What was measured was whether people approved of gay marriage or not, depending on what they had been told by the researchers before the opinions were sought. Something was read or given beforehand to some participants but not to others which influenced them in favor of gay marriage.  Whatever it was worked on everyone but social conservatives.

Before reading this, my claim has long been that everyone is influenced by such social cues, but liberals more deeply than others, and in some cases almost entirely by such considerations. So the research would give some support to the idea that I was on to something in my observation.

Here are the problems. I write these while still believing that the study captures something valuable, but just isn't as tight as one would like.

I wish they had chosen something other than attitudes toward gay marriage to measure. In Jonathan Haidt's model of moral decision-making, conservatives use five axes of measurement, liberals only two, and one of the ones C's use but L's don't is purity vs disgust. I think Haidt's research, particularly his initial research, gets this at least partly wrong because he chose items likely to disgust conservatives, leaving out ones which would disgust liberals. I discussed this in more detail about two years ago. This is of particular importance in discussing homosexuality.  There is a strain of opposition that does seem altogether too interested in telling us about the disgusting acts homosexuals engage in.  I don't know how common it is among those who disapprove of same-sex relationships, because I don't hear it from anyone I meet.  Of course, we all tend to meet people in common areas like workplace lunchrooms, church lobbies, and soccer sidelines, which are places where one wouldn't tend to be too graphic about describing anal intercourse.  From my online reading I have come to acknowledge that there is a group out there for whom this is indeed a big part of why they disapprove. I just don't know how big it is, and how that affects the data.  That group might be especially impervious to social pressure, skewing the numbers for conservatives.

Similarly, something may be happening on the other side of the question.  It may be that not everyone is socially influenced, but that there is a subgroup - perhaps a personality type - that is strongly influenced by what is socially popular.  Those may be distributed among the population at first, but gradually move in the direction of what is most generally popular. This is the group that can be moved from "Four legs bad, two legs good," to "Four legs bad, two legs better" pretty quickly, if they see the right movies and news commentators. Do they move from liberal to conservative in other cultures?  I don't see that. But if so, then getting them rolling is indeed the key to revolutionary success. Worrisome.


Sam L. said...

Could be a case of social posturing; I keep reading that libs want to show, or be seen to show, that they have all the "right" and "socially-approved" points of view of those who are "smart". Go along to get along, don't rock the boat sort of thing.

unfairy tales said...


unfairy tales said...
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Assistant Village Idiot said...

Seems close. It's not it, but the sidebar of other articles tells me there's starting to be a lot of research in the area. Good find.

Texan99 said...

It's simpler than any of that for me. I am fond of too many gay friends to disapprove of them. Or, at least, if I'm suspicious of the effects of their childless sex, I have no room to talk, being in a childless marriage myself.

When it comes to sexual judgments, I tend to draw a sharp distinction between people who commit for life and those who don't. But even there, it's a question of the attitude I'm most comfortable with, not one of consigning the other group to the fiery depths.