Thursday, September 30, 2021

Anxiety and Ideology

A popular psychology article about a recent study on anxiety and political beliefs The Unexpected Relationship Between Ideology and Anxiety.  With Ann Althouse, I ask "Why unexpected?" I have been saying this since the 90s, that despite the  accusations that conservatives are afraid and anxious and just can't handle all the changes and the modern world in general that it is actually the opposite: liberals cannot endure people not doing things the way they should given this frightening world that is falling apart and are just so anxious about that - and they project.  I exaggerate unfairly, but the core point remains.  The conventional wisdom is backward in this case - as it often is. The correlations of Big Five personality characteristics with ideology were also interesting. Not shocking to me at all, frankly.

The results are also consistent with another study using American data ... that found that people on the extreme political left reported higher rates of having mental disorders than people on the right. As I noted, research on the “Big Five” traits of extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness to experience has found that people identifying as politically liberal tend to be higher on openness to experience and neuroticism and lower on conscientiousness than their conservative counterparts (Fatke, 2017; Gerber et al., 2011). Additionally, surveys find that neuroticism is more strongly related to economic than social liberalism (Gerber et al., 2009).

The actual Finnish study based on British data is here. The data set is people who were all born in the same week in 1958, who have been followed over the years on a variety of measures. This particular study was a subset of 7,000 members of that group.


Harold Boxty said...

Michael Savage has been saying at least since 2005 that liberalism is a mental disorder.

Texan99 said...

"neuroticism is more strongly related to economic than social liberalism"--those two categories are juxtaposed as if they were similar, but psychologically surely they are polar opposites. Social liberalism generally connotes a willingness to let other people make their own choices. Economic liberalism is a belief that certain people should use the power of the state to commandeer the resources of other people, rather than leaving people to bargain freely with each other barring only violence and fraud.

One of those views posits a world in which, although we're connected, each of us is an an adult individual who can respect the differences of others while taking responsibility for (and only for) his own decisions. The other posits a world in which each of us is either an infant in endless search of a teat, or a mean mommy rejecting her hungry baby. In which group would neuroticism likely predominate?

Pictander said...

Lawrence Auster once wrote, concerning nationalised health care, that liberals don't want the burden of choosing. I think he's right. Being anxious minded myself, I know the paralysing anxiety of choice. I'm also a welfare state liberal, but I think public services such as health care shouldn't be monopolies, but rather default services for those who don't bother to make active choices.

(For the record: I know that taxation is theft. I'm for that theft. I'm a bad person.)

Texan99 said...

Even I could live with publicly funded health care as a default service for those who, for one reason or another, couldn't or wouldn't make the choices that would have made health care part of their basic budget, like food and shelter. I'd means-test it, and I'd have a way out for people who game the system and then want $1MM worth of luxury care, but I can stand safety nets within reasonable limits. You don't even have to steal people's money to fund those; we'll actually vote for it in honest elections.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

There would be mission-creep and default health care (or health insurance) would own more and more of the system. That bothers me less than it did twenty years ago. As Tex notes, if we choose something, we choose it, even if it isn't the correct answer and it costs us money. I don't mind if we say "We go here and no farther," but my children say "Nah, we're going here." We may be wrong, and historians may condemn us both, but I approve of societies making their own choice.

I would like it better if it were done in federalist manner, so that South dakota and Connecticut don't have to do the same thing. I doubt that will happen.

David Foster said...

In her book Menace in Europe, Claire Berlinski noted that there have been many religious cults, Christian heresies of one kind or another, that were obsessed with *purity*, especially purity of food, and that times that seem apocalyptic tend to produce such groups. Better explained in my review of her book, here:

Note also this piece on environmental ritualism asa way of coping with fear of disorder:

Assistant Village Idiot said...

As I read, I recalled it from when you wrote in 2014. I had also noted the interesting birthrate data depending on WWII actions of countries back in 2006, though my analysis missed a few tricks at the time.

I wonder if the purity focus is also part of both the desire to get vaccinated and the desire to avoid vaccination. Different sorts of purity. It is one of Jonathan Haidt's axes of moral motivation.

Texan99 said...

Purity obsessions are rituals to ward off evil. It's a lot like not stepping on cracks in the sidewalk, a bargain with the universe that, if you follow a formula, the bad thing won't destroy you.

We're deeply superstitious by nature. Only a top layer of cognition tries to override it. A lot of people barely try, which is OK with me as long as they don't try too hard to enlist my compliance.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

But in the case of covid, masks, and vaccines, the purity obsessions flow from both sides, and one side or the other will be making us do what they want. Those who do not want the vaccine are forcing the rest of us to accept a greater level of danger because of their superstition*, and those who want the purity of universal vaccination are trying to enforce theirs. The tipoff is how often they slip into the argument that the people resisting vaccination are not merely wrong, but bad people.

*I am increasingly convinced that this is largely non-medical, flowing more from a starting point of believing "the government is always trying to take my freedom," and extending that to everything that comes down the pike, so that the information from pharmaceutical companies and scientific research is perceived as coming from "the government," because various agencies are using that data to make policy.

Tom Bridgeland said...

AVI said '...There would be mission-creep and default health care (or health insurance) would own more and more of the system. That bothers me less than it did twenty years ago...'

My concern, born of viewing Obama-Care from the inside, working at an insurance company, and as a patient, and as a nurse, is that centrally directed health care would be simply stupid.

One example. Obama-care pays for virtually any sort of female birth control you can name, including abortion. It does NOT pay for the only form of birth control easily available to men, and the only form that also prevents disease, even deadly or sterilizing disease. Condoms. Is that stupidity, or something else? (Am I paranoid?)

Two. Obama-care pays for nearly useless yearly blood tests, ones that have only a very limited correlation to your health. Cholesterol checks, PSA, which might suggest that many years from now you might possibly have an increased risk for a serious illness. Once in 5-10 years is sufficient for these tests. It does NOT pay for a Basic Metabolic Panel nor a Complete Blood Count, either of which will indicate that something is wrong right now. Things that you can do something about.

So I am very skeptical that any central health system devised by the US government will actually do practical things that improve health.