Peter Ditto – Morals, Facts, and Libertarians: New Developments in the Science of Ideology

September 03, 2012

Several times on this show, we’ve discussed the topic of ideological asymmetry. In other words, are people of all political persuasions equally biased, equally prone to reasoning based on their emotions to support prior commitments?

new scientific paper (PDF) has recently come out that reopens this question, so naturally, we had to invite on one of its authors. His name is Peter Ditto, and he’s a social psychologist at the University of California-Irvine who has been a leader in the study of emotional, or motivated, reasoning.

At the same time, Ditto also studies the psychological foundations of political ideology more broadly. And in another recent paper, he and colleagues including Jonathan Haidt, provide a wealth of data on the personalities and motivations of people who choose to be libertarian. So we wanted to talk about that as well.

Peter Ditto
is department chair and professor of psychology and social behavior at the University of California-Irvine. His research focuses on motivated reasoning and how our differing moral emotions tend to impel it—and how it is involved in partisan political biases.

The scientific papers discussed in this episode are the following:


Today’s episode of Point of Inquiry is brought to you by Psychon, the conference dedicated to science and skeptical inquiry happening this October 25th through the twenty eighth in Nashville, Tennessee. Visit CSI conference dot org for more information. 

This is Point of inquiry from Monday, September 3rd, 2012. 

Welcome to a point of inquiry. I’m Chris Mooney point of inquiry is the radio show and the podcast of the Center for Inquiry, a think tank advancing reason, science and secular values in public affairs and at the grassroots. Couple of times on this show, we’ve discussed the topic of ideological asymmetry. In other words, are people of all political persuasions just equally biased but in different directions, equally prone to reason, based on their emotions, to support their prior ideological commitments? A recent scientific paper has come out that I think really throws down the gantlet on this question. So I wanted to have on one of its authors. His name is Peter Dedeaux and he’s a social psychologist at the University of California, Irvine, and he’s been a leader for a long time. The study of emotional or motivated reasoning. At the same time, Dedeaux also studies the psychological foundations of political ideology in a more broad sense. And in another recent paper, he and his colleagues provide a wealth of data on the personalities and the motivations of people who choose to be libertarians. So we wanted to talk about that as well. It’s really kind of a scientific breakthrough. Peter Dedeaux is department chair and professor of psychology and social behavior at the University of California, Irvine. His research focuses on motivated reasoning and how our differing moral emotions tend to impel it and how it is involved in partizan political biases. And for all of you political psychology wonks out there, these are the scientific papers we’re going to be discussing in the episode. The first one is by Lou and Dedeaux. It’s entitled What Dilemma? Moral Evaluation Shapes Factual Belief. It’s just out in social, psychological and personality science. The second paper has five authors, IHR, Kaleeba, Graham, Dedeaux and Hite. It’s entitled Understanding Libertarian Morality, the Psychological Dispositions of Self-identified Libertarians. And this one is just out in Pelosse one. Peter Dedeaux, welcome to Point of Inquiry. Thanks for having me, Chris. 

It’s wonderful to have you. You’ve done this fascinating study. You working with Brittany Lou at the University, California, Irvine. It seems so close to current events. We have this big hoopla over today in the Missouri Republican claiming that in cases of, quote unquote, legitimate rape, women have some sort of physiological defense against it. And the scientist has said, and this is nonsense. The question then is why does he believe it? And that’s where your new paper in social, psychological and personality science comes out. So tell us. So tell us what you did. 

Well, you know, it the the work that’s been in this recent paper is really part of a long program or a search that I’ve been involved with, the kind of look at how people’s emotions organize their their thoughts, you know, the things that they believe. And, you know, in this case, it were really engineered sort of these moral intuitions that people have, these moral commitments that people have and how they have a way of sort of organizing people’s factual belief. So, again, morality, something very different from facts. These are things that you think that you evaluate as being right or wrong morally. But, you know, they have this effect on on the factual beliefs that people have. And we see, you know, one of the more it kind of obvious things about the political landscape these days is sort of crazy things that people believe in, the differences between liberals and conservatives and what they believe. 

And Aikens comments are a good example of sort of, you know, extreme example, I think, of of how your moral stance can affect your your beliefs and that he wants to believe it’s a very difficult position. He’s ended to believe in kind of a rape policy, with no exceptions, no exceptions for rape or incest. And so one way to kind of make yourself feel better about that is they will you know, these rape based pregnancies really are infrequent. They really kind of at a policy level. They’re inconsequential because you don’t they don’t happen very often. And women have these natural defenses against these things and, you know, not. And then a lot of rapes really aren’t rape. There’s this sort of alleged legitimate rape. There’s forcible rape, and there’s these other sorts of things. And so it kind of it’s a good sort of case study, I think, in how you are what we think is true morally kind of gets wrapped up in what we think is true factually. 

And so, yeah. And you said this is the moral issue. Intuitionist perspective. And we had Jonathan Haidt on the show back in March. So we referred about this before. But I mean, the outlook is that you go from your morals to your facts. You don’t go from facts to your morals. Right. The morals are there first. And they’re guiding. They’re guiding everything. Right. 

Right. Well, that’s the emulate of the way I always talk about. Is that affecting cog and intuition, organized cognition. And so we all have this sense of feel that it goes that we’re rationalist by our own self perceptions. We said, well, you know, the reason I believe my you know, these factual beliefs or even my political beliefs or because I go from the facts and I build them up, would all feel a wealth of social psychological research has shown over the years. And John Hights work on moral intuition is exactly the same flavor, which is the process kind of goes backward. It doesn’t go from bottom to top. It goes from top to bottom as we have these sort of sense of, well, that’s wrong or that’s right. And then, well, how do we why do I believe that? How do I come up with reasons that that sort of support that and I’m not trying to say in my mind, justified. And that’s just the way I’m thinking to go, boy, this is wrong. And so, you know what’s going on here and new. You might. It changes the way that you process information. So in this. So in Aiken’s case, again, it may be that people hear these things or they know somebody, some medical doctor with sort of fringy ideas about why, you know, here’s his arguing. I could lay out about why women have a natural defense against getting pregnant from rape. And, you know, that sounds I hear I.A, this guy seems to read my book. I believe that was somebody who, you know, didn’t want to believe that would treat that much more skeptically. And so, you know, this sort of ah ah, all these kind of general sort of things. We have moral commitments, team commitments to, you know, even just at the level of I’m a Republican, I’m a Democrat or, you know, at a personal level, things that make you feel good about yourself. All those things kind of organize the way we think to such that they very often will change our factual beliefs about the world. And that’s the kind of wild part, you know, sort of violates this enlightenment idea of, you know, the value fact distinction that very often are sort of our values affect the facts that we believe. 

Well, it’s I mean, it’s it’s good to say this and that this happens. But what’s what I think casts the most relevant light on current events is that you actually tested this. You actually in the late I mean, you’ve tested it many times when the latest study, you caught people aligning. Their sense of reality with what their moral views working tell us a little bit more about how you caught them doing that, what the design was. 

Yeah. I mean, there’s sort of two parts to the studies. Two different studies that we talk about in there. There’s actually three. But I mean, the first one just kind of takes advantage of this funny pattern that you see in the world. So. 

Would I am the best example I always think of is people’s beliefs about enhanced interrogation. So what you get is a lot of people who who believe that enhanced interrogation is wrong also believe that it’s ineffective, that it can’t possibly make people produce actionable intelligence from terrorist subjects. 

So wait, wait. Just to clarify, in Hanzi, Garriga Asian includes torture. Is that right? Why is that? Noted a word to use. Just so we know, the euphemism, right. 

Is enhanced interrogation. You know, so, yeah, things like waterboarding. And this was a big controversy, of course, after the Bush administration. And you know, what you’ve got is these people having these sort of you get this pattern lined up where people who think it’s a bad thing also think it’s ineffective. People who think it’s a good thing. You don’t think it’s effective. Same thing happens with the death penalty that young people who are committed to say, well, the death penalty is morally wrong. Also usually think it doesn’t deter crime. And those things are are separable sorts of things. You could say, I sure be on the death penalty deters future murderers, but I’m not going to before because I’m morally against it. But people don’t do that. Their moral commitments usually change the way they demonstrate their factual believes in what we can show across. Well, we know the first one. The first study is just a survey that asks people these sorts of questions about the death penalty, about embryonic stem cell research, enhanced interrogation, and whether you should be promoting condoms to teenagers. And in all those cases you get. And then we ask him questions like, well, how effective are these things? How effective are condoms? How effective is enhanced interrogation and what kind of costs out of these things? And what we’ve shown is that they’re the people’s beliefs about the costs and benefits of of these different acts, all line up with their moral evaluations, with the things that when they say something is inherently immoral because they say that the death penalty is inherently immoral, that, you know, even if it had good consequences, we asked them if this thing, even if the thing had good Conklin’s good consequences, do you think it would still be a moral people? But the more that they say yes to that question, the more they still think that it’s unlikely to deter crime, more like they give higher estimates of how likely it is to have wrongful executions. So they people seem to know the way I describe that you studies as people come to believe that what’s good is also practically effective. And those things aren’t necessarily the same thing. I mean, there’s that if that’s in fact what morality is about, there’s certain things that are maybe practically effective, still aren’t right. But people align those things with their mind and they sort of form these coherent moral systems. We talk about the process of moral coherence. 

And this must, of course, drive academic moral philosophers completely insane. Right, because this violates. Well, it does do things. It violates the distinction between is an art. And it, you know, makes people they sound like deontological thinkers, but they’re actually consequentialist are really they’re not one or the other. So they’re not obeying that kind of ruly. They’re so basically like academic moral philosophy is not capturing very well what people do. 

Yeah, that’s one of the points that we really try to make two points of this. And one of them is this point about your moral reasoning and that sort of through you know, historically, people have treated deontological judgments whose principal judgments as being different from consequentialist judgments of utilitarian cost benefit and of morality and saying, well, look, people either do one or the other. So if you think about these kind of classic moral dilemmas, you know, the trolley problem and and things like this that your audience members may be familiar with, you know, they say, well, you know, you either make a consequentialist judgment or at deontological one. 

And while we show and what comes from this kind of moral intuition is sort of back Astwood moral reasoning processes that people do both of those things. They’ll be they’ll say that I’m deontological opposed to enhanced interrogation, but it’s also the case that it doesn’t work out well. Consequentially, it’s not going to produce the consequences. Then, of course, when you look at a pattern, like I just told you, this sort of correlational pattern where you just see that these things go together. It could be that people just that the reason that they don’t like the enhanced interrogation is, is because they don’t think it’s effective. Right. It could be flowing in this kind of rational way. That’s, in fact, utilitarian reasoning. But what we show in another experiment, the last study is an experiment where we actually manipulate their deontological beliefs. 

We give people essays about the death penalty that either they’re all that they don’t mention any consequences at all. They do is say this is you know, that definitely is morally wrong. It’s a moral wrong or it’s a moral right. And then we show that that changes. They just read those that changes their beliefs about how effective it eternities is and how likely it is to produce wrongful execution. So it’s by changing sort of their feelings about the death penalty. The more morally wrong they think it is, the less effective they think it is as well. 

And so it shows that it actually flows from getting these deontological wishes to the consequentialist beliefs. 

Yeah. And I think this is just I mean, again, I think this is such an amazing window on, you know, on many things in life. But certainly if we then circle back again to to Aken and just to its strong emotional anti-abortionist, there are all these factual beliefs. Yes, I’m sure they’re against. They say it’s absolutely morally wrong. But then they also have to add on that if you have an abortion, a women, it’s going to increase your chance of breast cancer. If you have an abortion, it’s going to increase your chance of mental illness later in life sciences of debunked those just as they’ve debunked Aikens claim. But they can’t stop making them. It’s like they had not got. So that’s why I think this is so insightful. 

Yeah. I mean, another example is, is condoms. You know, where there is this, really. And we talk about this in the paper. There’s this sort of firm belief among many people who were opposed to promoting condoms that condoms don’t work, that they’re ineffective in stopping FTD and and pregnancy. And that makes perfect sense from our perspective, because if you’re saying that, well, gee, you know, you shouldn’t use these because the right is wrong, because it’s wrong to kind of it gives the wrong signal to teenagers. Right, that they’re somehow you’re promoting sex. And I’m really uncomfortable with with that. And therefore all. Yeah, I know the reason you shouldn’t do them is not because of that, but because they don’t work. Right. And so then that sort of feat, you know, has this potential of feeding. And, you know, this is one place where it could have real obvious consequences right away as it feeds into into these kids who get this kind of abstinence only message to say, well, condoms don’t work. And, of course, the urge to have sex is there. And very often people can’t, you know, stop that. And but then they don’t use condoms because they don’t think they work anyway. And so it leads them down this path. And you can see you see some data out there that that seems to show that many of these abstinence only programs actually have exactly this effect, that if they don’t change the time of first intercourse for teenagers. But what they do do is they lower their probability of practicing safe sex. 

Well, so that’s that’s the study. That’s what it finds. Well, let’s wade into some some of the bit more controversial finding you. 

It seems to me in this study, there’s sort of three risk factors, if you will. Three things that increase your likelihood of wanting to conform the facts to your morals. And you say that every one of these is, I guess you’d say, statistically significant. And that is I mean, what let’s take them in order. The first one and think is the most obvious, which is that if you have strong emotional feelings about it, you’re more likely to do it. I mean, I guess that I guess everyone assumes that would be true. 

Yeah. I mean, I think that’s it does demonstrate that it’s sort of a moral phenomenon, that it’s it’s really about the of the more morally committed you are, the more the more you see as a moral mandate, as a really important part of your sort of own morality, the more you show this coherent phenomena. And that makes perfect sense. 

The second one is I think I mean, it’s obvious to me because I’m so familiar with this research, but I think it is still kind of a mind bender for people, which is that the more you know about the issue, the more likely you are to do this. I mean, that was really frustrating, to say the least. 

Yeah. But you can see that that’s you know, so what we show is that actually it’s the more they say they know. And again, one day you’ll be a Brittanys research actually is going on in her dissertation, which is really Ensham is that phenomenon of of this kind of what we call the smart eddied effect. 

Is that the type of call? Yes. 

So, I mean, this and it’s really that’s a really insignificant this is, you know, again, very consistent with that. And at some level, it makes sense that people if you think you know a lot about it, your you can people let let’s assume that people do know a lot about it. They can form these kind of coherent thoughts. You can fit everything together because they have a sort of mental acuity to come up with, you know, how everything fits together. And that’s a trait that we find very attractive. Right. And smart people kind of being able to pull the threads together. But in their own you know, when their own personal commitments are involved, they simply harness that same ability that they might use to do wonderful analysis of other things. 

But the heart of it in service of their own prior beliefs. 

And then here’s the most controversial and I mean I can resist. It is in your data on all four issues. Political conservatives do more than liberals. Why is that? 

You know, that is really the toughest question. And of course, you you and I have talked about this before. It is. I mean, the first thing I think to note about all of these things is that across the board, everybody does this. I mean, there’s good evidence that that the effect is there. And then these these these other. Of qualify the phenomenon and you with conservatives, it’s again, it’s our data don’t really speak to why that happens. One thing you might the first thing in our data that you might imagine is that it’s because they’re more morally committed to things. Right. Maybe they’re the moralist. Maybe they’re the ones that see all these issues as really central moral issues. And that’s what, you know. 

So that in a sense, the conservative phenomenon is this is this is the same as this kind of moral commitment one. But that really isn’t the case. The data, you know, in fact, there is a difference. There isn’t much of a difference between the groups, liberals, conservatives and how committed they are. And to the extent that there is when it goes the opposite way that liberals think they’re more committed. So, I mean, only in conservatives, it’s it may be kind of that they’re just but that they’re high and Strugnell need for structure and an order and that may make their beliefs more coherent maybe. Again, I have some other sort of kind of wylder ideas about, you know, in general why why conservatives may be showing this phenomenon. But it’s hard to also argue in the real life, you know, as you as a political consumer that you don’t see kind of at least beliefs that conform less with what science as in conservatives than you do in liberals. 

Do you think I mean, the most obvious thing going go the psychology. But but there’s something even more obvious, right? 

I mean, there’s religiosity. What about what about its role here? I mean, Soman, so much of this is happening, whether it’s on the abortion issue, sex education, homosexuality, evolution, so much of this is happening because religion confers the moral belief system or is deeply tied up in the moral belief system. And then they the facts are conform accordingly. And that’s more on the right. Could that be the reason? 

I mean, it could. Why don’t we don’t have any data that are, you know, that speak to that directly. But, you know, there’s there’s two sort of versions of that argument even that are, I think, really interesting to entertain imagistic. It’s a fascinating question. So I think more in terms of the future than I do. You know, what we know so far. 

But so there’s a sense of which religious thinking isn’t factually based. It’s faith based and things sort of. There’s a practice that you get, I think, in putting things together that don’t necessarily fit together. And so it could be just sort of a you know, except religion might be involved. It might be sort of, you know, a kind of cognitive style that you develop. 

Alternatively, it could be that, you know, religion defines certain things as morally right and morally wrong. And so you’re hitting people’s hot buttons. And again, I think that’s what that moral commitment phenomenon is, is. Right. If you if you people won’t do this as much, if you challenge them on something that isn’t as important to them. But if you challenge them on something that they really feel is part of their their moral worldview, then that’s when you’re going to get these kind of corner. It’s pharma going on. 

And it may be that religion sort of lays out all those, you know, tells you what those those moral commitments are and it makes you feel embarrassed. 

So I’ve been having a longstanding debate with a guy named Dan Kahan, who’s been on this show twice and including one time where we debated this topic for an hour. And the topic was it was called asymmetry. In other words, does everybody do this the same way or do some people do it more than others? So what is your take on that in light of your new research? 

Yeah, it’s interesting, I had someone just sent me an email right before our we started talking that Callahans got a piece on our piece on his Web site. And so I. Yeah. I mean, my position is first is maybe not unlike bands. I think, first of all. Well, the thing to remember is that everybody does this. You know, everybody’s you know, even in the broadest sense, I think everybody’s ideological commitments bias the way they think about things. 

And I think there’s almost no question that that happens. I mean, it it happens in every walk of life that people’s emotional commitments change the way they think. There’s no reason to think that liberals are immune to that. Now, the question then becomes, are conservatives? Do they do it more? And do they do it more? And then if they do it more than why? And I just think that’s a really difficult question. I think there is evidence like in our paper, again, it’s right there in the data that conservatives do this more. You know, there you know, as you know, there’s a variety of studies of brain physiology that suggests there might be conservative differences. Even again, part of the whole notion of conservatism is resistance to change. It’s it’s. That’s what it’s sort of the unstated moral offenses. And so, you know, it may just be kind of a, you know, a resistance to change in some way. You know, I mentioned these other kind of phenomenon, like, you know, is there is is there maybe something unique about the conservatism today that’s doing it? Is somehow have scientists become taken over as part of the liberal team so that, you know, they become the enemy almost in their day on the conservers may not be inherently, in a sense, resistant to science, but that you can now science is seen as being a sort of a liberal enterprise and therefore they are. Or, you know, the other thing I think is a really interesting hypothesis that just that this what we’re we’re in a period of time historically, I think where. 

It’s very threatening to the conservative sort of ideology. 

I mean, we’re at a time of maximum social change or at least anticipating that we’re the world just isn’t the way it used to be. Things are changing. People are getting, you know, more colorful. You know that people are intermarrying. Then we’ve got this president who doesn’t look like anybody who’s ever been present before and he’s president. Man, this is threatening. And, you know, the world’s changing and I don’t want it to change. And so it just may be that at this point, they are sort of so emotionally threatened that they’ve kind of, in a sense, circle their cognitive wagons. And those are all difficult questions to answer empirically. But all things that I think, you know, people like that can. 

And I want to go out and try and. You know, on taxes, things. 

Well, I, I don’t think it’s the last time we’ll be hearing about it. I don’t even intend for to be less than we hear about it on this show. But I’m just going to say and I am not saying that there is an absolute truth or scientific answer here. But I will just say that I. Your evidence does seem to suggest some kind of a symmetry. 

And Dan Gone admits it does, too, although he thinks the weight of the evidence is still on his side. So we’ll just I mean, maybe we’ll just have to take this and let you guys continue to. Continue to work on it. I’m sure this can prompt new studies. Something else you’ve just actually published several papers. And another way of giving an interesting cognitive and emotional perspective on politics is this new research that you’ve done on. I don’t know if you can call them a kind of conservative, but libertarians, I know we have a lot of them listening to this show. And you’ve just been an author on a sort of comprehensive study of everything that motivates them. So tell us more about that. 

Yeah. So this is a study that comes out of this collaboration with John Hite and a variety of other people in the year Morell’s website. Ravi IRA as the lead author on this paper. It’s wonderful, just this Web site that we have that people could go in and collect data like we’ve gotten take surveys. 

Has this particular audience, which tends to be intellectual, it tends to be liberal, but the people that do sign up and become very well when they’re conservative, they tend to be libertarian. And so, you know, we’ve had a couple hundred thousand people come to this Web site. And then we ended up with this incredible sample of libertarians by the largest sample of libertarians, people anybody ever studies, 11000 or so, you know, in the thousand. So we’re able to sort of look at their psychological dispositions. And again, there’s been a lot of research, as you know, looking at sort of what’s the personality characteristics of liberals versus conservatives. And then, you know, we’ve got one of the things that we’ve always done is ask people to write themselves on these dimensions but also rate themselves, you know, declare whether they’re libertarians. We have these people who are self-declared libertarians. And so we just look across a whole bunch of personality scales and judgment scales and compare them to liberals and conservatives to sort of get a sense of what they’re like. And really what you get is there. And that’s kind of the first hole that libertarians don’t moralize things nearly as much. So we have this moral foundations question here that people across a whole bunch of these sixty five moral foundations that John Hyde and and its moral foundations theory that we work on talks about. And there’s there’s particular liberal and conservative patterns. And we see is that across all of these libertarians don’t moralize things much. They don’t they don’t harm is it isn’t important to them. Fairness this morning to them, things like purity and ingroup. And, you know, whether you win this week’s challenge or three, all these things, they sort of don’t moralize things much, the kind of rational. And then on a bunch of other personality scales, we can show that they are Shali are they’re higher and need for cognition. They are higher. And Simon Baron Cohen has this scale of systemize ears and empathizes, which actually underlies his theory of autism. But they tend to be libertarian, tend to be high systemize as there are people who sort of think about the world in kind of in its component parts and systemized rather than feeling their way through it and their social relations in the same way, they sort of feel like they don’t. A report feeling less of a need for social relationships. 

And so you get this impression of them as being these kind of cold, calculating, relatively unemotional types who then apply that logic to their political views, which actually suggest that the kind of are very much like what they actually suggest that they are. I mean, there are major libertarian publications is called reason. 

So you’d think you’re just confirming what what people have always thought about libertarians, because I mean, I’m surprised you say they are so low on emotion. I mean, they have this one strong emotion, this liberty thing. Right. Which there have even more of than everybody else. 

So that’s it. That’s exactly right. So that there’s the one thing. 

So they tend to score low on all the sort of other traditional sort of moralized foundations. But the one thing that they really care about is liberty. So and we ask them questions like that and they place it essentially they have this sort of two dimensional moral sense, which is that if it doesn’t, you know, if things violate individual liberty, they’re their moral problem. If they don’t, they’re not. I’m not so worried about those. And that’s, again, very consistent with what they would describe as their own ideology, which I think is surprising about those. It’s getting very consistent with this general idea that that that I work with, which is that people’s. 

Political views. There are these sort of well reasoned beliefs that people have have an emotional basis. And so people have general, are born with certain dispositions or you create them or early in life, emotional dispositions. And those things play out organized there, the way they process information to lead them, you know, sort of the tip, the balance toward liberalism, conservatism or libertarianism. So if you’re high in empathy, if you just feel a lot for people, you feel other people’s pain, then that starts to organize your cognitions about things. Well, what’s the right social policy? 

Well, you know, you’ve got to take care of people, got to take care of the downtrodden, because I think about what happened to them. It just feels so bad, right, that I just you’ve got the right thing to do. Has to be this. I developed a social safety net. If you’re a libertarian and you don’t feel those things, if you don’t, you’re not sort of tugged with emotion by them. It’s much easier to say, you know, let’s let the market sort it out. Let’s let some people life has winners and losers. Let’s be grown ups here. And some people are going to lose. And some people are going to win. And but the best system, the fairest system is one where the market determines, you know, what happens. And this government shouldn’t have a social safety net. And so it makes sense if you think about what their emotional dispositions are, where they get to cognitively. 

So given all this and there’s two things is striking about the study. One is I mean, are we. Are we wrong or not wrong to say that libertarians are are kind of on the right? Because it’s this is just one emotion of liberty that they do share with regular conservatives. 

But all the other things, they don’t really seem to. 

And yet they wind up the Libyans thing ends up being so strong, they wind up usually on the right. So is that fair or is that not fair? 

Well, I mean, it’s it’s a it’s fair in the sense that in today’s conservative conservatism and of course, historically as well, I mean, you can equate individual liberty with small government. And so in that sense, they tend to favor smaller government. Now, what everybody bemoans is the hypocrisy on Voltio, both liberals, conservatives. So, you know, classic liberal critique as well. You know, you. So you don’t want. You want everybody be free. But, you know, you’re willing to give. You’ll make require women to have a transvaginal probe before they have, you know, make an individual choice to have an abortion or, you know. But you’re hung up on or you care about liberty, but you won’t let people smoke pot. No, you won’t. You don’t favor those things. Right. So that’s the sort of hypocrisy that you get on the right and you get in the right. Makes it smart. Particular the left, you know, on on some of these economic issues. And these libertarians are actually the ones that we have to say that they’re libertarians reveal a very principled position. 

They also if you look at their attitudes, they tend to be not only do they care about liberty, but they also are much less anti-abortion than conservatives are. They’re more pro drug legalization. So they really do seem to be living out their creed in the sense that they score high and economic. They put a lot of faith in economic liberty, but also a lot of faith in in lifestyle liberty. 

And that’s the kind of libertarianism that splits the difference between right and left these days. And that actually may be a fairly attractive ideology to a lot of people. 

Well, it seems to be. But one last question. It’s it’s always struck me as a kind of male ideology. Does your data support that? 

Absolutely, it is. 

I mean, so just empirically, we have more male libertarians and female libertarians. And if you look at if you sort of take seriously this idea of of, you know, sort of this autistic personality notion that’s empathize or sympathizer, and that’s sort of the Simon Baron Cohen is one of the most famous child psychologist. It’s an autism and EVC that is sort of a male brain syndrome. Right. That is sort of to systemizing without the empathizing. You’re too much interested in just going to put in the component parts together. And that’s a particularly male score higher. Again, even the non pathological way. Right. So I’m not calling anybody autistic, but it’s a spectrum. And so, you know, males are are more systemizing velis or libertarian’s that, you know, there is that kind of sense in which it is a emotionless or relatively emotionless sort of cerebral ideology that may be more attractive, you know, and empirically seems more attractive to males and females. 

There’s this is really fascinating, of course, for the listeners of this show, I would think, because in the you know, the Freethought Athie ism, scientific skepticism movements, there’s always been this real tension where, you know, nobody believes in God. Everyone’s a critical thinker. But, gosh, you might be a liberal. You’re not your religious conservative. That’s like impossible, but you might be a liberal or you might be a libertarian. And sometimes they just come the block, metaphorically speaking, of course, but they’re living in that same sort of world. I mean, does that make sense based upon your research? 

Yeah, I think that it makes perfect sense. Right. I mean, that’s the sort of, you know, space that the intellectual space that they tend to inhabit. It’s like, well, I’m not hung up on these things on that, you know, sort of these religious convictions or these lose these right wing convictions about, you know, the value of patriotism, of, you know, traditional authority and and religion and things like that. So I could kind of think my way through those things. And both liberals and. Libertarians can do that because those four liberals, those aren’t their hangup for poor libertarians, they don’t have you know, they’re not too encumbered by emotional things. And for them, for liberals, those aren’t their things. 

Now, where liberals come off the go off the rails and I think this is what, you know, political psychology than saying this don’t get dizzy or very fond of sort of saying, well, look, those conservatives, all they’re so emotionally biased and the other by their sort of, you know, old fashioned things. 

But liberals are are very much the same way, in my opinion. I mean and I you know, my politics are liberal. And I’ve always said that, you know, the one thing that sort of gets me is I feel too much for four people. And so I don’t you know, I understand sort of the value of certain, you know, policies of of, you know, independents and, you know, kind of allowing people to make their own way in the world. But I when people lose, it just makes me feel terribly. I want to I want to help them win it. I want to take care of them. And so, you know, I kind of say, well, you know, maybe you should not worry about those things I’ve always had of my own children. The other example I always give is, you know, I thought I was a pretty good parent to my kids were all grown up now as if I had one problem, which is I could never let them fail. So my kids would forget their homework at school. I was at home and they go to school. I think I’m palmy me with a knife. I should just let them fail that test because, you know, that’s what that bell will teach them a lesson. And then over a little bit time ago, my wife and I would tell that, well, I can’t we can’t let them do that. 

We got to go and bring it, bring on their homework, you know, so we would we would take care of them because we couldn’t emotionally take it. Right. Did to allow them to fail on that sort of the liberal emotional problem. And so, you know, the liberals have their own little emotional hang ups. Conservatives have those. And libertarians, in a sense, are unencumbered by those emotional trappings. And so sometimes they’re able to kind of think through those and then are attracted to those. 

Kinds of enterprises. 

Well, I’m glad we’ve gotten to go into both of these studies now because, I mean, the big picture is that politics and ideology don’t work anything like the way people would like to think they do, because the emotions or the dispositions, the personalities, the commitments come first. And then they set in motion all these beliefs and all of these ideologies. And we just drilled down on one libertarianism on what kind of impels it and what kind of people adopting. So is ever going to be a day. Can you see a day in which politics even remotely takes any of this into account? Because I mean, it’s completely upside down from where the way we currently think about things. Are you guys just gonna keep toiling away while mainstream political discourse is sound and fury kind of ignorant of all this research? 

Yeah. You know, that’s, of course, what social scientists are good at, is identifying problems and describing problems, and they’re much less good at offering solutions. But you can see that, you know, the landscape of the problems of if people’s emotions, their moral commitments or or organize the way they think they’re organizing, the way they process scientific information in particular, well, then it makes a big problem for, you know, this whole notion of that that a lot of us might favor, which is kind of an evidence based policy. Right. What does the science tell you is the best thing to do? And so then let’s do it. But if the two sides have different emotional commitments, they look at the science differently. Some trusted, some don’t, then, you know, it’s hard to overcome. It becomes another obstacle that we fight about. And, you know, if we ever hope to have sort of a rational politics, we’re gonna have to figure out some way to kind of get people to sort of see through their own biases. Now, on the bright side, I think that that’s what people are terrible at doing that themselves. 

People are terrible at. Identifying and correcting for their own biases. And at some level, that’s what Democratic politics is supposed to do, right? 

It’s supposed to be this debate between sides so that, you know, each have different biases and then you work it out to try to resolve some generate some conclusion based on what the majority think is a bit of the best characterization. The data is the answer. But it’s just tough to overcome. These things are powerful. And I think the media just reinforced this because of this sort of bifurcated media environment we have. And that creates these funny matrices, these, you know, echo chambers that both sides live in. That reinforces their own beliefs as well. So I don’t know. I’m not optimistic in the short term about how to fix this. 

Well, but I got to thank you anyway for at least, you know, providing so much added clarity on it, because I think this is fascinating research. And so I’m I’m glad to know that. And I’m glad you’ve have learned a lot from you and your in your work. 

So on that note, let me just I’ll let me just thank you for being with us on the show. 

Well, thanks, Chris, for having me. It was fun. 

Hey, Barry. Yes, Rebecca Barry has some concerns about Psychon. You know, it’s coming up soon. October 25th to 28. And as you recall, I was there last year. Yes. And I had a great time. But I heard a rumor that this year there will not be a fancy apple bar. 

Well, right now, Rebecca, I do not have an Apple bar plan. Well, I will be honest with you. Barry, why? Why should I go? 

You should go, Rebecca, because some of the biggest names of skepticism are gonna be there. Like. Like you like what to start off. Richard Weissman, he’s our M.C. for the event. People like Chris Mooney, Karen Stollznow, Lawrence Krauss, Indre Viskontas, David Gorsky, Jon Ronson, who I think you know, Elizabeth Loftus Kilt, Havas, Eugenie Scott, Joe Nicole, Ben Radford’s, Steve Novello. 

I mean, they keep flooding my mind. How many these great people are coming. Skeptics are going to be the skeptics guide to the universe doing a live broadcast. What else do you need? 

Well, Barry, your enthusiasm is infectious. However, what else have you got? Come on. 

What else have. What else? Well, like. Like last year we’re doing a costume party. OK. I did have a lot of fun with that last year. Yes. We’re also doing a blood drive. Vampire blood drive, I think fits. It’s the feelings of Halloween. 

Yes. We also have the local astronomy club in Nashville that coming setting up through telescopes who are doing a thing called Starry Starry Night. Is it is it good? 

No, no, no. Not not not enough. No. That was a really great amplifier. Well, how about this? We’re doing a honkytonk bus trip to the bars downtown. 

Oh, what bus trip? Honky tonk. Never say that again. Honky never. Don’t say it again. Look, the Apple Bar was like a crucial part of my diet last year. 

Rebecca, you know, we’re having an authentic Tennessee Nashville barbecue event, open barbecue, plenty of pork and beef and chicken. And Barry. I’m a vegetarian. Vegetarian. Well, do you know Rebecca? We’re also having a moonshine tasting event. I’ll be there. 

I want to thank you for listening to this episode of Point of Inquiry to join the discussion about this show, you can visit us at point of inquiry, dawg, and leave your comments. You can also send questions and comments to feedback at point of inquiry dot org. You can find us on Twitter at point of inquiry and on Facebook at slash point of inquiry. The views expressed on point of inquiry are not necessarily the views of the Center for Inquiry, nor of its affiliated organizations. 

One of is produced by Atomize ICCJ in Amherst, New York. Our music is composed by Emmy Award winning Michael Wailin. Today’s intro featured Debbie Goddard. I’m your host Chris Mooney. 

Chris Mooney