Thursday, December 02, 2004

Conservative or Liberal? - it's bilogical

Via Gene Expression (who helpfully provides registration details)

Of Genes and Exit Polls -
A genetic basis for political attitudes was first indicated a dozen-odd years ago in the University of Minnesota's twin studies program. Included in the batteries of tests given the twins was a scale, created by Auke Tellegen of the Minnesota psychology department, that measures "traditional values." Testees are asked to react to 27 statements, all with some moral connotation--about, say, respect for elders, the importance of having a good reputation in the community and dislike for people who break rules of conduct. None of the statements have any overt political content, yet scores on the test correlate powerfully with political attitudes. A low score on the test means you are predicted to be politically liberal, a high score that you are likely conservative.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is almost always ignorant to attribute anything entirely to environment or entirely to genetics - it is almost always a combination of both.
political orientation, wealth sexual preference, being a good speaker - anything will have a genetic component. They will also have learnt components.

2 December 2004 at 3:56 PM  
Blogger Xavier said...

That's a correct statement - pure "Nature vs Nurture", at least with respect to human behaviour, is a false dichotomy. The important thing, however, is to try and tease apart the Nature from the Nurture, if we are at all able to. Saying that we are the result of our genetic and environmental experiences doesn't preclude attempting to explain which parts are which...

2 December 2004 at 5:53 PM  
Blogger Sock Thief said...

It is a false dichotomy. Matt Ridley has written a good account of this - Nature Via Nurture. The womb's environment has a big influence but that is not what we normally call "environment" which usually refers to our social environment.

But it is still worthwhile, as Xavier says, looking at the relative mix of the two for any given attribute.

And evolutionary psychology research has shown some very interesting things about what is Nurture. For example, many aspects of a child's personality are influenced not by their family but by their peer group. That would be significant information for public policy decisions. So evo psych has not reduced us to our genes.

In terms of liberal/conservative there does seem to be a genetic influence. Funnily enough we tend to move towards our parents views as we get older. But these are statistical trends, and not necessarily true in particular cases.

3 December 2004 at 8:52 AM  

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