Sunday, March 25, 2012

Happy days are here again;  The sky is blue, let's cheer again!

The sort of election result that conservatives can normally only  dream about has just  happened in my home State of Queensland.  The conservatives obliterated the outgoing Leftist government -- with a provisional 75 seats in the parliament for the conservatives versus only 6 for the Leftists.

Much was owed to the charismatic leader of the conservatives, Campbell Newman.  I know him slightly and have always been impressed by his helpful attitude.  He is a former military man too,  a graduate of Duntroon, Australia's equivalent of West Point.  He reached the rank of major during his service.  So he knows about decisiveness and leadership.

My State is now in good hands.  It is bigger than California and Texas combined so it is of some significance. It has gigantic natural resources, particularly coal

The first thing Newman said in his victory speech was "Thank you for voting for change"  So much for the puerile Leftist claim that conservatives are opposed to change.  It is only Leftist changes that they oppose.

Monday, March 19, 2012

  Are Catholics less creative?

The article below has only recently been brought to my attention.  It claims that Catholics are less creative.  I guess Leonardo, Titian, Tintoretto, Canaletto, Vivaldi, Monteverdi, Puccini etc don't count.  The claim is too silly for me to look at the article in detail so I will content myself with making one general point:  There is no such thing as a general factor of creativity.  It's all domain-specific, and usually VERY domain specific.  Great painters don't make great composers and vice versa.  I, for instance, have a small gift for writing publishable (and published) academic journal articles but I couldn't write a novel for nuts.  So the article below purports to examine something that does not exist.   You can speak of creativity in a narrowly-defined field only.  Overall creativity does not exist.
Cross-national Comparisons of Catholic-Protestant Creativity Differences


It has been argued that personality factors associated with authoritarianism-dogmatism are antithetical to creativity. This study attempts to determine if these findings can be demonstrated in real or naturally occurring groups and if they are affected by socio-political contexts. The groups compared are matched samples of Roman Catholic and Protestant students from the United States, Northern Ireland, Eire and Scotland. Psychological evidence of relatively high authoritarianism in Roman Catholics and sociological indications of relatively low creative production by Roman Catholics lead to the general hypothesis that Catholic students will perform less well on mental ability tests of creativity factors.

A two-way analysis of variance design (country v. religion) is employed to test the hypotheses. The results indicate that there are large and statistically significant differences between Catholic and Protestant students in the U.S. and Northern Ireland. Catholic students in these countries evidenced less originality, ideational fluency and spontaneous flexibility than Protestants. There were generally no differences between the groups in Eire and Scotland. It is concluded that the antithesis of dogmatism-authoritarianism to creativity can be demonstrated in naturally occurring groups and that these differences are affected by the socio-political contexts in which the groups exist.

British Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, Volume 10, Issue 2, pages 132–137, June 1971

Sunday, March 11, 2012

  Blood pressure drug 'reduces in-built racism'

This is another dubious exercise with the IAT.  The test detects "racism" in people who are often vehemently anti-racist so the simple conclusion from that is that it is not valid.  It does not measure what it purports to measure.  To say it measures "implicit" racism is just faith and contrary to the evidence

What actually happened in the study below could have been that the drug slowed people down mentally and made them more inaccurate or sloppy in their sorting task.

I  threw together some time ago a collection of skeptical academic comments on the IAT here.  The test may measure something but we cannot be sure what.  It could even measure caution about being racist.  Journal abstract included below

A common heart disease drug may have the unusual side-effect of combating racism, a new study suggests.  The beta-blocker drug can reduce 'subconscious' racism, the Oxford University study found.

Researchers found that people who took propranolol scored significantly lower on a standard test used to detect subconscious racial attitudes, than those who took a placebo.

Propranolol is most often used to reduce high blood pressure by lowering the heart rate, as well as angina and irregular heartbeat. It is also used to manage the physical symptoms of anxiety, and control migraine.

It is thought to work by blocking activation of the peripheral 'autonomic' nervous system, and in areas of the brain involved with formulating emotional responses, including fear, called the amygdalae.

The researchers believe propranolol reduces racial bias because such subconscious thoughts are triggered by that autonomic nervous system.

Their small study took 36 white student volunteers, gave half a single 40mg dose of propranolol and half a placebo, and asked them all to undertake the Implicit Association Test - designed to test "subtle and spontaneous biased behaviour" - two hours later.

The test requires participants to visually sort particular words like 'joy' ,'evil', 'happy' and 'glorious', as well as black and white faces, into the correct categories.

Sylvia Terbeck, lead author of the study, published in the journal Psychopharmacology, said: "Our results offer new evidence about the processes in the brain that shape implicit racial bias.

"Implicit racial bias can occur even in people with a sincere belief in equality.  "Given the key role that such implicit attitudes appear to play in discrimination against other ethnic groups, and the widespread use of propranolol for medical purposes, our findings are also of considerable ethical interest."

Professor Julian Savulescu, of the university's Faculty of Philosophy, and a co-author of the study, said: "Such research raises the tantalising possibility that our unconscious racial attitudes could be modulated using drugs, a possibility that requires careful ethical analysis.

"Biological research aiming to make people morally better has a dark history. And propranolol is not a pill to cure racism. But given that many people are already using drugs like propranolol which have 'moral' side effects, we at least need to better understand what these effects are."

But Dr Chris Chambers, from Cardiff University's School of Psychology, said the results should be treated with "extreme caution".  He said: "We don't know whether the drug influenced racial attitudes only or whether it altered implicit brain systems more generally. And we can't rule out the possibility that the effects were due to the drug incidentally reducing heart rate.

"So although interesting, in my view these preliminary results are a long way from suggesting that propranolol specifically influences racial attitudes."

Propranolol reduces implicit negative racial bias

By Terbeck S et al.


BACKGROUND: Implicit negative attitudes towards other races are important in certain kinds of prejudicial social behaviour. Emotional mechanisms are thought to be involved in mediating implicit "outgroup" bias but there is little evidence concerning the underlying neurobiology. The aim of the present study was to examine the role of noradrenergic mechanisms in the generation of implicit racial attitudes.

METHODS: Healthy volunteers (n=36) of white ethnic origin, received a single oral dose of the β-adrenoceptor antagonist, propranolol (40 mg), in a randomised, double-blind, parallel group, placebo-controlled, design. Participants completed an explicit measure of prejudice and the racial implicit association test (IAT), 1-2 h after propranolol administration.

RESULTS: Relative to placebo, propranolol significantly lowered heart rate and abolished implicit racial bias, without affecting the measure of explicit racial prejudice. Propranolol did not affect subjective mood.

CONCLUSIONS: Our results indicate that β-adrenoceptors play a role in the expression of implicit racial attitudes suggesting that noradrenaline-related emotional mechanisms may mediate negative racial bias. Our findings may also have practical importance given that propranolol is a widely used drug. However, further studies will be needed to examine whether a similar effect can be demonstrated in the course of clinical treatment.


Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Were the Nazis mad?

Below is a blurb I have received about a new book.  I will add a few comments at the foot of it
HERF, JEFFREY: The Jewish Enemy: Nazi Propaganda During
World War II and the Holocaust
(Harvard University Press)

Historians once wrote about the Final Solution and World War II as if they were distinct events. Jeffrey Herf demonstrates, however, that in Hitler, Goebbels and other Nazi leaders’ minds, the Holocaust and Second World War were part of a single “war against the Jews.”

“International Jewry,” the Nazis believed, was a conspiracy operating behind the scenes, dominating Soviet, British and American government policy. The “eternal Jew,” Hitler claimed, stood behind Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin alike. How else could one explain the alliance of these ideological foes?

Of course, there is no evidence to support the claim that the United States and Great Britain were ruled by Jews. As for the Bolsheviks, Herf documents that at no time did Jews constitute more than 5% of the Communist Party. Nazi propaganda about Jewish domination, Herf concludes, was a “complete fantasy.”

Yet the Nazis believed their fantasy. The assumption that they did not is based on an optimistic belief in the power of human rationality, and a devaluation of the human capacity for delusion. Herf shows how German ideology and propaganda were held together by a gigantic persecution mania, or paranoid myth.

It is certainly true that Hitler was obsessed with the  the Jews but if he was mad ("Paranoid" in the blurb above) so are most Leftists today and so in fact is current American "anti-discrimination" law.  The fact is that in prewar Germany,  Jews had a "disproportionate" presence in the leadership of almost all sections of society -- as indeed they do in the USA and Britain today.  Hitler viewed this disproportion as evidence of unfairness supported by a racist conspiracy and was irate about it,  very irate. 

But American Leftists use exactly the same logic in seeing "disproportionate" numbers of blacks in various occupations as evidence of  racist conspiracy.  Indeed, "disproportion" is all by itself taken as evidence of discrimination and firms and organizations are REQUIRED to bring the proportion of blacks among  their employees up to the population average.  Fire departments, for instance, are not allowed to employ firefighters who are all white,  regardless of the skills and knowledge that the various candidates for employment might have.

Hitler's solution to the "problem" was obviously more drastic than  the legal harassment that American Leftists have instituted but the thinking is the same.  It is ideologically warped thinking but it is not insane.

And one of Hitler's major aims concerned the Jews only incidentally:  The Drang nach Osten in search of Lebensraum.  Like the Greenies of today,  Hitler thought Germany was running out of resources and that in the foreseeable future it might not be able to feed all its population.  So he wanted to push to the East and grab Russian land to supply Germany with the resources it needed.  So are the Greenies insane?  Their assumptions are the same as Hitler's.

And it was a reasonable puzzle for Hitler to work out how come the semi-Fascist Roosevelt, the Conservative Churchill and the Bolshevik Stalin all united against him.  What did they have in common?  To say it was the Jews provided a unifying explanation.  It was a simple explanation and a wrong one but simple explanations are popular to this day.  Obama's claim that America's problems are all due to the rich "not paying their fair share" is also simple but wrong.

So from the blurb it seems to me that the writer's explanation of Hitler's motivation is also simple but wrong.  Hitler in fact had complex motivations.  I say far more about how normal Hitler's views  were in the prewar world here.  Nobody else liked Jews at that time either.

Monday, March 05, 2012

The Secret Lives of Liberals and Conservatives: Personality Profiles, Interaction Styles, and the Things They Leave Behind

The above is the title of a 2008 academic journal article by  Carney,  Jost,  Gosling and  Potter.  I can't remember commenting on it previously so better late than never.

It regurgitates an approximately 80 year old theory that Leftists are more "open" to experience and conservatives are not.  I found something similar in my own research.  I found that Leftists were sensation-seekers across the board. They even liked the sensations offered by the consumer society.

But being "open to experience" and being "sensation seekers" are broadly opposite in tone, however.  The same behaviour could merit either description depending on your point of view and your value set.  The same behaviour could also   merit either condemnation or praise  depending on your point of view and value set.   Carney et al might perhaps have delved into that a bit but  were really concerned only to document the politics/personality comparison.  And the reason they worked so hard at it is that the previous psychological research on the relationship is pretty inconclusive.

And one reason why it is inconclusive is that nearly all the so-called "research" on the subject is based on handing out a bunch of questionnaires to college students in the classes you teach.  A poorer environment in which to study conservatism would be hard to imagine! 

In that connection I found the following report from Carney et al amusing:  "In the context of the experimental situation, conservatives behaved in a more detached and disengaged manner in general. Although this behavior was not indicative of  conscientiousness, it did reflect the kind of withdrawn, reserved,   inhibited, and even rigid interaction style".

If Carney et al.  had the slightest inking of sociological sophistication, they would have understood that finding very well.  A conservative in the far-Left environment of an American university would have every reason to act in a withdrawn manner.  A conservative speaking his  mind in that setting could bring no end of trouble down on his head!

But Carney et al  were apparently unfazed by all that and did the usual:  handed out a bunch of questionnaires to college students  as the basis for their research.  So I have to confess amusement at their findings.  On the "sample" they used which had most demographic variety,  their set of personality measures accounted for only 4% of the variance in social conservatism.  To portray that in another way,  if you had 100 people who were open to experience, 52 would be Leftists and 48 would be conservatives.   Knowing a person's personality gave you essentially zero chance of guessing their social conservatism, in other words.

The authors hyped their findings way beyond that but that 4%  is their most well-founded result.

My study on the subject was based on a proper random sample of the general population so  if it is people at large that we are talking about, we do well to look  at the results there.  I also found correlations that explained little of the variance in political attitudes.  So the various versions of "openness" have been a red herring when it comes to explaining political stance.  And my study looked at actual vote, as well as  one's political self-description  -- which is a big step beyond what Carney et al did.  And what did I find?  I found that personality gave ZERO prediction of vote!

Leftist psychologists have been grinding away at that "liberals are more open" theme for decades.  They desperately want it to be true but it isn't!  It is other personality types that we will have to look at to predict vote.  How about tendency to rage?  The amount of rage that we conservative bloggers get directed at us from Leftists answers that question without need for further research, I think.