Liberals and conservatives don’t just differ in their opinions, they have fundamentally different ways of processing information, which in turn leads them to hold markedly divergent sets of facts.
Even more frustrating for those who view politics as a rational pursuit of one’s self-interest, facts don’t actually matter that much. We begin evaluating policies emotionally, according to a deeply ingrained moral framework, and then our brains often work backward, filling in – or inventing -“facts” that conform to that framework.
Our identities are bound up with our social relationships and affiliations — with our families, communities, alma maters, teams, churches, political parties. Our groups. In this context, an attack on one’s group, or on some view with which the group is associated, can effectively operate like an attack on the self.
That’s where politics comes in. Our political, ideological, partisan, and religious convictions — because they are deeply held enough to comprise core parts of our personal identities, and because they link us to the groups that bulwark those identities and give us meaning — can be key drivers of motivated reasoning. They can make us virtually impervious to facts, logic, and reason.
SIMPLIFYING HAS ITS DRAWBACKS
Accordingly, the short list of critical problems mentioned in the May 26 post of this series [our warming planet; fossil fuel supply concerns; inequality; economic growth and prospects for prosperity; same-sex marriage; the NRA] aren’t even understood or viewed the same way. Not only are we not engaging in meaningful conversation—refusing to do so in the first instance makes it a wee bit more difficult—we can’t even agree on the basic realities! And just to make certain we don’t agree, we are interpreting information differently, based on a variety of largely unconscious psychological adaptations to meet needs we’re for the most part also completely unaware of.
Every issue we’re contending with on the national stage has some connection to dozens of other problems, issues, concerns, and shortcomings. That makes fashioning acceptable solutions a bit complicated. Countless opinions floating around, and the urgency felt by just about each and every one of us that our unique set of problems must have priority over everyone else’s, only makes it that much more of a challenge. Not exactly a recipe for prompt and satisfactory results. And when you add to this mix the clear strategy exhibited by some “leaders” that denying, ignoring, misrepresenting, or pretending is the best approach, then we really have our work cut out for us!
Quite the predicament….
EASY PROBLEM-SOLVING 101 IS NOT AN OPTION
[I]t has been proposed that political ideology may be associated with differences in cognitive style….Conservatives may come to understand and organize their world in a more structured and rigid way, whereas liberals appear to be more open to complexity….Moreover, conservatives have been found to be more rigid in their interpretation of situations and more severe in their judgments of others. (links/citations in original) *
As adaptation to and resolution of the nation’s cultural, economic, and political issues become increasingly complicated, this rigidity and simplistic approach becomes even less effective. Changes will continue to pass conservatives by if their only response is to obstruct when and however they can. Most of those issues are not amenable to the simple or the quick or the easy. [Not everyone abides by those same stylistic and personality predispositions, for starters.]
The more complex the issue and the more variables to be considered, the less likely it is that any beneficial outcomes will result if quick decisions after minimal deliberations are the mandate. The flash card approach to creating meaningful policy in this day and age is not exactly the ideal strategy.
The question is whether we’ll have enough appreciation for the need to change, and then act on that understanding, before the hole we’re digging gets much, much deeper and harder to climb out from.
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Note to readers: In addition to my other blogs and writings here [see the links above] and at Peak Oil Matters, I invite you to enjoy some brief excepts from my eBook political thriller:
The Tretiak Agenda
They began [here] on June 15, and will continue weekly throughout the summer
~ My [Wife’s] Photo: Good Harbor Beach, MA – 07.25.10
NOTE: This series runs on Thursdays
* Political ideology, exploration of novel stimuli, and attitude formation, by Natalie J. Shook, Russell H. Fazio. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 2009
Looking Left and Right:
Inspiring Different Ideas, Envisioning Better Tomorrows
Be the change you want in the world – Gandhi
The world is not dangerous because of those who do harm, but because
of those who look at it without doing anything – Albert Einstein
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Our contrasting behaviors, beliefs, and ideologies are contributing factors to the very problems we’re trying to solve—the ones we must solve if our own ambitions and our hopes for a peaceful and prosperous world we leave to our children are to be well-served.
As each side bordering the political chasm digs in ever deeper to engage in skirmishes whose intensities and potential consequences seem to have no end point in sight, we should be wondering with greater urgency what sort of “community” will emerge from the wreckage. How are we preparing ourselves to pursue opportunities and provide for the well-being of our families when so much energy is dissipated in battles where nonsense is the primary weapon?
Assuming the future still matters to at least most of us, perhaps a momentary pause to consider where current choices will lead is called for….Ignoring legitimate real-world challenges, denying they exist, or making absurd, ignorant claims to defend unconscionable political tactics will not affect the arrival of those problems in the least. Widespread impacts will be following close behind. Do we continue the ideological battles, or decide to meet the challenges by cooperating as needed?
That there’s no chance whatsoever of gaining ground in any meaningful way seems to be routinely overlooked. So too do these battles offer nothing but the creation of more problems for us all in the years to come.