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Ann Coulter Confuses Liberal and Conservative Psychology

The IntersectionBy Chris MooneyJuly 11, 2011 6:24 PM


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From her new book, Demonic:

All the characteristics of mob behavior set forth by Le Bon in 1895 are evident in modern liberalism -- simplistic, extreme black-and-white thinking, fear of novelty, inability to follow logical arguments, acceptance of contradictory ideas, being transfixed by images, a religious worship of their leaders, and a blind hatred of their opponents....

Is Coulter saying mobs are more likely to be liberal, thus mob psychology is more like liberal psychology? I would question that. More importantly, there is a body of actual research on conservative and liberal psychology that is obviously much more a propos. Such research shows that the first three traits listed by Coulter--"simplistic, extreme black-and-white thinking, fear of novelty"--are more likely to be found in conservatives. So are a number of the others listed above. This is true because the most defining liberal personality trait is "openness to experience," which involves novelty seeking but is also associated with tolerance of ambiguity, abstraction, and uncertainty. Please note that my statement here, unlike Coulter's, is based on peer reviewed research, and quite a lot of it. See here for a meta-analysis of all the research on conservative and liberal traits--as of 2003 anyway:

A meta-analysis (88 samples, 12 countries, 22,818 cases) confirms that several psychological variables predict political conservatism: death anxiety (weighted mean r .50); system instability (.47); dogmatism–intolerance of ambiguity (.34); openness to experience (–.32); uncertainty tolerance (–.27); needs for order, structure, and closure (.26); integrative complexity (–.20); fear of threat and loss (.18); and self-esteem (–.09).

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