Leftist emotional insensitivity

During my career as an academic researcher in psychology and sociology, my main interest was in ideological attitudes but I also made forays into personality research at times. One such foray was into the study of psychopathy, using the most widely accepted measure of it: The MMPI PD scale. One of the two articles I wrote on that subject received a very minor but perhaps significant mark of distinction: It was to a small degree quoted by later authors on the subject. One sometimes gets the impression that most academic journal articles are read by only two people: The author and his mother -- though, if you are lucky, the article might also have been read right through by the editor and referees of the journal in which it was published. I think that most authors of academic articles will assure you with some passion that referees have clearly NOT read with any care the articles they comment on.

My article which received some attention was on sub-clinical psychopathy. You can read it here. So I probably am on firmer ground than most in commenting on that subject. The hallmarks of psychopathy are a lack of normal emotional feelings, an absence of any morality or ethics and a well-disguised contempt for everybody else. In extreme cases this can lead to singularly brutal crimes. Like most personality dispositions, however, there are degrees of psychopathy. In milder cases it can have some advantages and it is those cases that I call sub-clinical: i.e. cases where the psychopath manages to keep himself out of trouble with either the law or the mental health system. And it is often asserted that a degree of psychopathy is helpful in business success.

As it was not my main focus of study, however, I never got around to examining the role of psychopathy in politics. Though I did find in my original research that psychopathy was associated with permissiveness and rejection of punitiveness, attitudes which are common on the Left. And these days I would not attempt research that looked directly at the correlation between Leftism and psychopathy because the conclusion I came to at the end of my research career was that most Leftists are incapable or unwilling to describe their real attitudes. For instance: They will almost all, if asked, claim to be ardent supporters of free speech. Yet, as almost daily posts on my TONGUE-TIED blog reveal, they are in fact relentless enemies of it.

So it seems to me that it is real-life behaviour alone that we must look at in assessing Leftists and I have already used that approach to look at some length at the relationship between Leftism and psychopathy here. As you might have inferred from my original description of psychopathy above, there is much about characteristic Leftist behaviour that a psychiatrist would recognize as psychopathic.

A recent article has emerged, however, that reinforces that conclusion. I reprint the central part of it below. It tends to show that, relative to conservatives, Leftists have a deficit in emotional sensitivity to unpleasant things -- something that is very characteristic of the psychopath. That is of course not at all a new conclusion. We know, for instance, the unfailing brutality of Communist regimes. Not the slightest human sensitivity there. And Stalin's mass murders never bothered American "liberals" during the Soviet era, though the brutality sure bothered conservatives. Nonetheless it is interesting (and a little surprising) to see from attitude research a confirmation of something we know to be true from real life. Given the relentless Leftism of academic psychology and sociology, the authors of article do of course try to "spin" their conclusions as in some way detrimental to conservatives but I think the research results speak for themselves.

One point I should make here, however, is that I AGREE with the authors below in seeing a strong relationship between emotional responses and morality. I have previously argued at some length that seeing morality as having an instinctive emotional basis is a strong position from a philosophical viewpoint and the work of Pinker and Haidt and others has also found some empirical association between morality and emotions of disgust etc.

I should perhaps stress strongly at this point, however, that neither psychopaths nor Leftists are DEVOID of emotion. The one emotion which they do have and which they do share is contempt or hate towards other people about them, contempt for the "status quo" in the Leftist case. And that can be a very strong emotion indeed: A dominant emotion, even. I say more about that here. So on to the recent article:
Liberals and conservatives are often disgusted with one another. No surprise there. But conservatives are literally the more easily disgusted of the two when it comes to such squeamish things as maggots, questionable toilet seats and the prospect of eating monkey meat. Such sensitivity, it seems, plays a role in their ideology and moral values.

Two joint studies released Friday from psychologists at Cornell, Harvard and Yale universities determined that conservatives are more fastidious about the creepier, smellier side of life reflective of a hard-wired instinct for safety and self-preservation. It raises questions about the role of disgust an emotion that likely evolved in humans to keep them safe from potentially hazardous or disease-carrying environments in contemporary judgments of morality and purity, said study leader David Pizarro, an assistant professor of psychology at Cornell who led the study.

People have pointed out for a long time that a lot of our moral values seem driven by emotion, and, in particular, disgust appears to be one of those emotions that seems to be recruited for moral judgments....

The researchers surveyed 181 adults from politically mixed swing states, offering them the Disgust Sensitivity Scale, a personality ratings system initially developed by behavioral psychologists at the University of Virginia. It poses all sorts of uncomfortable possibilities to participants gauging their reactions on a scale of 1-5 to vomit, graveyards, preserved body parts, squashed earthworms and monkey meat.

The researchers surveyed the degree of ideological beliefs of the same test group, to reveal a correlation between being more easily disgusted and political conservatism, the study said.

Disgust really is about protecting yourself from disease; it didn't really evolve for the purpose of human morality, Mr. Pizarro said. It clearly has become central to morality, but because of its origins in contamination and avoidance, we should be wary about its influences.

In another study, the researchers offered the disgust scale to 91 Cornell undergraduates, also asking them where they stood on gay marriage, abortion, gun control, labor unions, tax cuts and affirmative action.

Participants who rated higher in disgust sensitivity were more likely to oppose gay marriage and abortion, issues that are related to notions of morality or purity, the study found. Squeamish people were also more likely to disapprove of gays and lesbians in general.

The findings revealed complex emotions, indeed. Conservatives have argued that there is inherent wisdom in repugnance; that feeling disgusted about something gay sex between consenting adults, for example is cause enough to judge it wrong or immoral, even lacking a concrete reason, Mr. Pizarro said. Liberals tend to disagree, and are more likely to base judgments on whether an action or a thing causes actual harm.

He speculated that the link between disgust and moral judgment could help explain stark differences in values among Americans and be of interest to canny political strategists. He added that the findings could offer strategies for persuading some to change their views. The research was published in Cognition and Emotion and Emotion, two academic journals, and funded solely by Cornell University....


And below we have another case in point, where an apparently very Leftist female was not even disgusted by being gang raped:
Well, yes, the Taliban raped me, but they also respected me — they are not monsters

From the Brussels Journal comes the mind-blowing story of a left-wing Dutch journalist, Joanie de Rijke, who went to Afghanistan to conduct a sympathetic interview with Taliban jihadists who had just killed 10 French troops. Naturally, she was abducted and serially raped for six days. And now she is angry ... not at the chief Taliban thug — who showed her "respect," though, regrettably, "he could not control his testosterone" — but at the Dutch and Belgian governments who refused to pay the $2 million ransom the jihadists demanded.


Posted by John Ray. For a daily critique of Leftist activities, see DISSECTING LEFTISM. To keep up with attacks on free speech see TONGUE-TIED. Also, don't forget your daily roundup of pro-environment but anti-Greenie news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH . Email me (John Ray) here

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