Wednesday, 23 July 2003

I must be missing something here

InstaPundit approvingly links to a post by the Angry Clam, who is “pissed off” about a study conducted by psychology professors at Berkeley, Stanford and Maryland that purports to describe the psychological determinants of conservatism.

I’ll admit that the press release linked to by the Clam makes the research seem rather simplistic, and some of the editorializing by assistant (i.e. untenured) professor Jack Glaser seems inappropriate. And, frankly, I think the researchers are really describing what Virginia Postrel calls “staisism” rather than conservatism. Say what you will about the Contract with America and the post-1994 Republican majority, but planning to roll back decades of creeping socialism is hardly a conservative position (in their terms); the neo-liberal policies of Britain’s successive governments since 1979 are not exactly “conservative” either, even though many of them were pioneered by the political right. And, as a political scientist, I’m not entirely sold on the idea that J. Random Psychologist is qualified to do research on political concepts, just as I’d have serious concerns if a political scientist tried to perform psychotherapy. To top it all off, I generally despise meta-analysis as a research technique, but that’s neither here nor there.

At the same time, though, the research itself, rather than the stupid commentary it was dressed up with in the press release, doesn’t seem (from its description) excessively political. I’d rather read the article (which appeared in the May 2003 Psychological Bulletin, according to the table of contents) and draw my own conclusions, thanks.