Social Question

LostInParadise's avatar

Is the fundamental difference between conservatives and liberals related to the perception of hierarchies?

Asked by LostInParadise (31499points) May 24th, 2023

That is the view given in a short article in the latest issue of Scientific American. You can get a summary here

The idea is that conservatives tend to see clear dividing lines while liberals see much more mixing and matching. For example, a conservative may say that someone is either male or female, while a liberal would allow for transgender. A conservative might say that human life begins at conception while a liberal might argue that there is a process by which a fetus becomes fully human. Conservatives might be more prone to believing in racial stereotypes while liberals see more behavioral diversity for a given race.

I will have to give this more thought to see how valid the distinction is.

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12 Answers

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

I note in your tags you list psychology. I would say the fundamental difference between conservatives and liberals is their reaction to fear. In my nonscientific opinion, conservatives view fear as something to be avoided and vanquished, while liberals view it as a state to be studied and remedied.

ragingloli's avatar

It is quite clear to me that the fundamental difference is empathy. Conservatives display a distinct absence thereof. From their opposition to universal health care or social programs, their disdain for minorities, to their obession with punishment over rehabilitation, it all flows from their ingrained selfishness and their lack of care for anyone else.

gorillapaws's avatar

To the extent that what you’re describing is a consequence of the Dunning-Kruger effect, I would agree. With conservatives you have a less intelligent population that believes themselves right and they simply aren’t aware of the nuances involved. They also seem disinterested in learning about the complexities and nuances. It’s understandable too, they’re being blasted with well-funded propaganda, financed by billionaires who love the culture war distraction while they shape the real policies to enrich themselves.

RocketGuy's avatar

@ragingloli – that would be the current American conservatives. American conservatives used to be concerned about the well being of fellow citizens (e.g. Eisenhower), but didn’t want radical change or excess spending. Conservatives in other countries are obviously different.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@RocketGuy The article linked and the nuance of the details in the OP are specifically about American conservatives and liberals.

Zaku's avatar

@ragingloli That matches the (bizarre, to me) idea that Christianity is necessary to provide a sense of right vs. wrong, and of benevolence toward others.

KNOWITALL's avatar

Great article, have not read the links inside it yet.
I do believe Democrats have far more grey areas than conservatives. Likely it’s the religious aspect of institutional indoctrination that explains that difference to some degree. Although it’s difficult to say, as Pelosi and others who are liberal but Catholic, don’t adhere to church doctrine in politics. Most conservatives do vote by doctrine.

Blackwater_Park's avatar

Remove the religious conservatives and that article falls a little flat. There are some things that are generally true here though.

smudges's avatar

Sounds to me like conservatives see see black and white, while liberals see shades of gray; rigid vs. flexible.

seawulf575's avatar

I’d say that the article you cited is looking only at one parameter, not many. For instance, they found Bernie Sanders supporters felt the world was far more dangerous than Donald Trump supporters. But it doesn’t delve deeply enough to figure the “why”. Does the 24/7 negative press on Trump have anything to do with it? Was there manipulation by the media? Fear-mongering by the candidates? The article comes to a conclusion that isn’t really a conclusion. And the same sort of questioning seems to apply to all the other things they listed. What dog is preferred, for example. How many times have we heard about the evil pitbulls? Yet every one I’ve ever met has been very sweet. So why is there a fear of them? Another consideration for a dog might be your living situation. On a farm, you might want a big dog that can help protect any livestock you have. In a city apartment, that same big dog might just be too big, so you’d want a small dog. It might have nothing to do with political viewpoints.

Blackwater_Park's avatar

I think trying to box certain mentality into Liberal/Conservative thinking is doing a disservice to both. You can make some broad generalizations that are mostly, sometimes true. Conservatives think ahead a little, they see how things can go wrong. That causes anxiety and some fear. Liberals live more in the moment and also in the past. That causes contentment and regret. This is contrary to what many think. If conservatives think in the future why are they so slow to adopt and adapt to change? Again, they focus more on what can go wrong. They don’t just think the world is more dangerous, they know it. If liberals live in the past and present why are they typically the ones how push forward? I think it’s because regret for past things initiates current change. They see how things can be better but often fail to properly measure consequences. Both sides often see the other as childlike, selfish and unintelligent but this is not the case. There is a push/pull dance between the two that we really need to have to move forward, but safely.

All that said, I’d guess around ¾ of people identifying as one or the other really are not thinking, they just want to fit in with their peers or are just simply born to follow. We should not talk about that segment, but that’s who the other side always focuses on. Then we have the idealogues: the far right extremists, the evangelicals, the anarchists, and others. I believe those individuals have a cult-like adherence to their ideology which is a serious mental sickness. They only comprise say 5% but cause most of the harm.

seawulf575's avatar

I believe that @Blackwater_Park is closer to the reality. I think that most conservatives look at proposed ideas and try to see what that looks like in the future. There are always many potential futures, but I feel conservatives do more of a risk assessment. Liberals tend to be more adventurous in some ways. They act more on feeling of the moment. The two views are always going to oppose each other. Truth be told, I was far more liberal when I was a teenager. But I grew up and took on many responsibilities, responsibilities that I wanted and took seriously, responsibilities that made me want to succeed for myself and my family.

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