Archives for posts with tag: personality and political orientation

First humans to leave Africa went to China, not Europe“The first humans to leave Africa decamped to far east Asia, not Europe. A trove of ancient teeth found in a cave in China adds evidence to the idea that humans reached the region thousands of years before they made it to Europe. The find suggests that modern humans reached China between 80,000 and 120,000 years ago. That challenges the widespread assumption that humans didn’t leave Africa until 60,000 years ago. It’s further evidence that Homo sapiens may have left Africa several times, says María Martinón-Torres of University College London. ‘It means we have to re-think different models of our dispersal.'” – and john hawks tweeted: “An 80kya modern human population in SE Asia w/Denisovan ancestry might help explain pattern of admixture in Philippines Mamanwa.”

Way Down South“I hear (tweets by Razib Khan, concerning Sankararaman’s talk at ASHG) that the Denisovans had substantially more genetic diversity than Neanderthals (determined mainly by the variety seen in admixed segments)….” – from greg cochran.

Lactase persistence and ancient DNA“‘…it seems plausible to me that the [European LP] allele first appeared in Central Europe, was spread around Europe by the LBK, before being introduced to the steppe later by migration from Europe.'”

Stonehenge builders had barbecue feasts at nearby party centre – and milk and cheeeeeese!

Basques are not simply a fusion of Iberian hunter-gatherers and early farmers“[T]he story told by the PCA is that Basques are the progeny of Bronze Age Iberians, who, unlike their Copper Age predecessors, experienced a pulse of steppe-related admixture from the east…. The key question now is who brought the steppe-related ancestry to Basque country. Were they Indo-Europeans or speakers of Proto-Basque?”

Sex‐specific demography and generalization of the Trivers–Willard theory – h/t owen jones! who tweeted: “Can mothers adaptively adjust offspring sex ratio? It’s complicated….”

The Great Migration and African-American genomic diversity“We find higher African ancestry in southern United States compared to the North and West. We show that relatedness patterns track north- and west-bound routes followed during the Great Migration, suggesting that admixture occurred predominantly in the South prior to the Civil War and that ancestry-biased migration is responsible for regional differences in ancestry. Rare genetic traits among African-Americans can therefore be shared over long geographic distances along the Great Migration routes, yet their distribution over short distances remains highly structured.”

Connectivity matrix predicts fluid intelligence“The enchanted loom is slowly giving up its secrets, of which it holds many. The patterns of brain activity that so many researchers have tracked with wonder are beginning to reveal a larger pattern: the possibility that each of us has a habitual pattern of brain activity which identifies us, and distinguishes us from others. So, dear reader, we are separated by the idiosyncratic rhythms of our brains, dancing to a different beat, visiting a different pattern of cortical locations, and no doubt coming to different conclusions…. The unexpected finding which I find startling is that individuals can be identified by their habitual brain patterns (not just on specific tasks) and those patterns of activity predict fluid intelligence on Raven’s Matrices at about r=0.5.” – from dr. james thompson.

Meta-analysis of associations between human brain volume and intelligence differences: How strong are they and what do they mean?“Positive associations between human intelligence and brain size have been suspected for more than 150 years…. Our results showed significant positive associations of brain volume and IQ (r = .24, R2 = .06) that generalize over age (children vs. adults), IQ domain (full-scale, performance, and verbal IQ), and sex…. We show that the strength of the positive association of brain volume and IQ has been overestimated in the literature, but remains robust even when accounting for different types of dissemination bias, although reported effects have been declining over time.”

Correlation not Causation: The Relationship between Personality Traits and Political Ideologies“Here we test the causal relationship between personality traits and political attitudes using a direction of causation structural model on a genetically informative sample. The results suggest that personality traits do not cause people to develop political attitudes; rather the correlation between the two is a function of an innate common underlying genetic factor.” – h/t robin hanson!

Generalised Anxiety Disorder – A Twin Study of Genetic Architecture, Genome-Wide Association and Differential Gene Expression“A heritability analysis of the same cohort also confirmed a significant genetic component with h2 of 0.42.” – h/t siberian fox! – and jayman tweeted: “I suspect anxiety is more common in some places than others. Perhaps due to genetic pacification.”

A Unified Crime Theory: The Evolutionary Taxonomy“Drawing on a variety of influences, we argue that many types of crime can be understood in the evolutionary context of human life history. Along these lines, we present a framework capable of explaining different patterns of criminal offending both at the individual level as well as the macro-level.” – from brian boutwell et al.

Resting heart rate and antisocial behavior: An updated systematic review and meta-analysis“Low resting heart rate was associated with higher levels of antisocial behavior…. Results were similar across behaviors, including aggression and violence.” – h/t anthony hoskin!

The association between childhood autistic traits and adolescent psychotic experiences is explained by general neuropsychiatric problems – from amir sariaslan et al. amir tweeted: “The ‘p factor’ explains assoc’s btwn childhood autistic traits and adolescent psychotic experiences.”

The Flynn Effect: IQ Testing Across Space and Time – from steve sailer.

What Extroverts and Introverts Can Learn From Snails“Genes may change a snail’s ‘personality’ and the thickness of its skin (or rather, its shell)”

Dimensional assessment of normal and abnormal personality in adults of the general population: Comparison of ‘five’ and ‘alternative five’ personality models – h/t andrew sabisky! who tweeted: “are normal and pathological personality all part of one continuum?”

So what if grammars don’t help social mobility?“On the Today programme and the New Statesman website, a statistic was quoted showing that grammar schools have a smaller percentage of pupils on free school meals than comprehensives. There are probably many reasons for this, but most likely the largest factor involved is that intelligence is hereditary and social class correlates with IQ; in other words, middle-class kids tend on average to be more intelligent than working-class ones. You could make the system fairer by replacing grammar entrance exams (for which richer parents hire tutors to help their children pass) with straight-up IQ tests, but the number of poorer children would still be disproportionately low. In fact the more social mobility we have over the generations, as everyone seems to want, the more that social class will correlate with intelligence. Richard Herrnstein pointed this out more than four decades ago. Many years earlier, Michael Young warned about this very process in The Rise of the Meritocracy. Social mobility does have its downsides; that’s because intelligence is just another privilege you inherit from mummy and daddy.” – from ed west.

The economic value of Breaking Bad: How misbehavior in school pays off for some kids“Surprisingly, we find evidence that some non-cognitive skills that manifest as childhood misbehavior in the classroom (and are predictive of lower schooling attainment) are also predictive of higher earnings later in life.”

A social science without sacred values“We argue (1) that many social scientists are paranoid egalitarian meliorists; (2) that they are therefore very sensitive to threats to a sacred egalitarian narrative; (3) that this sensitivity may be excessive (at least in the domain of science) and may cause researchers to unfairly reject research that challenges egalitarianism; (4) that this may then lead to the marginalization of individuals who forward controversial theories and/or data; and (5) that these tendencies lead to bias in the social sciences.” – from the winegard bros.

Social Status: Down the Rabbit Hole – h/t billare! who tweeted: “There are two systems of social status: Dominance & Prestige. For what selfish reasons might the latter one evolve?” – this was a really interesting read, btw.

Why Drunk Vegetarians Eat Meat – h/t jonathan haidt! who tweeted: “…esp. health vegs; moral vegs feel more disgust.”

Shame, guilt, and facial emotion processing: initial evidence for a positive relationship between guilt-proneness and facial emotion recognition ability“Guilt-prone people are highly skilled at recognising other people’s emotions.” [via] – w.e.i.r.d. study. pretty small n.

Gamblers, Scientists and the Mysterious Hot Hand“We’re all in the same boat. We evolved with this uncanny ability to find patterns. The difficulty lies in separating what really exists from what is only in our minds.” – h/t claire lehmann!

Dobzhansky and Montagu’s Debate on Race: The Aftermath

The Mutant Genes Behind the Black Death“Only a few genetic changes were enough to turn an ordinary stomach bug into the bacteria responsible for the plague.”

The End of Indian Summer“At first, human rights commissions fought discrimination only in employment and housing, and there was strong resistance to prosecution of people simply for their ideas. This situation changed from the 1970s onward. Human rights took the place in society that formerly belonged to religion, and human rights advocates acquired the immunity from criticism that formerly belonged to the clergy. Discrimination was no longer wrong in certain cases and under certain circumstances. It became evil, and people who condoned it in any form and for any reason were likewise evil.” – from peter frost.

Is Eastern Europe Any More Xenophobic Than Western Europe? – yes. but france is an exception in the west.

bonus: superforecasting conference on october 24th, if you happen to be in or near london: Superforecasting and Geopolitical Intelligence- Who can Predict the Future, and how?

bonus bonus: Did photosynthesis begin 3.2 billion years ago?“Rusty rocks from ancient ocean suggest bacteria produced oxygen far earlier than thought.”

bonus bonus bonus: The Beetle That Eavesdrops on an Ant’s Secret Language“A beetle evolves to ‘listen in’ on ants’ chemical messages to one another, changing the balance of an ecosystem.” [via]

bonus bonus bonus bonus: Ants con others into being their slaves by mimicking their scent

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: Sticky situation: maple syrup bandits face Quebec courts for infamous heist“Trials are under way for the 2012 attempt to steal $18m worth of Quebec’s sweetest export – a case that has succeeded in capturing Hollywood’s attention.”

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: Pop Culture Pulsar: The Science Behind Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures Album Cover

and the tweet of the week… (^_^)

(note: comments do not require an email. cheeeeeese!)


Life on Earth may have developed below rather than above ground, reveal scientists“Scientists have now discovered microbes living and reproducing as deep as 5km (3.1 miles) below ground and studies have shown that they are likely to have survived in complete isolation from the surface biosphere for millions and perhaps even billions of years. One of the latest studies into the deep biosphere has found that these microbes form a distinct subsurface community of genetically similar individuals despite living on opposite sides of the world. This global similarity of such an isolated life-form suggests that they may have evolved directly from a common ancestor that lived as long ago at the period when life on earth originated, some 3.5 billion years ago.”

First ever animals were made of jelly, not sponge

Scientists discover double meaning in genetic code“[G]enomes use the genetic code to write two separate languages. One describes how proteins are made, and the other instructs the cell on how genes are controlled. One language is written on top of the other, which is why the second language remained hidden for so long.”duons. – see also Exonic Transcription Factor Binding Directs Codon Choice and Affects Protein Evolution.

Environment drives genetic changes in Evolution Canyon“[R]esearchers with the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute at Virginia Tech studying fruit flies that live on opposite slopes of a unique natural environment known as ‘Evolution Canyon’ show that even with migration, cross-breeding, and sometimes the obliteration of the populations, the driving force in the gene pool is largely the environment.” – see also Genome differentiation of Drosophila melanogaster from a microclimate contrast in Evolution Canyon, Israel.

Big brains are all in the genes“Scientists have moved a step closer to understanding genetic changes that permitted humans and other mammals to develop such big brains…. Dr Humberto Gutierrez, from the School of Life Sciences, University of Lincoln, UK, led research which examined the genomes of 39 species of mammals with the aim of better understanding how brains became larger and more complex in mammals…. The researchers found a clear link between increased brain size and the expansion of gene families related to certain biological functions.”

Not all species deteriorate with age“Researchers claim that some buck trend in mortality and fertility, challenging evolutionary theory.” – see also Diversity of ageing across the tree of life – h/t anatoly! – see also Aging from greg cochran.

there was a kerfluffle over the selfish gene concept this past week or two: Die, selfish gene, die by david dobbs. – see also Adversarial Journalism and The Selfish Gene by richard dawkins – see also David Dobbs mucks up evolution, part I and David Dobbs mucks up evolution, part II by jerry coyne – see also There is no revolution in genetics and Evolutionary orthodoxy may be boring, but it is probably true by razib – see also Science vs. Ideology in Genetics, in which Richard Dawkins and Professor Ceiling Cat Admonish David Dobbs by helian.

Western scrub-jays allocate longer observation time to more valuable information“When humans mentally reconstruct past events and imagine future scenarios, their subjective experience of mentally time travelling is accompanied by the awareness of doing so. Despite recent popularity of studying episodic memory in animals, such phenomenological consciousness has been extremely difficult to demonstrate…. Thus, the jays can collect information to solve a future problem. Moreover, they can differentiate sources of information according to their potential value and modify behaviour to efficiently collect important, usable information. This is the first evidence of metacognition in a species that passes the behavioural criteria for both retrospective and prospective mental time travel.”

Like humans, dogs have general intelligence – @dr. james thompson’s blog.

H. Heidelbergensis Preferred Island Life“[B]etween 500,000 and 200,000 years ago, Homo heidelbergensis preferred to live on islands in the flood plains of major rivers, where they would have had access to big herbivores that grazed on the rich grasses, water birds and plants with edible roots, and leafy vegetables. The island itself offered protection from other hungry predators, and raw materials such as wood and stone for fashioning tools would have been abundant.”

No evidence for selection since admixture in sample of 29,141 African Americans – @dienekes’.

Older Dads: Possible Links to Autism, Schizophrenia in Offspring – inherited epigenetic effects? – “Maria Milekic, PhD, reported today, at the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology annual meeting in Hollywood, Florida, that old mice have an epigenetic change ‒ a loss of DNA methylation at the locations where the genetic code starts being transcribed. DNA methylation is a biochemical process that plays an important regulatory role in development and disease. The work was done by a research team in the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia University. Offspring of old fathers showed the same deficit in DNA methylation, and they differed in their behavior from the offspring of the young fathers.”

Inherited memories – greg cochran on inherited epigenetics (note: re. a different mouse epigenetics study from the one above).

Genetics accounts for more than half of variation in exam results @the guardian – “[T]he authors point out that genetics emerges as such a strong influence on exam scores because the schooling system aims to give all children the same education. The more school and other factors are made equal, the more genetic differences come to the fore in children’s performance. The same situation would happen if everyone had a healthy diet: differences in bodyweight would be more down to genetic variation, instead of being dominated by lifestyle.” – see also Nature more than nurture determines exam success @newscientist – “Overall, across the three core subjects of English, mathematics and science, achievement was 58 per cent determined by genetics. Individually, achievement was 52 per cent down to genetics for English, 55 per cent for maths and 58 per cent for science. The figure for humanities was lower at 42 per cent. This was a surprise to Plomin because, traditionally, excellence in humanities subjects such as art or music is considered to be ‘handed down’ from parents, whereas science is considered a product of the teaching environment.” – see also The genetics route could spell a new direction for education @the independent – “[I]t may be that the innate differences in children’s abilities because of their genes could argue the case for a more tailor-made individual curriculum to offset the disadvantages of birth.” – no sh*t! – see also New twin study by Plomin, Shakeshaft et al from steve sailer – see also Strong Genetic Influence on a UK Nationwide Test of Educational Achievement at the End of Compulsory Education at Age 16.

Genetic influence on family socioeconomic status and children’s intelligence“[U]sing a new technique applied to DNA from 3000 unrelated children, we show significant genetic influence on family SES, and on its association with children’s IQ at ages 7 and 12. In addition to demonstrating the ability to investigate genetic influence on between-family environmental measures, our results emphasize the need to consider genetics in research and policy on family SES and its association with children’s IQ.” – can somebody just give plomin a nobel already? or at least a hearty pat on the back? (^_^)

Climatic Variability, Group Selection and Dysgenics: Testing a Multi-Level Selection Model – from woodley, fernandes, and figueredo. @dr. james thompson’s blog.

ISIR – What do intelligence researchers really think about intelligence?“Asked: ‘Is there sufficient evidence to arrive at a reasonable estimate of the heritability of intelligence in populations of developed countries?’ 73% said Yes.” – from dr. james thompson. also ISIR – Genetics.

‘Poverty impedes cognitive function’ shown to be BS – from mr. mangan, esq.

Survey of psychometricians finds iSteve one of 3 best journalistic outlets in the world for intelligence coverage – and anatoly karlin! (^_^)

Human brain hard-wired for rural tranquillity“Humans may be hard-wired to feel at peace in the countryside and confused in cities – even if they were born and raised in an urban area…. Dr Ian Frampton, an Exeter University psychologist, stressed the researchers still had more work to do, but said they may have hit upon something significant…. Professor Michael Depledge of Exeter University, a former Environment Agency chief scientist, said urban dwellers could be suffering in the same way as animals kept in captivity. He said the move to the cities had been accompanied by an ‘incredible rise in depression and behavioural abnormalities’.” – h/t ed west!

Diet rapidly and reproducibly alters the human gut microbiome“[S]hort-term consumption of diets composed entirely of animal or plant products alters microbial community structure and overwhelms inter-individual differences in microbial gene expression. The animal-based diet increased the abundance of bile-tolerant microorganisms (Alistipes, Bilophila and Bacteroides) and decreased the levels of Firmicutes that metabolize dietary plant polysaccharides (Roseburia, Eubacterium rectale and Ruminococcus bromii). Microbial activity mirrored differences between herbivorous and carnivorous mammals, reflecting trade-offs between carbohydrate and protein fermentation. Foodborne microbes from both diets transiently colonized the gut, including bacteria, fungi and even viruses. Finally, increases in the abundance and activity of Bilophila wadsworthia on the animal-based diet support a link between dietary fat, bile acids and the outgrowth of microorganisms capable of triggering inflammatory bowel disease. In concert, these results demonstrate that the gut microbiome can rapidly respond to altered diet, potentially facilitating the diversity of human dietary lifestyles.”

Wheat Threatens All Humans, New Research Shows“New research reveals that proteins in wheat may be detrimental to all humans.” – h/t ray sawhill!

The origins of Northwest European guilt culture and Origins of Northwest European guilt culture. Part II – from peter frost. and my response to part i (in case you missed it – shame on you if you did! you should feel soooo guilty. (~_^) ).

The EU is corrupt because southern Europe is corrupt“Nigeria is riddled with corruption and theft because enough people are corrupt (and it doesn’t have to be that many) that it makes no sense to be an honest person. For societies to avert this situation free-riders need to be punished (shamed, ostracised, prosecuted) by other individuals acting with the support of the rest of society, and almost as importantly, for those punishers not to be punished in turn, as happens in clannish societies where people care more about their family than the well-being of the wider society. Destroying the power of the clans can take a very, very long time; around the North Sea it began a good millennium ago.” – from ed west.

Why a Good Story Must Be Archetypal and Why Modern Storytellers Must Lie About It – from staffan.

White flight from the white robe? – from the awesome epigone. – h/t jayman!

‘Boy/ girl differences are genetically programmed’“Twinwag: As research shows the brains of men and women are wired differently, mother of two Anna White says she saw it in her own twins, Agatha and Benjamin, from as young as 14 months old.” – h/t holtz!

Holding a guitar case increases the odds women will give a man their phone number – (~_^)

Your Genes Tell You How to Vote – in mother jones! – see also The Difference Between Republican and Democratic Brains – h/t avi tuschman! – see also Study on twins suggests our political beliefs may be hard-wired @pew.

Did Brain Scans Just Save a Convicted Murderer From the Death Penalty? – see also How Brain Scans Can Lighten Sentences In Murder Cases“An increasing trend of defendants using neuroscience to argue for lesser sentences.” – h/t neuroskeptic!

We Really Have no Idea Why Political Attitudes Change (or Not). A Guest Blog by Bernard Winograd – *cough*herding*cough* – @peter turchin’s social evolution forum. h/t t.greer!

How much do we really know about sleep?“We spend a third of our lives doing it, and yet we still don’t fully understand the reasons why we sleep.”

Eastern and Western Europe divided over gay marriage, homosexuality“92% of Dutch & 25% of Russians say gay people should be free to live lives as they wish (via European Social Survey).” – from pew.

Late Stone Age settlement unearthed on Cyprus“Excavations at Ayia Varvara-Asprokremnos (AVA) by archaeologists from the University of Toronto, Cornell University and the University of Cyprus have uncovered, among other objects, the earliest complete human figurine on the island. The site has been carbon-dated to between 8800-8600 BC, near the beginning of the Neolithic Period – also known as the Late Stone Age – when the transition from hunting to farming economies was occurring throughout the Middle East.”

What Happened On Easter Island — A New (Even Scarier) Scenario – h/t razib!

Terracotta Warriors Inspired by Ancient Greek Art“Nickel’s evidence includes newly translated ancient records that tell a fantastic tale of giant statues that ‘appeared’ in the far west, inspiring the first emperor of China to duplicate them in front of his palace. This story offers evidence of early contact between China and the West, contacts that Nickel says inspired the First Emperor (which is what Qin Shi Huangdi called himself) to not only duplicate the 12 giant statues but to build the massive Terracotta Army along with other life-size sculptures.” – see also The First Emperor and sculpture in China.

Phallic objects an ancient PNG status symbol?“The cache of elaborately crafted tools was discovered at a construction site on New Britain Island, north-eastern PNG, in late 2010. Between 6000 and 3000 years old, the tools are made of a type of volcanic glass called obsidian and, remarkably, several of them are shaped as phalluses.”

Nobel winner declares boycott of top science journals“Randy Schekman says his lab will no longer send papers to Nature, Cell and Science as they distort scientific process.” – h/t hbd bibliography!

Can you guess which states swear the most, least?

bonus: There’s a Reason They Call Them ‘Crazy Ants’ << read this!

bonus bonus: How widespread is Islamic fundamentalism in Western Europe? – h/t michael story!

bonus bonus bonus: Google Adds to Its Menagerie of Robots – google buys boston dynamics. google really IS going to take over the world! =/

bonus bonus bonus bonus: You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet“I don’t think most people yet realize just how fast the arc of technological innovation is bending skyward right now, and what that’s really going to mean. I hang around with the people who are making this stuff happen, and *they* don’t know what it’s going to mean. *Nobody* does.” – from malcolm pollack. (google really IS going to take over the world! =/ )

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: Freakishly realistic telemarketing robots are denying they’re robots – the future (i.e tomorrow) is either going to be terrifying or really, really irritating. – h/t mike anissimov (wearer of track suits (~_^) )!

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: First water plume seen firing from Jupiter moon Europa

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well! i’m making progress on reading avi tuschman‘s very interesting Our Political Nature: The Evolutionary Origins of What Divides Us [see previous post] — ’bout halfway through now (on chapter 11 out of 23). it’s not actually a difficult book to read, it’s just that real life keeps getting in the way of my virtual one (d*mnit, i hate when that happens!).

tuschman is interested in finding out the personality and behavioral traits underlying liberal and conservative political orientations AND the evolutionary bases for those traits. i’m all for that!

while he does draw on all sorts of research into the differing personality/behavioral traits of liberals and conservatives — and those interested in hbd will be familiar with most of them, like for instance that conservatives tend to be more religious — the main framework that tuschman bases his ideas upon is robert altman’s bob altemeyer‘s “right-wing authoritarianism (RWA)” personality theory, a whole construct that, up until the other day, i knew nothing about. you can read all about the RWA scale on wikipedia.

here from tuschman [chapter 5 – my emphases]:

“Altemeyer’s test consists of thirty controversial statements. Figure 10 breaks down the content of these statements into six categories. Each bar represents one of these content categories and shows the percentage of the thirty statements that makes reference to it.

tuschman - figure 10

“The six content categories, in turn, can be lumped into three larger groups: the grey cluster, the black cluster, and the white cluster. The three categories within the grey cluster are ethnocentrism, religiosity/group morality, and sexual tolerance. These are the three elements that comprise the ‘tribalism‘ cluster of personality traits.

“The two categories in the black cluster measure tolerance of inequality: the first concerns attitudes toward inequality and authority in society, while the second category pertains to inequality and authority within the family.

“The white personality cluster has only one category, which measures perceptions of human nature.”

these three larger groups — tribalism, tolerance of inequality, and perceptions of human nature — are the foundations of tushman’s “personality argument”:

“Human political orientation across space and time has an underlying logic defined by three clusters of measurable personality traits. These three clusters consist of varying attitudes toward tribalism, inequality, and different perceptions of human nature.

“These three factors correspond, of course, to the grey, black, and white color groups in figure 10. To go into slightly greater detail:

– Tribalism. Tribalism breaks down into ethnocentrism (vs. the opposite force, xenophilia, which means an attraction to other groups), religiosity (vs. secularism), and different levels of tolerance toward nonreproductive sexuality.

– Tolerance of Inequality. There are two opposing moral worldviews toward inequality; one is based on the principle of egalitarianism, and the other is based on hierarchy.

– Perceptions of Human Nature. Some people see human nature as more cooperative, while others see it as more competitive.”

most of the book is devoted to looking in depth at these three factors and how their various facets correspond to either liberal or conservative personalities. tuschman’s approach is very systematic (i like it a lot!): one section (containing several chapters), for instance, deals with how the different feelings of tribalism play out in human societies, and then the following section (also containing several chapters) deals with the likely/possible evolutionary underpinnings of those feelings/behaviors. this format is repeated for all three factors.

i’ll probably discuss some of these factors — and what tuschman has to say about them — individually in later posts (don’t want to discuss them all, though — mustn’t give away the plot of the book! (~_^) ). but first i want to back up for a sec and discuss altemeyer’s right-wing authoritarianism stuff, since tuschman’s framework is primarily based upon that — although, as i said, he does draw a LOT of evidence from other sources as well.

altemeyer’s RWA work (and this is just a hoot to read about!) is based upon the previous work of theodor adorno (frankfurt school), et al., who wanted to find out why some people became nazis (real nazis in wwii). they devised an “f(ascist)-scale” and everything. their work was later heavily criticized. (see also “The Authoritarian Personality.”)


altemeyer’s new-and-improved authoritarianism scale — which, like its predecessor, only focuses on conservatives — apparently has three “clusters” of personality traits which are summarized thusly [chapter 4 — tuschman references altemeyer’s Enemies of Freedom: Understanding Right-Wing Authoritarianism]:

(1) Authoritarian Submission — a high degree of submission to the authorities who are perceived to be established and legitimate in the society in which one lives;

(2) Authoritarian Aggression — a general aggressiveness, directed against various persons, that is perceived to be sanctioned by established authorities; and

(3) Conventionalism — a high degree of adherence to the social conventions that are perceived to be endorsed by society and its established authorities.

heh! well, i’m sorry, but — and this, no doubt, reflects my own somewhat conservative personality and biases — but the first group of people that i thought of on reading that description was today’s politically correct liberals! the militant ones, i mean.

“high degree of submission to authorities who are perceived to be established/legitimate?” who? like st. stephen jay gould? or jared diamond? or richard dawkins? (pardon my focus on academics there, but that is the universe that i inhabit. well, one of them!)

“general aggressiveness, directed against various persons, perceived to be sanctioned by est. authorities?” what? like watsonings? or richwinings? or derbyshearings?

“high degree of adherence to the social conventions?” all of political correctness!

and if we are to think about authoritarianism and politics and the sorts of political regimes that are authoritarian in nature — and supported by the hordes — sure there are right-wing examples like nazi germany and franco’s spain, but what about stalin’s russia and mao’s china?! not to mention east germany (where the stasi chief even had an actual room 101!).

i’m sorry, but i can’t help but think that authoritarianism — including personality types that favor authoritarianism — also occurs on the left. a ten-second google search shows me that left-wing authoritarianism has both been researched and found to exist — something which tuschman, unfortunately, doesn’t mention in the book.

the authors of The Presence of Left-Wing Authoritarianism in Western Europe and Its Relationship with Conservative Ideology found authoritarian traits — measured by willingness to use violence (aggression) and needing to obey left-wing leaders (submission) — in extremist left-wingers in belgium (flemish belgium) in the country’s communist party, but especially in the country’s stalinist(!) party. (interestingly, the members of an anarchist movement in the nation who were studied were not authoritarian in nature.) from the paper:

“The present results suggest the presence of authoritarianism among Western European adherents of extreme left-wing parties. Particularly the adherents of the Stalinist party obtained high LWA scores. So, it seems that we achieved in finding ‘the Loch Ness Monster of political psychology.’ The LWA scale not only proved to be successful in distinguishing anarchists and extreme left-wingers from the other ideological groups (the authoritarian aggression facet is most fruitful for this purpose), but also in distinguishing extreme left-wingers from anarchists (the authoritarian submission facet is most fruitful for this purpose). The discriminatory power to distinguish between left-wing extremists, anarchists, and other ideological groups underscores the validity of the aggression and submission facet scales. However, these results also make it clear that the presence of LWA in Western societies seems to be limited to very specific political movements that do not elicit much support in the mass public.”

the presence of left-wing authoritarianism might be limited in western european societies, but you find much more of it in eastern europe! from Left-wing authoritarianism is not a myth, but a worrisome reality. Evidence from 13 Eastern European countries:

“Using representative samples the relationship between authoritarianism and political preferences was examined in 13 excommunist Eastern European countries. Employing six different indicators of left-wing/communist political orientations made clear that, despite cross-national differences, left-wing authoritarianism is definitely not a myth in Eastern Europe….

“Interesting is also the intra-regional variation regarding the relation between authoritarianism and political ideology.”

i feel a hajnal line map coming on. (~_^)

“In Bulgaria and Russia, for example, authoritarianism is consequently linked with communist/political left-wing preferences regardless of which indicator is used; while in a country like Hungary almost no evidence was found for left-wing authoritarianism. This is in line with Todosijevic and Enyedi’s (2008a) conclusion that leftist authoritarians do exist in Hungary, but they are few and their presence is overshadowed by the authoritarianism of the anticommunist right. Also Enyedi et al. (1997) conclude that the phenomenon of left-wing authoritarianism, though present in Hungary, is less significant than its rightist counterpart….

“[A]uthoritarians in Central and Eastern European countries embrace communist principles and that they hold negative attitudes towards democracy….

“The existence of left-wing authoritarianism has been debated for about six decades. Many authors believed that authoritarianism is essentially a right-wing phenomenon. Most of the evidence comes from studies conducted in Western countries; while the members of the American Communist Part have always been treated as highly deviant (Krugman, 1952). Also Altemeyer (1981) described radical leftists in countries like Canada and the United States as not submissive to established authorities and not conventional. Therefore we believe that the fact that thus far not a lot of evidence is found for left-wing authoritarianism is not due to nonexistence of left-wing authoritarianism, but is due to the fact that we have not looked at the right places.

i’m not sure, yet, what the existence of left-wing authoritarianism — and the fact that tuschman didn’t include it in his book — means for tuschman’s model of our political natures. i need to finish reading the book first — and to think more about it all, too. one thing is certain: i’m more than a bit dubious about using the right-wing authoritarianism model as a basis for looking at the differences between liberals and conservatives. i fear too many things might be missing from that picture, as is evidenced by the two random studies on left-wing authoritarianism that i pulled off the internet.

previously: our political nature and human biodiversity and well this sounds familiar…

(note: comments do not require an email. the party which i self-identify with the most.)

just started reading avi tuschman‘s Our Political Nature: The Evolutionary Origins of What Divides Us. so far it’s very good! mind you, i’ve only read the first two chapters (there are twenty-three altogether). (~_^)

according to tuschman, his goal in writing this book is [from the preface – my emphasis]:

“[T]o paint a compelling and accurate portrait of our nature as political animals. Today’s political commentators would have us believe that we vote based on our views about the main issues of the day, on our economic circumstances, or on our longtime affiliations with this political party or that. That’s wrong, or at least incomplete. Step by step, I will explain that our political orientations are not simply intellectual constructs, flowing from our upbringing, our schooling, our peer groups, or which newspapers we read. No, our political orientations are actually natural dispositions, molded within each of us by powerful evolutionary forces.


in the first two chapters, tuschman reviews some of the major research out there which has found that personality is largely innate and that personality strongly influences our political orientations (left-wing or right): the blocks’ study showing that personality at age four strongly correlates with political orientation as an adult (in one’s 20s) [pdf], for example, and alford et al.’s twin studies which showed that identical twins reared apart have very much the same political orientations [pdf], and so on.

well, he doesn’t need to persuade me! (~_^) left and right — we are “born this way.”

furthermore, tuschman says we’ll find these innate left/right personalities in all societies. he draws, though, what i think is a slightly awkward comparison between all of the rebellious folks in the arab spring and the occupy wall street movement in the western world [chapter 1]:

“[I]t was precisely Basboosa’s [the tunisian man who immolated himself triggering the so-called arab spring] moral *rejection of inequality* that activated one of these universal hot buttons residing within him, and within so many of his compatriots. And this is why his story resonated with a critical mass of people in the Middle East, for whom Basboosa symbolized the humble, well-meaning common man systematically abused by government fiat and corruption.

“Now, the story of Basboosa might seem rather remote to many American readers. But the same hidden trigger at play in the Middle East underlies the concurrent transformation of the political landscape in the United States. As the Arab Spring was unfolding, the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement emerged on the far left of the US spectrum. The demonstrators in New York shouting, ‘We are the 99 percent!’ were railing not against Middle Eastern dictators, but rather against bankers and large corporations. And yet the same issue that ignited the Arab Spring had inspired and galvanized their movement: a moral rejection of economic and social *inequality*.”

well, yeah … sort of … maybe. but i’m not certain that there are equally as many individuals in tunisia — or north africa — concerned about equality for everybody as there are in the united states or western europe. there might be a lot of people p*ssed off in the arab world/middle east/north africa that they, personally, experience so much corruption in their daily lives and that they and their families are often cheated by others, but are they really morally rejecting economic and social inequality to the same degree that, say, a swede does? i dunno, but it’s worth asking.

just looking quickly at one set of responses from the world values survey [1981-2002 waves] to the question…

“How would you place your views on this scale? – Incomes should be made more equal vs We need larger income differences as incentives.”

…we find that north africans are very much for GREATER income inequality [click on chart for LARGER view]:

wvs - income equality

i think it would be very safe to bet that different populations will vary not only in the numbers/proportions of leftists vs. rightists found within them but also in how liberal or conservative their left- or right-wingers are.

but i think i’m getting ahead of tuschman and that he’s actually going to get to this later in the book. for instance, in chapter two, he does say:

“What happened when groups of very different genetic backgrounds live in the same environment? In this case, each group’s average personality scores differed according to the *origin of their ancestors*. For example, the personality traits of white South Africans clustered closer to the Swiss, while black South Africans had personalities more similar to Zimbabweans. Likewise, groups that have traditionally lived in geographically adjacent territories have more similar average personalities than groups separated by large distances.”

so i should prolly finish reading the book before i say any more on this. (^_^)

previously: well this sounds familiar…

(note: comments do not require an email. yo!)