Sunday, November 24, 2013

Study: Conservatives More Likely To Make Up Facts In Order To Justify Their Beliefs

"Study: Conservatives More Likely To Make Up Facts In Order To Justify Their Beliefs," an article at, continues our series on the psychology of the Conservative mind, highlighting the phenomenon of Cognitive Dissonance, and we'll follow that with a complementary piece by Allen Clifton at, "Cognitive Dissonance and the Republican Denial of Reality."

On to the first piece:

"Two psychologists Brittany Liu and Peter Ditto from the University of California-Irvine conducted a study to evaluate how liberals and conservatives dealt with so called hard truths in areas that they may not be prone to believing because of their ideologies. The study looked at four areas – two of these areas are supported by liberals and detested by conservatives and two are supported by conservatives and detested by liberals:
#1 – Educating kids on condoms
#2 – Embryonic stem cell research
#3 – The death penalty
#4 – Water boarding captives
"Even though both liberals and conservatives alike had a tendency to rationalize their views … conservatives created a new reality essentially in all four of these areas in order to square their thought process. The conservative movement by and large suffers from this; another term for this is cognitive dissonance. For whatever reason – the brains of conservatives just make stuff up in order to justify their support for two conflicting beliefs.

"Conservatives are against 'socialism' but love Medicare. They hate Obamacare but nominated a guy who created the model for Obamacare. They’re against abortion but don’t want to teach kids about condoms. They don’t like Wall Street but want fewer regulations. The list goes on. And that’s why people search for the news that reassures them that they are correct instead of simply searching for the truth; cognitive dissonance is the reason that Fox News is profitable.


"Noun: The state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, esp. as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change.

"Alternet has an explanation of the study HERE:
"In the study, Liu and Ditto report, conservatives tilted their views of the facts to favor their moral convictions more than liberals did, on every single issue. And that was true whether it was a topic that liberals oppose (the death penalty) or that conservatives oppose (embryonic stem cell research). 'Conservatives are doing this to a larger degree across four different issues,' Liu explained in an interview. 'Including two that are leaning to the liberal side, not the conservative side.'" 
"There is a longstanding (if controversial) body of research on liberal-conservative psychological differences that may provide an answer for why this occurs. Conservatives, Liu notes, score higher on a trait called the need for cognitive closure, which describes a feeling of discomfort with uncertainty and the need to hold a firm belief, a firm conviction, unwaveringly. Insofar as a need for closure pushes one to want to hold coherent, consistent beliefs–and makes one intolerant of ambiguity–it makes sense that wanting to achieve 'moral coherence' between one’s factual and moral views would also go along with it. Conservatives, in this interpretation, would naturally have more conviction that the facts of the world, and their moral systems, are perfectly aligned. Liberals, in contrast, might be more conflicted–supportive of embryonic stem cell research, for instance, but nourishing doubts about whether the scientific promise we heard so much about a decade ago is being realized."
"You can download the study HERE.

Republican pollster Frank Lutz gives 5 tangible examples of how conservatives suffer from this HERE:
"As part of the Washington Post Outlook section’s '5 Myths' series, Luntz makes the case that ordinary voters who call themselves 'conservative' aren’t obsessed with reducing the size of government; don’t want to deport illegal immigrants en masse; aren’t big fans of Wall Street; want to preserve Medicare and Social Security; and agree with liberals that income inequality is at least problematic." 
"Make no mistake: Luntz is road-testing talking points here. Yet if you ignore the partisan gloss, I think the thrust of Luntz’s data paints an accurate picture: Conservative voters suffer from cognitive dissonance. They are less conservative than they think, and they are decidedly less conservative than professional conservatives in Washington. That most Americans, including conservatives, hate big government only in the abstract is a truism of politics. Luntz’s data is yet another confirmation of Americans’ operational liberalism."
"Berkeley Political Review explains how poor Republicans can still support laissez-faire economics HERE:
"The simultaneous adherence to the abstract “freedom” that capitalist behavior is portrayed to embody is now clashing with harsh employment prospects and irresponsible banking practices. A pre-recession report by the Pew Research Center found that '76 percent of poor Republicans believe most people can get ahead with hard work. In the words of David Brooks in 2005, “the G.O.P. succeeds because it is seen as the party of optimistic individualism.” With optimism destroyed by the great recession, this socially unconscious individualism is leading many conservatives to a state of cognitive dissonance." 
"It is unclear whether it was the great recession or the concerns raised by the Occupy Movement, but prior to these events, no presidential candidate would have ever considered even implying faults in the pursuit of free market tactics. Conservatism is being torn between sticking to capitalistic and free market ideals under the banner of “freedom,” and the realization of the sheer number of people suffering from the effects these ideals have had on the American economy. As long as poor Republican constituents continue to adhere to a free market version of freedom and not the alternative of freedom from predatory lending, private debt, and inequality, they will continue to live in a state of cognitive dissonance."
"The Economist explains how conservatives do this by supporting Mitt Romney in healthcare but railing against President Obama’s health care law which is practically identical HERE:
"Mr Romney’s very presence on the national scene reminds conservative editorialists of the fact that Obamacare, a policy they have demonised as incipient tyrannical socialism, differs little from policies many prominent conservatives once endorsed. The cognitive dissonance is too great to bear. So conservative opinionmakers are left with a choice: admit that individual mandates and many other features of Obamacare figured prominently in conservative health-care reform proposals just a few years ago, or throw Mr Romney to the wolves for the crime of leadership in health-care reform. By juxtaposing National Review’s editorial on Mr Romney’s recent health-care speech with its 2007 editorial endorsing him for the GOP nomination for president, Matthew Yglesias perfectly captures how the right is making Mr Romney pay for its own en masse opportunistic waffling. Here’s National Review on Friday: 
"'[W]hen conservatives argue that Obamacare is a threat to the economy, to the quality of health care, and to the proper balance between government and citizenry, we do not mean that it should be implemented at the state level. We mean that it should not be implemented at all. And Romney’s health-care federalism is wobbly. The federal government picked up a fifth of the cost of his health-care plan. His justification for the individual mandate also lends itself naturally toward federal imposition of a mandate. He says that the state had to make insurance compulsory to prevent cost shifting, because federal law requires hospitals to treat all comers, insured or not. But if federal law is the source of a national problem, it makes no sense to advocate a state-by-state solution.'"

Clifton's article follows:

"There’s not a day that goes by where I don’t walk away from reading some of the comments I get on Forward Progressives or Right Off A Cliff and wonder to myself, 'What must reality be like on whatever planet Republicans seem to live on?'

"Because it damn sure isn’t the same planet, or in the same reality, where I live.

"These are the people who claim to be the party for “fiscal responsibility,” yet haven’t had a president from their own party balance the budget since President Eisenhower who served over a half-century ago. Hell, Ronald Reagan (the man many of them champion as the epitome of conservatism) drastically grew our deficits and our national debt during his time in the White House.

"Tell me again how that’s being 'fiscally responsible?' I still don’t get that.

"These are also the people who call themselves 'Christians' while condemning the poor, vilifying the needy then supporting policies that perpetuate greed and selfishness. All things which are direct contradictions to the values for which Jesus Christ lived and ultimately died for. Yet millions of these people still continue to believe themselves to be 'Christians' basically because they oppose abortion, same-sex marriage and attend church frequently. Two things which Jesus Christ never even spoke about, and church being something he did warn people to be wary of as often times people speak of God to benefit their own selfish ambitions.

"And don’t even get me started on their stance as the party for 'small government.' They love government. They constantly support big government when it benefits something they support or oppose. They only really oppose government when it goes against their ideological beliefs.

"Now we have this government shutdown, where somewhere in the delusional minds of Republicans they believe they’ve been given some kind of mandate that allows them to shut down our government in a pointless attempt to stop 'Obamacare.'

"Never mind the fact that President Obama was overwhelmingly re-elected or that Democrats were given more seats in both the House and the Senate — somehow, Republicans think the “American people have spoken” and have given them a mandate.

"Well, the American people did speak. They re-elected the man who signed the health care bill into law and gave more seats back to the party which supports the law.

"Then as John Boehner sits there, refusing to let the House vote on a clean version of the Senate’s resolution which would reopen the government (he’s simply saying there aren’t enough votes—though refuses to prove it) they still blame the shutdown on President Obama and Democrats.

"Yet they really can’t answer how it’s their fault if Boehner won’t let the House vote.

"But none of this really matters to Republicans, and there’s an easy answer as to why. See, most of them suffer from what’s known as cognitive dissonance. To put it simply, cognitive dissonance is the brain’s inability to handle two conflicting realities, so it creates an alternate one which often defies actual reality.

"The first time I heard this term was in reference to abusive relationships and how individuals somehow convince themselves that abuse equates to love. While to an outsider the abusive behavior is a complete contradiction to love, the person being abused creates some alternative form of reality in their minds where they deserve the abuse. They feel it’s justified. They love the person abusing them, want to believe that they love them back, but the abuse completely contradicts these feelings. Therefore, their mind simply creates some delusional reality where 'abuse' and 'love' seemingly go together.

"That’s how I view most Republicans. What they want to be real doesn’t correspond to what is real, therefore instead of facing the stark reality that their whole political ideology is wrong, they’ve simply concocted some alternate form of reality where facts, science and history don’t matter.

"They’ll scream at the top of their lungs that “Obama is the worst president in history!” yet can’t tell you any factual reasons why. Sure, they can spout off a bunch of right-wing talking points taken directly from Fox News or Rush Limbaugh, but they can’t actually recite much of anything factual.

"Many will stare you straight in the face and tell you that President Obama made the economy worse, while ignoring the fact we’ve created around 7 million jobs in the last 3 1/2 years.

"Republicans will blast President Obama for his spending, while ignoring the fact that year to year deficits have been reduced by their largest margins since WWII.

"They’ll talk about how 'Obamacare' is a failure, yet can’t list 5 factual statements about the health care law.

"Patriotism is a word they often use, just before they talk of secession whenever they don’t get their way.

"They’re simply suffering from a severe case of cognitive dissonance. The reality they wished existed doesn’t, therefore they’ve simply created an alternate reality where their rhetoric makes sense.

  • You’re fiscally conservative—while running up giant deficits.
  • You’re for small government—except all the times when you want government to support your side of the argument.
  • You’re a patriot—while talking of secession and revolution whenever the Constitution doesn’t support your ideology.
  • You’re for the Constitution—yet that same Constitution rarely supports your policies.
  • You’re against the government shutdown—even though many members of your party had been calling for one.
  • You’re a Christian—while supporting policies which contradict the teachings of Jesus Christ.
  • You’re for the middle class—by supporting policies which screw them over for the benefit of the rich.
  • You’re against government programs—while living off government programs.
  • You’re against people on welfare—while you live in a state that takes in more federal dollars than it pays out.
"The list could honestly go on and on. The absolute hypocrisy within the Republican party is rampant and seemingly endless.

"And the simple explanation is that many of then suffer from cognitive dissonance. What they want to be real isn’t, therefore the only way their brains can handle such conflicting events is by creating a version of 'reality' that doesn’t make sense or exist.

"Which is exactly what many of them have done."


A statement in the first article is rather a formal one where, "Conservative voters suffer from cognitive dissonance. They are less conservative than they think, and they are decidedly less conservative than professional conservatives in Washington. That most Americans, including conservatives, hate big government only in the abstract is a truism of politics," and the second article boils the problem down as simply, "What they want to be real doesn’t correspond to what is real, therefore instead of facing the stark reality that their whole political ideology is wrong, they’ve simply concocted some alternate form of reality where facts, science and history don’t matter."

After Conservatism is finally made illegal, the problem of the Conservative Sheeplets will be a difficult one. Their "illness" is hardwired into their brains and they may not be totally guilty of the crimes inflicted on the American people and the world in quite the same way that their leaders, propagandists, and fellow travelers.

So in order to correct their "reality 'that doesn't make sense or exist,' they can only be cured by intensive psychotherapy - and perhaps some neuroscientific methods to change their brain chemistry or structure in a way that will allow them to reenter the democratic society that they tried so hard to destroy.

The more recalcitrant of the Sheeplets will possibly have to face jail time...or worse.


"Satire is traditionally the weapon of the powerless against the powerful."

Molly Ivins.