Remember the study, still cited by liberals, that found that a correlation between “psychoticism” and conservative political beliefs? It said qualities such as “dogmatism,” “intolerance of ambiguity,” the “fear of threat or loss” manifest themselves in conservatives, who “are more uncooperative, hostile, troublesome, and socially withdrawn,” as well as less conscientious, less agreeable, and more “manipulative.” Conversely, liberals have low scores on “psychoticism,” making them “altruistic, well socialized, empathic, and conventional.”
Well, in what has been called “one of the most humiliating academic mistakes ever,” the journal that printed the study has posted “the mother of all corrections.” It turns out, the researchers exactly reversed the results!
Psychoticism actually correlates not with conservatism but with liberalism! The study found that liberals have the traits of “dogmatism,” “intolerance of ambiguity,” and the “fear of threat and loss.” Liberals were found to be “more uncooperative, hostile, troublesome, and socially withdrawn,” as well as less conscientious, less agreeable, and more “manipulative.” Conservatives are the ones who are “altruistic, well socialized, empathic, and conventional”!
The National Review calls it, “one of the most humiliating academic mistakes ever.” Powerline calls it, “the mother of all corrections.” The Media Research Center calls it, “maybe the most embarrassing correction in history.”
Over three years after publishing a study which both presumed and then “found” that political and social conservatism comes from “psychoticism,” “dogmatism,” “intolerance of ambiguity,” the “fear of threat or loss,” and, “serves as a coping mechanism that allows people to manage these threats,” the study’s authors are admitting they accidentally reversed the results.
The 2012 study, published in the American Journal of Political Science by three professors at Virginia Commonwealth University, analyzed a survey of 5,748 pairs of twins and their relatives, to see if not only personality, but political views find their genesis in early childhood. The study was called, “Correlation Not Causation: The Relationship between Personality Traits and Political Ideologies.”
But the study’s main premise is not what got the mainstream media’s attention. The study concluded that those with conservative principles “are more uncooperative, hostile, troublesome, and socially withdrawn,” as well as less conscientious, less agreeable, and more “manipulative.” People who scored low on “Psychoticism,” namely liberals, are “altruistic, well socialized, empathic, and conventional.”
In the study’s abstract, the authors admitted, “We expect higher P (Psychoticism) scores to be related to more conservative political attitudes, particularly for militarism and social conservatism.”
The authors introduced their conclusion that conservatives are characterized by Psychoticism, dogmatism, authoritarianism, intolerance and fear by stating this was “in line with our expectations.” They also concluded that those who want to get along (termed “Social Desirability”) are “likely to express socially liberal attitudes.”
However, it has now been revealed that the study actually found the exact opposite of what its authors claimed.
In an admission of error called an “Erratum,” the authors state, “The interpretation of the coding of the political attitude items…was exactly reversed. Thus, where we indicated that higher scores…reflect a more conservative response, they actually reflect a more liberal response.”
“Specifically,” the authors continue, “the descriptive analyses report that those higher in Eysenck’s Psychoticism are more conservative, but they are actually more liberal; and where the original manuscript reports those higher in neuroticism and social desirability are more liberal, they are, in fact, more conservative.”
The Erratum corrects the original manuscript in several places, rewording it to read the polar opposite of the original: “Opposite our expectations, higher P scores correlate with more liberal military attitudes and more socially liberal beliefs.”
The Erratum explains, “During the extraction for the personality and attitudes project, the specific codebook used for the project was developed in error.” This error was not noticed, because “the descriptive analyses did not appear abnormal to the authors, editors, reviewers or the general academy.”
So in fact, the study found that it is Liberals who are more prone to “Psychoticism” and authoritarianism, while conservatives actually are the ones who wish to get along.
I would add that I am skeptical about psychologizing political (or ideological or religious ideas) like this. You can’t reduce ideas to the personality of the person who holds them. Lots of factors go into the beliefs that a person holds.
When the conservative as psychotic paper first came out, conservatives rejected its reductionism, while liberals crowed about the findings. I suspect now that liberals, perhaps the same ones who did the crowing, will now reject its reductionism, while conservatives will crow.
By the way, the first version of the paper got wide media coverage. I haven’t seen much coverage of the retraction and new conclusions. Surely even liberal journalists would have to agree that the story is at least hilarious!