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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Study: Conservatives and Bigots are Idiots • The Muppets • Iran and the War the US Wants • Poverty • Smiling Gorillas • Religious Republican Bigots • more

- Miss Piggy: Fox News Is Not News video
    Last month, Eric Bolling did a segment on his Fox Business show warning his audience about the dangerous liberal messages allegedly embedded in the new Muppets movie. A graphic shown during the segment asked, "Are Liberals Trying To Brainwash Your Kids Against Capitalism?":
    This resulted in widespread mockery of Fox. Bolling followed up with a series of embarrassing responses -- including challenging Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy to a debate.Now, the Muppets have weighed in.
- Sanctions can only deepen the Iran crisis
    The way in which the growing confrontation with Iran is being sold by the US, Israel and West European leaders is deeply dishonest. The manipulation of the media and public opinion through systematic threat exaggeration is similar to the drum beat of propaganda and disinformation about Iraq's non-existent weapons of mass destruction that preceded the invasion in 2003.The supposed aim of imposing sanctions on Iran's oil exports and central bank, measures officially joined by the EU, is to force Iran to abandon its nuclear programme before it reaches the point where it could theoretically build a nuclear bomb. Even Israel now agrees that Iran has not yet decided to do so, but the Iranian nuclear programme is still being presented as a danger to Israel and the rest of the world.There are two other menacing parallels between the run-up to the Iraq war and what is happening now. The purported issue is the future of the Iranian nuclear programme, but, for part of the coalition mustering against Iran, the real purpose is the overthrow of the Iranian government....
    In reality, sanctions are likely to intensify the crisis, impoverish ordinary Iranians and psychologically prepare the ground for war because of the demonisation of Iran. The problem is that Israel and its right-wing American allies are more interested in regime change than Tehran's nuclear programme.
- Immobility Nation: The Fable of the 'Land of Opportunity'
    For most people facing poverty today in the United States, the concept of America as the land of opportunity is just a fable.Mazumder, the director of the Chicago Census Research Data Center, concludes that it would take an average of five generations for a family's offspring to rise from low income to middle income.This doesn't mean that all of a poor family's descendants will be poor for six generations, but it does illustrate just how slowly family incomes change in America.

    It wasn't always this way. Time was when opportunities for advancement in America were expanding, not contracting.Another study from the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago shows that intergenerational mobility increased continuously from 1940 to 1980. Only then did it start to fall.

    By 2000 (the final year of the study covered), mobility in America was lower than where it had started in 1940.
- Gorillas grin 'to reassure friends'
    Gorillas bare their teeth in a playful "grin" to reassure one another during play, scientists have discovered.
    This "flash of teeth" seems to let their playmate know that they do not intend to harm them.

    The researchers, from the University of Portsmouth, study the facial expressions of primates to uncover the evolutionary origins of human smiling and laughter.
- Gingrich Wants A Government That Respects ‘Our Religion,’ Not ‘Every Other Religion’ with video
    As TP’s Igor Volsky pointed out today, Newt Gingrich has been accusing President Obama of perpetrating a “war on religion,” saying the president has made it more difficult for people of faith to practice their beliefs. But at a campaign stop in Florida this afternoon, Gingrich made that not all religions are created equally:

      GINGRICH: Now, I think we need to have a government that respects our religions. I’m a little bit tired about respecting every religion on the planet. I’d like them to respect our religion.
- Gingrich, Purposely Tries to Hinder Progress
    "There is the assumption—pioneered by Newt Gingrich himself, as early as the 1970s—that the minority wins when Congress accomplishes less"...
- Feds list First Nations, green groups as 'adversaries' in oil sands PR strategy
    The federal government is distancing itself from its own lobbying and public relations campaign to polish the image of Alberta's oil sands, following revelations that an internal strategy document labelled First Nations and environmentalists as "adversaries," while describing the National Energy Board, an independent industry regulator, as an "ally."

Low IQ & Conservative Beliefs Linked to Prejudice
Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience Senior Writer
Published on 26 January 2012

There's no gentle way to put it: People who give in to racism and prejudice may simply be dumb, according to a new study that is bound to stir public controversy.

The research finds that children with low intelligence are more likely to hold prejudiced attitudes as adults. These findings point to a vicious cycle, according to lead researcher Gordon Hodson, a psychologist at Brock University in Ontario. Low-intelligence adults tend to gravitate toward socially conservative ideologies, the study found. Those ideologies, in turn, stress hierarchy and resistance to change, attitudes that can contribute to prejudice, Hodson wrote in an email to LiveScience.

"Prejudice is extremely complex and multifaceted, making it critical that any factors contributing to bias are uncovered and understood," he said.

Controversy ahead
The findings combine three hot-button topics.

"They've pulled off the trifecta of controversial topics," said Brian Nosek, a social and cognitive psychologist at the University of Virginia who was not involved in the study. "When one selects intelligence, political ideology and racism and looks at any of the relationships between those three variables, it's bound to upset somebody."

Polling data and social and political science research do show that prejudice is more common in those who hold right-wing ideals that those of other political persuasions, Nosek told LiveScience. [7 Thoughts That Are Bad For You]

"The unique contribution here is trying to make some progress on the most challenging aspect of this," Nosek said, referring to the new study. "It's not that a relationship like that exists, but why it exists."

Brains and bias
Earlier studies have found links between low levels of education and higher levels of prejudice, Hodson said, so studying intelligence seemed a logical next step. The researchers turned to two studies of citizens in the United Kingdom, one that has followed babies since their births in March 1958, and another that did the same for babies born in April 1970. The children in the studies had their intelligence assessed at age 10 or 11; as adults ages 30 or 33, their levels of social conservatism and racism were measured. [Life's Extremes: Democrat vs. Republican]

In the first study, verbal and nonverbal intelligence was measured using tests that asked people to find similarities and differences between words, shapes and symbols. The second study measured cognitive abilities in four ways, including number recall, shape-drawing tasks, defining words and identifying patterns and similarities among words. Average IQ is set at 100.
Social conservatives were defined as people who agreed with a laundry list of statements such as "Family life suffers if mum is working full-time," and "Schools should teach children to obey authority." Attitudes toward other races were captured by measuring agreement with statements such as "I wouldn't mind working with people from other races." (These questions measured overt prejudiced attitudes, but most people, no matter how egalitarian, do hold unconscious racial biases; Hodson's work can't speak to this "underground" racism.)

As suspected, low intelligence in childhood corresponded with racism in adulthood. But the factor that explained the relationship between these two variables was political: When researchers included social conservatism in the analysis, those ideologies accounted for much of the link between brains and bias.

People with lower cognitive abilities also had less contact with people of other races.
"This finding is consistent with recent research demonstrating that intergroup contact is mentally challenging and cognitively draining, and consistent with findings that contact reduces prejudice," said Hodson, who along with his colleagues published these results online Jan. 5 in the journal Psychological Science.

A study of averages
Hodson was quick to note that the despite the link found between low intelligence and social conservatism, the researchers aren't implying that all liberals are brilliant and all conservatives stupid. The research is a study of averages over large groups, he said.

"There are multiple examples of very bright conservatives and not-so-bright liberals, and many examples of very principled conservatives and very intolerant liberals," Hodson said.
Nosek gave another example to illustrate the dangers of taking the findings too literally.
"We can say definitively men are taller than women on average," he said. "But you can't say if you take a random man and you take a random woman that the man is going to be taller. There's plenty of overlap."

Nonetheless, there is reason to believe that strict right-wing ideology might appeal to those who have trouble grasping the complexity of the world.

"Socially conservative ideologies tend to offer structure and order," Hodson said, explaining why these beliefs might draw those with low intelligence. "Unfortunately, many of these features can also contribute to prejudice."

In another study, this one in the United States, Hodson and Busseri compared 254 people with the same amount of education but different levels of ability in abstract reasoning. They found that what applies to racism may also apply to homophobia. People who were poorer at abstract reasoning were more likely to exhibit prejudice against gays. As in the U.K. citizens, a lack of contact with gays and more acceptance of right-wing authoritarianism explained the link. [5 Myths About Gay People Debunked]

Simple viewpoints
Hodson and Busseri's explanation of their findings is reasonable, Nosek said, but it is correlational. That means the researchers didn't conclusively prove that the low intelligence caused the later prejudice. To do that, you'd have to somehow randomly assign otherwise identical people to be smart or dumb, liberal or conservative. Those sorts of studies obviously aren't possible.

The researchers controlled for factors such as education and socioeconomic status, making their case stronger, Nosek said. But there are other possible explanations that fit the data. For example, Nosek said, a study of left-wing liberals with stereotypically naïve views like "every kid is a genius in his or her own way," might find that people who hold these attitudes are also less bright. In other words, it might not be a particular ideology that is linked to stupidity, but extremist views in general.

"My speculation is that it's not as simple as their model presents it," Nosek said. "I think that lower cognitive capacity can lead to multiple simple ways to represent the world, and one of those can be embodied in a right-wing ideology where 'People I don't know are threats' and 'The world is a dangerous place'. ... Another simple way would be to just assume everybody is wonderful."

Prejudice is of particular interest because understanding the roots of racism and bias could help eliminate them, Hodson said. For example, he said, many anti-prejudice programs encourage participants to see things from another group's point of view. That mental exercise may be too taxing for people of low IQ.

"There may be cognitive limits in the ability to take the perspective of others, particularly foreigners," Hodson said. "Much of the present research literature suggests that our prejudices are primarily emotional in origin rather than cognitive. These two pieces of information suggest that it might be particularly fruitful for researchers to consider strategies to change feelings toward outgroups," rather than thoughts.