Level of Interest in Empirical Data

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Level of Interest in Empirical Data

#1  Postby SkyMutt » Jul 18, 2016 6:22 am

A paper will be released next month that apparently shows a measurable difference between the levels of interest that conservatives and liberals display toward empirical data.

"UA Study Shows Stark Differences in How Conservatives, Liberals See Data" | UA News

Conservatives are less interested than liberals in viewing novel scientific data, according to a psychology researcher at The University of Alabama.

Dr. Alexa Tullett, assistant professor of psychology at UA, recently conducted the project, titled “Is ideology the enemy of inquiry? Examining the link between political orientation and lack of interest in novel data.” The article will be published in the Journal of Research and Personality in August.

In three separate studies, Tullett and colleagues offered participants in both the Deep South and West Coast a chance to view data on three topics: the justness of the world, the efficacy of social safety nets and the benefits of social media. Participants were given no advanced knowledge of what the data would tell them. Tullett found that conservatives were less interested in viewing empirical data than liberals in all three studies. Moreover, conservatives were more skeptical about the value of science compared with liberals. These differences suggest that conservatives and liberals may differ with respect to the kinds of information they find persuasive in the context of political debate, Tullett said.

[. . .]

“When we originally found the relationship between political orientation and disinterest in this information, I expected that it would be because conservatives were more likely to think the data would undermine their views. But this doesn’t seem to be the case. It just seems that they are less optimistic than liberals about how much scientific data can teach us.”

[Continues . . .]
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Re: Level of Interest in Empirical Data

#2  Postby Thommo » Jul 18, 2016 12:46 pm

Hmm. I wonder whether the same would be true of studies on topics other than justness of the world, the efficacy of social safety nets and the benefits of social media?

Those don't sound like topics that are politically neutral to me.
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Re: Level of Interest in Empirical Data

#3  Postby laklak » Jul 18, 2016 2:27 pm

That was my first thought also. Probably depends on your definition of "conservative", too. Babble Thumping Evangelicals don't like evolutionary data, or physics, chemistry, cosmology, astronomy, biology, anthropology, radiometrics....
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Re: Level of Interest in Empirical Data

#4  Postby SkyMutt » Jul 18, 2016 4:52 pm

Thommo wrote:Hmm. I wonder whether the same would be true of studies on topics other than justness of the world, the efficacy of social safety nets and the benefits of social media?

Those don't sound like topics that are politically neutral to me.


What sort of political bias do you identify in examining the benefits of social media? Given that the majority of conservatives in the US are users of social media (Facebook in particular), one would surmise that they have an interest in the topic. I think that even a non-user would tend to exhibit natural curiosity about such information.

In discussing this article with conservatives, what I have encountered is rationalizations of this behavior ("data can be twisted" "many scientists are biased") rather than denial that the results present an accurate reflection of conservatives' interest in data. Anecdotal, not scientific evidence, I grant you, but I thought it was interesting.
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Re: Level of Interest in Empirical Data

#5  Postby Thommo » Jul 18, 2016 5:10 pm

SkyMutt wrote:
Thommo wrote:Hmm. I wonder whether the same would be true of studies on topics other than justness of the world, the efficacy of social safety nets and the benefits of social media?

Those don't sound like topics that are politically neutral to me.


What sort of political bias do you identify in examining the benefits of social media? Given that the majority of conservatives in the US are users of social media (Facebook in particular), one would surmise that they have an interest in the topic. I think that even a non-user would tend to exhibit natural curiosity about such information.


Does that follow? Let us suppose a majority of 51% of conservatives use social media and a majority of 81% of liberals use social media, would that not reflect a different level of interest and thus a potential source of bias? *See edit.

SkyMutt wrote:In discussing this article with conservatives, what I have encountered is rationalizations of this behavior ("data can be twisted" "many scientists are biased") rather than denial that the results present an accurate reflection of conservatives' interest in data. Anecdotal, not scientific evidence, I grant you, but I thought it was interesting.


Sure, it might be true, but I did wonder. I don't think scrutiny, questions about replication and analysis of possible alternative explanations of the finding lie outside the scope of science! :)

Edit: *Those numbers were (I hope obviously) hypothetical to question whether there was a lower level of interest among conservatives than among liberals, it appears that this is the case, but the effect size was exaggerated in my example:
https://civicscience.com/is-facebook-ch ... e-forever/
#1- Liberals do NOT outnumber Conservatives on Facebook

Our research says that 78% of self-identified Liberals are on Facebook and 51% use the site/app daily. Only 58% of Conservatives are Facebook users; 36% daily. Moderates split those percentages down the middle. 66% have a Facebook account and 40% use it daily.

The catch, however, is that there are far more Conservatives than Liberals in the U.S. A recent Gallup survey found that 38% of Americans identify as Conservative, versus 24% Liberal and 34% Moderate. When you factor in the usage rates above, the number of Liberals, Conservatives, or Moderates on Facebook is nearly equal – with Conservatives actually holding a slight edge.
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Re: Level of Interest in Empirical Data

#6  Postby SkyMutt » Jul 18, 2016 5:53 pm

Thommo wrote:
SkyMutt wrote:
What sort of political bias do you identify in examining the benefits of social media? Given that the majority of conservatives in the US are users of social media (Facebook in particular), one would surmise that they have an interest in the topic. I think that even a non-user would tend to exhibit natural curiosity about such information.


Does that follow? Let us suppose a majority of 51% of conservatives use social media and a majority of 81% of liberals use social media, would that not reflect a different level of interest and thus a potential source of bias? *See edit.


It could, and I guess we'll just ignore natural human curiosity.

Thommo wrote:
SkyMutt wrote:In discussing this article with conservatives, what I have encountered is rationalizations of this behavior ("data can be twisted" "many scientists are biased") rather than denial that the results present an accurate reflection of conservatives' interest in data. Anecdotal, not scientific evidence, I grant you, but I thought it was interesting.


Sure, it might be true, but I did wonder. I don't think scrutiny, questions about replication and analysis of possible alternative explanations of the finding lie outside the scope of science! :)


Certainly. The paper is up on ScienceDirect, but I don't have access.
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Re: Level of Interest in Empirical Data

#7  Postby Thommo » Jul 18, 2016 5:59 pm

Me neither sadly.

I'm not quite sure what your comment about natural human curiousity is supposed to convey though. The very thing we're debating is that a lot of participants were not curious. We were talking about possible reasons why, no?
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Re: Level of Interest in Empirical Data

#8  Postby SkyMutt » Jul 18, 2016 8:18 pm

I think that, like all primates, humans are a naturally curious species. I'm not aware of anything contradicting that idea, but maybe you are. I don't know that conservatives are any less curious than any other group of people. What we have in these studies appears to be evidence of conservatives displaying a disinterest in a particular source of information. There is no evidence that they display the same disinterest in all other sources of information. In fact, it seems that they're somewhat more interested than liberals in getting information from a source or sources that tend to be agreeable to their orientation. Perhaps they don't see scientific data as a neutral source. It's possible that they're less interested in a neutral source.

At any rate the results of a previous study seem to tie into this one. Perhaps the greater sensitivity to negative stimuli works to counteract their curiosity.
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Re: Level of Interest in Empirical Data

#9  Postby Darwinsbulldog » Jul 19, 2016 4:00 am

As far as information sharing goes there seems to be little difference if a regime is far right, far left or religiousy fundamental. they all try to suppress contrary information of all types, including scientific. Radical Islam believes the only true science is Islamic Science, the Soviets had their Lysenko "genetics", and fundamentalist Christians tout their "Intelligent Design" as truth.

That said, I think the paper is correct in essentials, at least in terms of what was reported about it in the media. Republicans in the USA love to read about science that will lead to big shiny new military hardware [remember Star wars], but are less keen on things like stem cell research, reproductive technologies, or HIV studies. They also like biotech that they cannot connect to anything religious in their POV, but may make an exception where huge profits are to be had. So there interest is very patchy, at best.
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Re: Level of Interest in Empirical Data

#10  Postby Wilbur » Aug 05, 2016 7:52 am

"In general, however, there is taken for the material of philosophy either a great deal out of a few things, or a very little out of many things; so that on both sides philosophy is based on too narrow a foundation of experiment and natural history, and decides on the authority of too few cases. For the Rational School of philosophers snatches from experience a variety of common instances, neither duly ascertained nor diligently examined and weighed, and leaves all the rest to meditation and agitation of wit.

There is also another class of philosophers who, having bestowed much diligent and careful labor on a few experiments, have thence made bold to educe and construct systems, wresting all other facts in a strange fashion to conformity therewith.

And there is yet a third class, consisting of those who out of faith and veneration mix their philosophy with theology and traditions

So that this parent stock of errors — this false philosophy — is of three kinds: the Sophistical, the Empirical, and the Superstitious."
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Re: Level of Interest in Empirical Data

#11  Postby Wilbur » Aug 05, 2016 8:09 am

The data collection and quantitative analysis done in the social sciences is indispensable for developing and maintaining a rational worldview as well as navigating a sane sober way forward, not because the findings are just that accurate or predictive, but really only because it's the best we can do. I'm engaged and interested, sure, but as always, I try to maintain a healthy skepticism.
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Re: Level of Interest in Empirical Data

#12  Postby Scot Dutchy » Aug 05, 2016 8:31 am

Conservatives are liberals in Europe.
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