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JACK BLOCKHEAD


ANOTHER BIT OF PSEUDO SCIENCE FROM BERKELEY



By John Ray (March, 2006)

I suppose I should comment on the latest version of an old Leftist tune -- summarized here for the general reader.

Starting in 1950, psychologists have been trying to prove that conservatives are psychologically maladjusted --an effort that was summarized by Jost et al. and demolished here. They never give up trying, however, and the study of 95 children from Berkeley, California by Jack Block and his wife is the latest episode. It's a bit like shooting fish in a barrel to demolish the "research" concerned so I will just mention a few basics.

What the authors found was that Berkeley children who were rated as unhappy in their kindergarten years turned out as adults to be conservatives. So what do we conclude from that? Do we conclude that conservatives are intrinsically unhappy people? Hardly. The opinion polls repeatedly show conservatives to be the happiest (e.g. here). So what DO we conclude? How about saying that conservatives in ultra-Leftist Berkeley feel uncomfortable in that environment and pass on some of that discomfort to their children? But the children (as most children do) grow up to share their parents' politics so they turn out conservative in later life too. So conservative parents who were SITUATIONALLY unhappy have conservative children -- big deal!

But that is actually putting the best face on the study. It is not nearly as good as that:

1). The children concerned were not a representative sample of any known population. They may not even have been representative of Berkeley, let alone anywhere else. And if you don't sample, you can't generalize.

2). The correlation between personality and ideology was often very weak (e.g. .27 or 7% shared variance for the rating "Is self-reliant, confident") so there were nearly as many confident children who turned out Rightist as Leftist. The reported correlation could in fact have turned on the responses of just one child. That certainly weakens ALL causal inferences from the study. And many of the stronger correlations involve obvious value judgments. For instance "Is visibly deviant from peers" is said to characterize conservatives but why not turn the value judgment around and conclude that conservatives tend to be independent?

3). The measure of conservative ideology is suspect. Block does not list the actual attitude statements he used but, as I have shown elsewhere, Leftist psychologists in general don't have a blind clue what conservatism is -- and what they regard as a measure of conservatism is usually a caricature of the real thing -- generally a collection of ignorant and aggressive statements that very few real-world conservatives would assent to. That it was a caricature in this case is suggested by the fact that it showed conservatives as less intelligent. In the general population it is Leftists who are less intelligent.

I could go on to mention the Rosenthal effect etc. but what's the point? Michelle Malkin has links to various other comments on the study.





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