• Left-wing people less likely to hurt others

    A new piece of research has come out which looks to take the landmark Milgram experiments to the next level of analysis. The Milgram experiment showed that people could just be following orders when being harmful to others? As wiki states:

    The Milgram experiment on obedience to authority figures was a series of social psychology experiments conducted by Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram. They measured the willingness of study participants to obey an authority figure who instructed them to perform acts conflicting with their personal conscience. Milgram first described his research in 1963 in an article published in the Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology[1] and later discussed his findings in greater depth in his 1974 book,Obedience to Authority: An Experimental View.[2]

    The experiments began in July 1961, three months after the start of the trial of German Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann inJerusalem. Milgram devised his psychological study to answer the popular question at that particular time: “Could it be that Eichmann and his million accomplices in the Holocaust were just following orders? Could we call them all accomplices?”[3] The experiments have been repeated many times in the following years with consistent results within differing societies, although not with the same percentages around the globe.[4] The experiments were also controversial and considered by some scientists to be unethical and physically or psychologically abusive.

    As mic.com reports on this new research:

    The news: A new Milgram-like experiment published this month in the Journal of Personality has taken this idea to the next step by trying to understand which kinds of people are more or less willing to obey these kinds of orders. What researchers discovered was surprising: Those who are described as “agreeable, conscientious personalities” are more likely to follow orders and deliver electric shocks that they believe can harm innocent people, while “more contrarian, less agreeable personalities” are more likely to refuse to hurt others.

    The methodology and findings: For an eight-month period, the researchers interviewed the study participants to gauge their social personality, as well as their personal history and political leanings. When they matched this data to the participants’ behavior during the experiment, a distinct pattern emerged: People who were normally friendly followed orders because they didn’t want to upset others, while those who were described as unfriendly stuck up for themselves.

    “The irony is that a personality disposition normally seen as antisocial — disagreeableness — may actually be linked to ‘pro-social’ behavior,'” writes Psychology Today‘s Kenneth Worthy. “This connection seems to arise from a willingness to sacrifice one’s popularity a bit to act in a moral and just way toward other people, animals or the environment at large. Popularity, in the end, may be more a sign of social graces and perhaps a desire to fit in than any kind of moral superiority.”

    The study also found that people holding left-wing political views were less willing to hurt others. One particular group held steady and refused destructive orders: “women who had previously participated in rebellious political activism such as strikes or occupying a factory.”

    The abstract to the original study reads:

    This study investigates how obedience in a Milgram-like experiment is predicted by interindividual differences. Participants were 35 males and 31 females aged 26–54 from the general population who were contacted by phone 8 months after their participation in a study transposing Milgram’s obedience paradigm to the context of a fake television game show. Interviews were presented as opinion polls with no stated ties to the earlier experiment. Personality was assessed by the Big Five Mini-Markers questionnaire (Saucier, 1994). Political orientation and social activism were also measured. Results confirmed hypotheses that Conscientiousness and Agreeableness would be associated with willingness to administer higher-intensity electric shocks to a victim. Political orientation and social activism were also related to obedience. Our results provide empirical evidence suggesting that individual differences in personality and political variables matter in the explanation of obedience to authority.

    This certainly accords with what I know of lefties such as myself, so there is an intuitive agreement from me!

    Category: FeaturedMoralityPoliticsPsychology

    Tags:

    Article by: Jonathan MS Pearce

    • Luke Breuer

      Have you seen Social Scientist Sees Bias Within?

      [Jonathan Haidt] polled his audience at the San Antonio Convention Center, starting by asking how many considered themselves politically liberal. A sea of hands appeared, and Dr. Haidt estimated that liberals made up 80 percent of the 1,000 psychologists in the ballroom. When he asked for centrists and libertarians, he spotted fewer than three dozen hands. And then, when he asked for conservatives, he counted a grand total of three.

      “This is a statistically impossible lack of diversity,” Dr. Haidt concluded, noting polls showing that 40 percent of Americans are conservative and 20 percent are liberal. In his speech and in an interview, Dr. Haidt argued that social psychologists are a “tribal-moral community” united by “sacred values” that hinder research and damage their credibility — and blind them to the hostile climate they’ve created for non-liberals.

      So, shall we start speaking of psychological, social, and professional harm, and contrast them to physical harm? After all, “hurt” can be physical or mental. I recall reading that Freud believed mental suffering can be 100x physical suffering.

      • Tormented Wanderer

        “I recall reading that Freud believed mental suffering can be 100x physical suffering.”

        In many ways, I couldn’t agree more with this. Mental pain can become so intense, in fact, that physical symptoms begin to emerge. Nasty stuff.

        • Luke Breuer

          So right now, all I have are rumors of that. Anything more concrete would be appreciated. :-)

          • Tormented Wanderer

            I shall look into that. In any case, many people unfortunately think of mental suffering (including depression) as trivial; second to virtually all forms of physical suffering. This is VERY tragic, because mental suffering can be so intense that it can motivate a person to end their life. I’d call that pretty serious, any day.

            • Luke Breuer

              No, no, you see, that’s “mental illness”. It can be cured with pills and shit.

            • Tormented Wanderer

              Right, that new pill available at Walmart. Pretty cheap too, as I understand it.

            • Luke Breuer

              You can take this further, and say that one can be cruel to someone by screwing over their future, without this causing any mental or physical pain. Then you can turn people into this:

                  The worry has been repeatedly expressed that the individual lost something important along with the larger social and cosmic horizons of action. Some have written of this as the loss of a heroic dimension to life. People no longer have a sense of a higher purpose, of something worth dying for. Alexis de Tocqueville sometimes talked like this in the last century, referring to the “petits et vulgaires plaisirs” that people tend to seek in the democratic age.[1] In another articulation, we suffer from a lack of passion. Kierkegaard saw “the present age” in these terms. And Nietzsche’s “last men” are at the final nadir of this decline; they have no aspiration left in life but to a “pitiable comfort.”[2]
                  This loss of purpose was linked to a narrowing. People lost the broader vision because they focussed on their individual lives. Democratic equality, says Tocqueville, draws the individual towards himself, “et menace de la renfermer enfin tout entier dans la solitude de son propre coeur.”[3] In other words, the dark side of individualism is a centring on the self, which both flattens and narrows our lives, makes them poorer in meaning, and less concerned with others or society. (The Malaise of Modernity, 3–4)

              And now they’re sheep who can be controlled. And hey, the number of units of physical pain went down, so let’s pop open the expensive wine and celebrate Progress!!

            • Tormented Wanderer

              “You can take this further, and say that one can be cruel to someone by screwing over their future, without this causing any mental or physical pain.”

              This struck a cord with me. I’ve known many people who happily sabotaged another’s life in favor of gaining happiness/a sense of completeness. It’s rather sad, but we humans fuck eachother over at EVERY possible turn, taking advantage of any weak spots we can glean in order to rise above the “competition”.

              What do you propose that we do to quell such inhumanity?

            • Luke Breuer

              Expose it for what it is. And be ready for this to be the result:

              And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” And he said, “Go, and say to this people:

                  “‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand;
                  keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’
                  Make the heart of this people dull,
                      and their ears heavy,
                      and blind their eyes;
                  lest they see with their eyes,
                      and hear with their ears,
                  and understand with their hearts,
                      and turn and be healed.”

                  Then I said, “How long, O Lord?”
                  And he said:

                  “Until cities lie waste
                      without inhabitant,
                  and houses without people,
                      and the land is a desolate waste,
                  and the LORD removes people far away,
                      and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land.
                  And though a tenth remain in it,
                      it will be burned again,
                  like a terebinth or an oak,
                      whose stump remains
                      when it is felled.”
                  The holy seed is its stump.

              (Isaiah 6:8–13)

              In other words: tell people the truth, and sometimes it drives them further into falsehood. But once they hit rock bottom, a remnant will emerge that will be willing to accept the truth. Now make that more poetic and use some metaphors to reality.

            • Tormented Wanderer

              “In other words: tell people the truth, and sometimes it drives them further into falsehood.”
              Indeed. Sometimes we humans are so bloody stubborn. It’s as if we select a version of reality that best comports with our desires/hopes/aspirations, and toss out anything that does not click with them.
              Btw, I wanted to thank you for helping open my eyes to the many problems with determinism. My favorite argument of yours would be humans gaming any system and acting accordingly. I’ve applied this and let me tell you: it fucking works.

            • Luke Breuer

              Yay! BTW it might also help to refer to Poincaré recurrences and Eternal Returns. The way I think about it is that you have to be tenacious enough to explore the space, such that you can scope out how you might break out of the bad pattern. This requires patience and strategy. Without that, the system will keep you “under control”.

            • Tormented Wanderer

              Totally. I allowed the system to wreak havoc on me for years. I kept blindly marching forward as though there was nothing wrong with me. It took some time, but I finally dug DEEP into my mind and probed the fuck out of it. I faced my demons and I’m finally winning a battle that I was never fully aware of to begin with. Hows that for a mind-fuck?

            • Luke Breuer

              Well, Christians have long held that many are not even aware of what enslaves them. Sin is said to be pernicious that way. There is a somewhat enigmatic passage in Josef Pieper’s The Concept of Sin that you might like:

              First, we shall presuppose that there is in general a believed truth beyond the realm of known truth (“known” truth is defined here as truth gained through scientific research and in philosophical reflection), in which a dimension accessible in no other way becomes perceptible and shows itself, a dimension of the one visible reality of world and man [vor Augen liegenden Realität von Welt und Mensch]. This presupposition will naturally include the clear admission that there can be theological information about what ultimately happens when a person fails morally.
                  But that shall not be our only presupposition. We shall also be reckoning with the possibility that this object to be discussed from various perspectives can also be made more deeply and clearly accessible to the efforts of a philosophical questioner from the light of that transhuman truth. Such “reckoning with a possibility” might seem at first glance to some to be not especially promising, but this is by no means so. In certain cases a great deal can depend on whether someone considers something “possible” or “excluded” from the outset. (13)

              Something tells me that you will have quite a bit more understanding of what is meant by this than most, even if you don’t like the word ‘sin’. :-p

            • D Rizdek

              Let me try my hand at a response.

              I’m sure people who are depressed suffer, but they just need to get a grip and think how much worse it could be.

              After all, if they didn’t suffer a little, how could they enjoy the good feelings they will eventually have when their suffering is over? What would they have to compare the good feelings with if they didn’t suffer some?

              Mental suffering helps us do our best.

              Mental suffering, while I’m sure it is bad, is trivial when considering there certainly might be good and much more important reasons that people suffer mentally. They just have to understand that it all works out in the end…just get some sleep…think happy thoughts.

              People suffer mentally through their own bad decisions. If someone feels suicidal that they can’t get good grades at a highly demanding university, maybe they should have thought of that before choosing that school. They can just quit and do something else. We can’t all set around and do their thinking for them, can we?

              This mental suffering, while uncomfortable, is really part of having free will so really, it’s a good thing. We don’t all want to be automatons.

              If somehow we were able to keep those depressed people from suffering severe depression and almost suicidal anguish, then they’d start to think any deprivation of any kind, no matter how minor would be monumental. They’d start getting upset if they couldn’t have ice cream for dessert after every meal.

              Don’t they know that mental anguish helps us find each other? Can’t they see the value in this? Even if they can’t manage it, you should and quit worrying about them. Maybe you should write them a letter to explain that you found them because they were suffering.

              Their suffering helps you feel useful. Their suffering allows you to build character by helping them.

              Don’t they know that when their heart breaks, the expanding universe allows it to grow back bigger?

              If all they want is to feel good, why not just give them medicine to alter their feelings. Since that is obviously their only desire…to feel good, given how much they complain about suffering, maybe they just want an “experience pill” that will ensure they never have to suffer any mental discomfort. Then they could just lay there and be happy.

              And of course there is the old, but by what standard do you actually judge one’s mental anguish? Is there an objective “optimum” standard of exactly how happy one should be? No? Well then, how can you say someone is suffering much at all? It seems you’re all just basing it on some personal standard of how good we all should feel all the time. I certainly am not obligated to see mental suffering the same way so I just don’t see the problem.

              Wow, I can almost feel the urge for both of you to just reach out, through my computer monitor and grab me by the throat. Right? Well, maybe Luke doesn’t because maybe he knows I’m just exaggeratting for effect in an object lesson.

              But NOW can you see how frustrated some of us feel when faced the litany of theodicies offered by some Christians. I’m envisioning millions of children suffering chronic starvation and thousands dying from it every day…and I find this site for the explanations that are supposed to explain why god allows it and to bring comfort to my mind: http://discoveryseries.org/ten-reasons/in-a-god-who-allows-suffering/

              And this site: http://www.faithfacts.org/search-for-truth/questions-of-christians/how-can-god-allow-evil-and-suffering

              And I’m told that since I don’t believe in god, I don’t have any basis for even thinking there’s any evil in the world at all…it’s just my own personal opinion that these children suffer and that suffering is bad. So my feelings are meaningless. And if not for this god, I should obviously be happy for their suffering…since I’m not the one doing the suffering! Because if they don’t get enough, me and mine might get more.

            • Tormented Wanderer

              This was a little ranty for my taste (no offense), and I’m pressed for time, so I’ll just reply to one bit.

              “Mental suffering, while I’m sure it is bad, is trivial when considering there certainly might be good and much more important reasons that people suffer mentally. They just have to understand that it all works out in the end…just get some sleep…think happy thoughts”
              Nor sure if this is intended to be sarcastic, but you’ve apparently never endured genuine mental suffering, the likes of which so severe that it could potentially drive a person to claim their own life. Several suicides in my family were the end result of intense, unrelenting emotional agony. Thinking happy thoughts clearly did not work for them.

            • Luke Breuer

              Ostensibly, it was an intentional exaggeration:

              D Rizdek: Wow, I can almost feel the urge for both of you to just reach out, through my computer monitor and grab me by the throat. Right? Well, maybe Luke doesn’t because maybe he knows I’m just exaggeratting for effect in an object lesson.

              That being said, I don’t get it. See, the next thing appeals to physical suffering:

              D Rizdek: But NOW can you see how frustrated some of us feel when faced the litany of theodicies offered by some Christians. I’m envisioning millions of children suffering chronic starvation and thousands dying from it every day…and I find this site for the explanations that are supposed to explain why god allows it and to bring comfort to my mind:

              One is left wondering if it indeed was much of an exaggeration.

            • Tormented Wanderer

              Hmm….good point. I believe I misconstrued him. But then, maybe I did not. :-p

            • Luke Breuer

              I share your worries. There are certain things one is very reticent to be flippant about, if one has had the relevant experiences. I don’t think I will ever joke about suicide, or intensity of mental suffering. I would have to think long and hard before even using sarcasm in the way D Rizdek did. There is too much opportunity for misunderstanding, by those who haven’t [demonstrated] a fucking clue as to what “mental suffering” actually can be.

            • D Rizdek

              Luke/TW, Sorry if my post sounded like a flippant joke. I was definitely not joking, I didn’t feel flippant as I wrote it and it does not reflect a complete lack of understanding of mental anguish. And I realize now, thinking about it, it was not an exaggeration as I originally thought to call it…it was exactly on the same level.

              TW, I really do feel bad that I responded that way given what I learned later from another post to Luke about the suffering of some of the members of you family.

              But did you imagine I really don’t at least nominally, or try to, comprehend that mental anguish is very real and can be quite intense? I can’t fully appreciate it to be sure having never been much depressed. But I do know first hand how depressed a person can get and the effect it can have on their (and my) life, and I have endured some days of severe anxiety over some event and it was extremely uncomfortable. I can at least imagine how it might feel if that was multiplied many-fold AND was of such a nature that I felt no hope.

              It was intended to demonstrate how I feel about theodicies. That IS exactly how it comes across when they offer explanations for suffering of the world supposedly designed by a good God. In fact in many cases I used the exact same wording. I guess my only fault would be at aiming this post at you two. Because I certainly don’t know your theodicies…or even if you have any. If we have discussed it before, Luke, I can’t remember}:

              But maybe my post did serve a purpose. It at least got my point a cross and you both seem to have felt it in a visceral way. And if there are any lurkers who DO think to supply theodicies…they will know how they sound when they do.

              Luke writes:

              the next thing appeals to physical suffering:

              Why do you imagine I was appealing to only physical suffering when talking of the masses who live in utterly deplorable conditions? Don’t you think the folks living thus suffer intense mental anguish at their plight…ALONG WITH their physical pain? They are often victims of abuse and insecurity as well as deprivation. The very people who should be helping them are skimming the meager resources that are available or come their way, taking their land, enslaving and mass-murdering in some cases.

              Did either of you realize that the very thing you were talking about (severe depression and mental anguish) was part of the world of suffering I see?

              Did either of you go to the site…10 reasons to believe in a God who allows suffering? The first paragraph starts out:

              Natural disasters. Terrorist acts. Injustice. Incurable disease. All these experiences point to suffering, and can cause people to question the love and goodness of a God who would let such things occur. In this publication, we seek to consider who God is, and why we can trust Him even when life hurts—and we don’t know why.

              Now, consider if it read, “Natural disasters. Terrorist acts. Injustice. Incurable disease. Mental anguish that makes some folks suicidal…”

              How many of the ten things they mention do you think help in satsifying the mental and emotional tensions created by this mental anguish that exists?

            • Luke Breuer

              Did either of you realize that the very thing you were talking about (severe depression and mental anguish) was part of the world of suffering I see?

              What I was going off of was the whole effect of your comment, and the whole effect was to downplay mental suffering and focus on physical suffering. I get what you were trying to do, and simply think it wasn’t the best way to go about it.

              They are often victims of abuse and insecurity as well as deprivation. The very people who should be helping them are skimming the meager resources that are available or come their way, taking their land, enslaving and mass-murdering in some cases.

              I suggest a read of Peter Buffett’s 2013 NYT piece The Charitable–Industrial Complex. I would say plenty of Americans aren’t up for the mental anguish it would take to actually, successfully, fight the corruption in Africa. See, they might have to learn some things, and unlearn some things. Better to just extend the charity that is easy and feel good as a result.

              You could also take a look at Rwandan Genocide § United States, and see how we could have saved probably 200,000–500,000 of the lives lost in that horrible event. But hey, there could have been another Battle of Mogadishu, where 18 US soldiers were killed and 73 wounded, and 1 captured. You know, political fallout. That kind of suffering. Not worth it. Screw you, Rwandans. Clean up your own mess, you know, that mess the West kicked into high gear.

              But you’ve got me talking about moral evil, not natural evil. Natural evil is indeed a problem for the theist. I’m not sure that appealing to randomness conditioned by laws actually makes what was ‘natural evil’ any better, though. I guess it says that we are victims of necessity, and I know plenty of people are indeed happier when they hear that something bad was necessary.

            • D Rizdek

              What I was going off of was the whole effect of your comment, and the whole effect was to downplay mental suffering and focus on physical suffering. I get what you were trying to do, and simply think it wasn’t the best way to go about it.

              You’re probably right. Sorry.

            • Luke Breuer

              No offense taken. Trying to do A Modest Proposal is hard. You might be onto something though, in terms of a good argument against theodicy. That project of yours might be worth some more time.

            • Tormented Wanderer

              Okay. I think I misunderstood your intent here. Apologies. Would you care to elucidate?

            • D Rizdek

              No apologies needed. Please see my response to Luke for further explanation. And as I say in that post, I apologize that my post sounded so flippant especially given the situations you’ve experienced.