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Predisposed: Liberals, Conservatives, and the Biology of Political Differences

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Buried in many people and operating largely outside the realm of conscious thought are forces inclining us toward liberal or conservative political convictions. Our biology predisposes us to see and understand the world in different ways, not always reason and the careful consideration of facts. These predispositions are in turn responsible for a significant portion of the political and ideological conflict that marks human history.

With verve and wit, renowned social scientists John Hibbing, Kevin Smith, and John Alford--pioneers in the field of biopolitics--present overwhelming evidence that people differ politically not just because they grew up in different cultures or were presented with different information. Despite the oft-heard longing for consensus, unity, and peace, the universal rift between conservatives and liberals endures because people have diverse psychological, physiological, and genetic traits. These biological differences influence much of what makes people who they are, including their orientations to politics.

Political disputes typically spring from the assumption that those who do not agree with us are shallow, misguided, uninformed, and ignorant. Predisposed suggests instead that political opponents simply experience, process, and respond to the world differently. It follows, then, that the key to getting along politically is not the ability of one side to persuade the other side to see the error of its ways but rather the ability of each side to see that the other is different, not just politically, but physically. Predisposed will change the way you think about politics and partisan conflict.

As a bonus, the book includes a "Left/Right 20 Questions" game to test whether your predispositions lean liberal or conservative.

304 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2013

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John R. Hibbing

10 books11 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 47 reviews
153 reviews54 followers
December 4, 2014
If you're looking for a Rush Limbaugh or Al Franken political book to help you believe your views are the right and those other people are idiots, this isn't it. Although the topic is politics, this is squarely in the popular science realm, more akin to Thinking, Fast and Slow or Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions. For anyone who cares about the psychology of political thought, "Predisposed" is a terrific book and highly recommended.

The core finding they explore is that we (humans) are predisposed, neurobiologically, to view the world in certain ways, and that colors our political leanings in a way that is far more hardwired than standard cultural explanations would have us believe. Although political viewpoints manifest themselves most often as opinions on issues, they show that the roots of our opinions rest on some basic ways in which different people see the world: preference for novelty or tradition, caring more about individuals or one's in-group, how one views rule-breakers or out-group members, whether one is a questioner or respecter of authority. Most importantly, these core differences in attitude have a basis in neurobiological differences that are both genetically and environmentally influenced.

People's attitudes for this differences have been tested and measured, and it turns out we are more hardwired than is commonly believed. By providing research-based evidence (some of theirs and a wealth of others) they take the reader on a trip through social psychological research, presenting, questioning and re-examining this work as they go, and applying it towards a context of political thought. Given the biological basis for these attitudes, they also discuss why they might have been selected for evolutionarily, and even more important, why the variance in attitudes continues.

Beyond the political element, this book is an excellent survey for the biological roots of social psychology in general. I was particularly interested in their re-interpretations of of the seminal psychology experiments (such as Milgrams shock tests, and Zambardos guards/prisoners), where they point out that although the general results are important, there was very little or no thought put into why there were still differences among the individuals in these experiments. The research on how liberals vs. conservatives approach a learning task was also fascinating given my interest in education.

The authors point out continually the level of confidence in various lines of research (and their limitations and criticisms), and stress that as with nearly any psychological research, the results are both on a continuum and probabilistic - meaning there are plenty of exceptions. However, the overall patterns they cite hold at levels beyond just a "maybe" - these are results that are firm and beyond as far as confidence level goes.

GIven that this book made me re-examine a number of my ideas about the level of hardwiredness of our views and attitudes, and did it with such a preponderance of evidence, I gave it 5 stars.

Two books that I think are tangentially related to this one: The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies, which gives a deep view of why diversity in thinking and viewpoints is critical to finding solutions to unwieldy problems, and Free Will which discusses further implications of the idea that our biology drives our thoughts, and what the philosophical and cultural ramifications of that are.
Profile Image for Steven Peterson.
Author 19 books281 followers
November 17, 2013
An important work. This book provides a good case study of the extent to which biological factors can affect the political world. The subtitle is eloquent as to the volume's focus: "Liberals, Conservatives, and the Biology of Political Differences." The authors begin by observing that (Page ix): "We think it is important for a wide range of people to understand why not everyone sees the world the same way as they do."

The book’s takeoff point is the differences between liberals and conservatives. The authors contend that these people see the world in a fundamentally different way—and are unlikely to, through reason, change the views of the other. Using questionnaire items identifying “What works best” lays out the differences (see the survey items on page 53). Conservatives are more apt to respect tradition, to believe that external codes should guide behavior, to accept that leaders should stick with their values no matter what, understand that then world is a dangerous place and one always has to be ready to defend oneself, and accept that those who do bad things need to be punished. Moreover, society works best when leaders are obeyed, when leaders call the shots, and when leaders adhere to their principles no matter what. Liberals? Pretty much the opposite. In other words, liberals and conservatives see and live within different worlds. And—an important point—twin studies suggest that there is a genetic component to these differences.

In this book, unlike some others, the authors do not choose one worldview over the other; their aim is to demonstrate that Ls and Cs live in different worlds (unlike the ubercritical work “The Republican Brain”). Many more differences are put forward.

Also, biological aspects of these differences are discussed, including underlying genetics. What would be the reason for genetic differences here? The authors have a ready explanation for this. Whether or not readers will accept that is a separate story. But their hypothesis is certainly reasonable. There is also a lucid description of how the human brain might come into play here.

As noted at the outset, this is an important book. The authors take much data that they have access to and make a credible presentation as to the nature of differences between Liberals and Conservatives and some possible bases for these distinctions. If interested in the biology of political differences, this is a good starting point.
Profile Image for Clara.
64 reviews12 followers
December 22, 2018
Normally I don’t bother to finish a book that can’t hook me in the first couple of chapters, but this book was a gift so I was determined to continue. I’m relieved to have finally finished it so I can read something else. Though the premise of the book was compelling, the writing was wordy, repetitive, poorly edited and sophomoric. I was especially put off (despite the authors’ plea at the end) by what I perceived to be a clear liberal slant. Though I lean the same way, it’s difficult to take a book about respecting the biological predispositions of both parties seriously when the authors make their own beliefs apparent. Finally, nothing illustrates my long battle with finishing this book like ending it on an unedited, incomplete sentence. I wish I would have limited my exposure to this book to the brief interview I heard on Hidden Brain instead of wasting two months... but it was a gift.
Profile Image for Todd Stark.
5 reviews2 followers
May 1, 2014
This is a book I've been waiting for, a competent and nuanced summary of the past decade or so of accumulated research trends in political psychology,. Hibbing addresses the specifics of the research most directly related to politics, and contrasts it specifically with the prior thinking about political reasoning and political ideology. Like Jon Haidt and Josh Greene's recent books, This one draws on recent research into stable individual differences into political thinking, but Hibbing gives a little more context, a little broader argument around politics in particular, and examines implications and possible ways to use the information in politics. Not by pretending we can simply see past our different ways of thinking and somehow understand each other, but by accepting that we think differently and drawing on our different ways of thinking more constructively. Particularly welcome here is Hibbing's avoidance of the asymmetry thesis favored by Chris Mooney which makes certain ways of political thinking intrinsically far superior to others, often defeating from the start the sort of constructive approach proposed in this book. Hibbing sometimes seems to take his argument for biologically shaped cognition a little too far to fend off the criticism that political vision is specific to historical and cultural context and the criticism that many of us can think somewhat independently of ideology. I don't think he needs to try to deconstruct those ideas to make his point. Political thinking probably has historically and culturally specific aspects as well as clustering around biological dispositions, and the dispositions seem to vary in strength (which Hibbing emphasizes as well). History and dispositions likely shape each other. Also, party politics and motives of the political class probably do have their own polarizing influence building on the different ways of thinking that are shaped by biological differences.
Profile Image for Kevin Maness.
119 reviews10 followers
October 22, 2018
I appreciated this book very much. It brought together social science knowledge I had, frustrations I’ve experienced, along with scientific knowledge that was new to me. The result was a heck of a lot of new questions to ponder when it comes to political dialogue and the larger political process. My attitude toward people on “the other side” of the American political spectrum is already beginning to adjust, although I haven’t had a chance to put it into practice. The conclusions chapter on implications is nice, but ends up hoping for things that don’t seem likely to happen in our political climate. I don’t see a lot of my conservative or liberal friends reading this book, and everyone I know, practically, will find it difficult if not impossible to “accept” political differences because they look and feel so much like issue sod right vs wrong not different vs different. I’m struggling with that aspect as well. Still, I’m very glad I heard one of the authors on the Hidden Mind podcast, and happy I read the book. I know its ideas and challenges will remain with me for a long time. (The Kindle version is annoying because it’s a facsimile, not a made-for-Kindle edition, so it’s tiny on a phone screen and only just big enough [for my middle-aged eyes] on an iPad.)
Profile Image for Kaycee.
20 reviews2 followers
March 10, 2016
This book was highly informative and taught me a lot. However, I was upset with how this book seemed to focus on conservatives and liberals who are high on the socio-economic ladder. I felt that minorities and people who has less than a college degree were left out of the book.
Profile Image for Nina.
1,540 reviews11 followers
July 3, 2019
Very intriguing. The authors cite many social experiments and physiological findings that make their case. This was written pre-Trump, but you can certainly see the biological basis for the intractable political divide that we think is new, but really isn't. I'm eager to try out the Left/Right 20 Questions Game among my friends (page 267). While discussing our biological differences, they also point out how we need each other for a functioning society. If we were all alike, what a miserable nation we would be!
Profile Image for Sue.
104 reviews
October 2, 2019
This book came on my radar after listening to a podcast called Hidden Brain. The premise is that differences between liberals and conservatives are -- overall, just probabilistically -- biological. The majority of the book is describing all the research. Sounds boring but for the most part it was very interesting to read. But the payoff for me was in the last chapter where they put it altogether. I wish everyone would read this.
264 reviews
November 9, 2018
I looked up this book after listening to an episode of the podcast Hidden Brain "Nature, Nurture
and Your Politics".
This is an absolutely fascinating discussion of the research on why a human might be a conservative or a liberal. The book is written so well and with such compassion and humor, that I found it hard to put down. The science behind the book is complex, but explained clearly and with provisos about how to interpret what it says.
Profile Image for Underconsumed Knowledge.
78 reviews5 followers
December 27, 2021
Similar to Haidt’s Righteous Mind in acknowledging people have "predispositions,” which the authors say are very much rooted (but not exclusively) in genetics and biology. References Pinker and the “Baloney Generator” brain, the brain which constructs after-the-fact justifications for its actions; thus, people have different reflexive responses to what is going on in their social, psychological, and physical environments. Ex. people’s physiological disgust mechanisms can drive their political opinions. People’s predispositions thus make them more conservative or more liberal on classical issues that pertain to politics – that is, if you remove the issue labels, and classify them as what they really are: leadership, in-group punishments, out-group relations/protections, distribution of resources, forms of social behavior, etc. For example, out-group relations could manifest in either isolationism or in hawkism – two different treatments for the same problem of distrusting the World (as has been the evolution of the Republican position). Authors say it is wasting breath to try to convince people on the very far right or very far left of the spectrum; they are so predisposed, it is unlikely they can be swayed; it is better to appeal to get people to understand one another. The people on the other side feel the way they do for a reason given their “reality.” They optimistically point out that social mores do change with time, as approval for interracial marriage has become widely accepted, and as is happening with feelings towards gay marriage (at the time of this writing in 2013). There are a lot of people in the middle, who are either not diehard conservative, not diehard liberal, or just ambivalent, who can also be swayed with persuasion. Authors explain how the conservative mindset focuses on the negatives, and is more prone to identifying things that would be dangerous; it is more the mindset that was probably the original of humanity; conservatives are also more “hard categorizers” than liberal “soft categorizers.” The liberal mindset has been allowed to evolve since we have moved out of caves and hunter gatherer societies. Conservatives prefer things which have been tried already, where liberals are willing to try just about anything (which means there could be a good probability of failure). They point to studies of behavior correlated with political orientation, along with brain scanning studies, to show the biological brain-based basis for differences between liberals and conservatives – the size of certain parts of their brains, which parts of their brains activate, and how they use them. Essentially, conservatives and liberals experience the World in extremely different ways; it could almost be said Conservatives are from Mars and Liberals are from Venus. Not only do they see the World in different ways, but they also interpret what they see differently; not just different preference, but different perceptions. Partisans like to think people on the other side are moral abominations, and if only they could just see the light, then they would switch sides; however, a more fundamental misunderstanding exists between sides. Human personality is based on underlying big 5 traits: openness to experience, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, neuroticism. Liberals can be more influenced by social cues, conservatives can ignore them and follow the rules of a given situation. Conservatives exercise restraint in exploring new information, while liberals solicit a lot of new information, but not necessarily with any degree of focus, so it may not produce as many learnings as it could; conservatives dislike an absence of certainty. Some people see threats, others see opportunities, when looking at the same thing. Says that environment also plays a huge role in predispositions (not just biology).
Profile Image for Connor.
11 reviews
April 28, 2022
An interesting book. If you find yourself consistently puzzled by the perspectives of those across the aisle from you, this may prove useful. The authors discuss the growing body of evidence which supports the notion that many of us possess predispositions which are biologically influenced that inform our perspectives on many political issues. They cite data suggesting liberals and conservatives, on average (they're very careful to caveat everything), vary with respect to things like preferred foods, preferred music, preferred art, etc. They also outline the data which suggests that there are biological and psychosomatic predispositions which inform our instinctive reactions to things like foreign cultures, authority, etc.

While I find the subject matter interesting, and first decided I wanted to read this book after hearing one of the authors speak on the Hidden Brain podcast, I confess this was a bit of a challenge to get through. The authors very clearly explain in the beginning that they opted for a book which hopefully would appeal and be accessible to nonacademics because their hope is that the evidence outlined will encourage healthier, more productive political processes. That said, this book very often slips into an academic analysis (which I don't particularly mind, but I admittedly find these bits less riveting). There is a substantial discussion which runs through the book around the explicit implications and limitations of the data they're outlining, and there is a hefty bit of background information provided with the intent of pre-addressing potential arguments against their conclusions (eg. there is a lengthy discussion about the empirical validity of evolution as a biological process).

All in all, I'm glad I read the book (as the 4 star rating should imply). But I do think the goal of this piece could have been achieved in a more marketable way. Highly political people (those to whom this will likely appeal anyway) may (or may not) be more likely to be of the ilk which would enjoy a relatively academic discussion of theories of evolution, human biology, sociobiological forces, etc., but many likely won't be (though to be fair, it'd be difficult to imagine that a book aimed at explaining the vast differences we see at opposite ends of the political spectrum could be anything BUT complex) Further, if you find yourself in the "moderate" camp, I'd be eager to know how this book even came across your radar. And I would assume (perhaps mistakenly) that you do not care quite enough about politics to bother working through what is, at times, a tedious text. If this is you, this may not be the best choice for you.
Profile Image for Henrique Cassol.
131 reviews1 follower
October 17, 2021
Será que existe alguma predisposição política desde que nascemos, como aquela que condiciona a hipertensão ou obesidade? Ou a ação política é uma construção social e depende apenas do ambiente em que vivemos?
Esta é a proposta do trio de autores e pesquisadores de universidades americanas ao compilar uma série de experimentos sobre comportamento humano e inclinação política. Um dos experimentos mais interessantes é o de Milgram. Nele, o pesquisador Stanley Milgram realiza um experimento no qual as pessoas são condicionadas a aplicar choques (falsos) de até 450 volts em voluntários. O objetivo do teste é avaliar a tendência dos participantes a obedecer às autoridades (ele, no caso). Conclusão, em torno de um terço das pessoas são inclinadas a obedecer à autoridade independente da dor causada a inocentes. “Algumas pessoas são capazes de se comportar de maneira desumana se as condições forem adequadas”. Thomas Hobbes achava a natureza humana tão desagradável que precisávamos de um governo opressor para nos salvar de nós mesmos.
Em geral conservadores possuem alguns comportamentos semelhantes que os diferenciam em parte dos liberais (adendo: na política americana há duas vertentes principais liberais e conservadores ou democratas e republicanos, respectivamente. Diferentemente de outros países como o Brasil onde a esquerda é mais socialista do que liberal). São tencionados a obedecer a autoridades, preferem os mesmos pratos, frequentam os mesmos ambientes, são mais religiosos, tem menos afinidade aos estrangeirismos, dentre outras coisas. Já os liberais, são mais abertos à novidades, geralmente questionam os representantes, são mais sensíveis aos tratamento individual enquanto que os conservadores são mais propensos a levar em consideração os interesses coletivos, etc.
Pois bem, diversos destes traços comportamentais foram cruzados por orientação política para se chegar a estas conclusões. Mas isto não explica onde encaixaria a genética nestes comportamentos mais conservadores ou liberais, pois muitos destes comportamentos podem não ter sido herdados, mas sim, ensinados de geração em geração. Aí que entra talvez a parte mais interessante do livro e que me fez acreditar que, sim, a orientação política pode ter uma predisposição genética: o teste com gêmeos idênticos e separados após o nascimento.
Concluindo, se esta predisposição genética existe, a regra do jogo político poderia mudar para sempre, pois há alguns grupos nos extremos que não irão mudar de posição, pois estão geneticamente direcionadas a isso.
Profile Image for Chuck Kollars.
133 reviews6 followers
July 23, 2023
A few years ago there was a lot of buzz about the differences between Conservatives/Republicans and Liberals/Democrats being genetic. This book is a thorough explanation of what that was all about: historically, currently, and projected. (The book acknowledges right up front that these terms -particularly "liberal"- mean very different things in different countries, and then states that for simplicity it will use only the U.S. definitions.)

One of the first things the book says is that some sort of biological difference between people of differing ideologies has been persistently posited -and struck down- over and over for many decades; the existence of such theories is not new. Implicit then is the question of just what is different this time, leading to this idea now being generally accepted. The answer seems to be that the math used in sociology has advanced enough that research results can now state just how strong their claim is and are no longer limited to all-or-nothing claims. In fact the correlation coefficient on most research results in this area is very roughly 0.20. This is far beyond the conventional threshold of "significance" and is way more than is common in the social sciences these days, and so it gets researchers very excited. It's however _not anywhere even remotely close to the fully determinate correlation=1.00 situation. What we're talking about is a "predisposition" not a "determination". In fact the similarity is gauzy enough that it's barely recognizable by non-specialists who don't systematize and record their observations in something like a spreadsheet - and gauzy enough that it probably can't fully explain any individual case. What's different now is social scientists can communicate the exact strength (or non-strength) of the biologically-driven differences between Conservatives/Republicans and Liberals/Democrats, and so not be struck down because they're not greatly exaggerating their claims (although the non-specialist media often do exaggerate claims even when the researchers don't).

Also, there is now a conventional evolutionary story (hopefully not a "just so story") that makes sense of all this. When humans lived in small hunter-gatherer bands, and a stranger appeared in the territory, it raised a big question of what to do. Could the stranger tell about some part of the world that nobody had ever visited? Or could the stranger help found a mutually beneficial trading pattern? Or did the stranger carry an infectious pathogen that would make the whole band sick? Or was the stranger an indication that a whole band of strangers was getting ready to wipe out the current band and seize their territory? Maybe positive, maybe negative, no way to know for sure. So genetically about half the band were primed to lean toward positive interpretations, and the other half primed to lean toward negative interpretations. This made the net decision of the whole band on average over many bands essentially random, and turned out to be right part of the time and wrong part of the time. That was on average the best that could be done. So the genetic priming for having _both positive and negative interpretations was reinforced. As groups of people got much much larger than hunter-gatherer bands, the genetic priming for either positive or negative interpretations turned into "liberals" and "conservatives".

The authors make a big deal of perceived methodological errors, groupthink, fads, carelessness, and lack of imagination in their field. They go so far as to point out the original data from the infamous Milgram (electric shock) and Zimbardo (Stanford prison) experiments really say something different than what the conventional wisdom says they say. The authors berate the original researchers for not being more thorough, and propose that experimenters take a lot more care when digesting and communicating their results. I personally disagree. I think scientists are human like everybody else and shouldn't be overly criticized for not being perfect. Anyway, experimenters can't predict what the "burning question of the day" will be decades in the future (it will inevitably be different than it is currently). It seems to me a better solution to the enshrinement of incomplete and erroneous interpretations of important past experiments is to have professionals periodically re-evaluate the _original _data of those experiments. (Maybe this could be a grad school class?)

In some places the authors of this book imply -or even say outright- the difference is "genetic". In other places they just say (sometimes with obvious caution) the difference is "biological". It was not clear to me that splitting hairs this way was really necessary. Even the authors seem to say that talking about "biological" differences gets at all the issues that matter, and the fact the differences are (or are not) specifically "genetic" isn't worth arguing about. I didn't notice this was ever stated explicitly, but it seemed to me it was strongly implied.

In the last couple of chapters, the authors go beyond hard research results and offer their "expert opinion" about many issues of interest. I particularly noted a couple things, probably because I found them disturbing. One was that at least a significant portion of people twist or even invent "facts" that are consistent with their predisposition. Daniel Patrick Moynihan's famous quote "Everyone is entitled to their own opinions but they are not entitled to their own facts." does not fit reality (even though it's used as an epigraph in this book). The other was that "converting" enough people to make a political difference is a hopeless goal that shouldn't even be attempted. Instead, we need to figure out a way for liberals and conservatives to live in the same country and work together as they did in hunter-gatherer bands, except at a hugely larger scale.

Of course, even with all the ground covered by this book, it doesn't attempt to answer several questions that I consider quite important. I understand that researchers need to be very careful and to not get too far ahead of their data, else they will just be broadcasting their own predispositions (and will likely be wrong). Still, I wish somebody would tell me: 1] How did liberals and conservatives live together peaceably in our country until recently? 2] What changed recently leading to such intense polarization, with most liberals voting Democratic and most conservatives voting Republican? 3] Is there a way for political parties to undo the ideological re-alignment that occurred recently, instead returning to being distinguished by un-ideological issues as they were a few decades ago? 4] What proportion of people twist and even invent facts to fit their predisposition, and what proportion of people use the facts as they are to make their decisions? 5] Is there some way to have most of our elected leaders be people that use whatever facts they find to make decisions, regardless of their predisposition? 6] Why is the Republican party strongly associated with big business and with reducing taxes on the wealthy? Does this somehow fit into the pattern of predispositions, or is it just a historical accident?
Profile Image for CM.
262 reviews29 followers
July 8, 2018
An accessible survey to the study of political difference in terms of biology and psychology. The authors development their argument by building a foundation in social science for the readers and then tracing a number of differences between liberals and conservatives (taste,thought pattern, sensitivity to negative scenario) to support their claim. They even give a short course in evolutionary psychology to explain the origins of political differences.

The claim:
Political inclination is also one of the many attributes influenced by our genetics. Yet, it is not biological determinism but more a interaction between the biology and environment. The implications? You can't change (some of) them, accept the difference and work with them.

The rating:
The presentation is fine but with a topic like politics, better writers can present a more gripping narrative*. It's also one of the rare books where the author seems to be ABSOLUTELY impartial to party politics. While they are, repetitively, open to their own limitations(their modest effect size and the probabilistic nature of social science), I am a bit put off when they decided not to respond to their own critics here**. I also have a vague feeling that they are actually explaining the biology of the "openness to experience"*** trait, not political difference.

* They are doing quite well as psychology professors and political scientists go.
** Search "Twin Studies of Political Behavior: Untenable Assumptions?"
***"Openness to experience" is one of the big 5 personality traits. Its correlation to liberalism and moderately high heritability are known to scientists for some time.
Profile Image for Sharon C. Robideaux.
163 reviews1 follower
January 28, 2018
Brisk interesting read

Hibbing makes a good case for genetically influenced predispositions to either a conservative or liberal worldview. I believe the argument has a lot of potential to explain these political divides. He wisely does not belittle the Environment/Nurture point of view, but shows how it complements the Innate/Nature viewpoint. The touches of humor add readability to segments that are technical and dense. The organization worked for me, as well. I have only two minor issues. The most minor is a recurring typographical oddity. First words of sentences that began with Th (like This, These, That, etc.) appeared as TV + another word, for example "TV is" rather than "This." The other minor quibble is a sense of being rushed at the end of the book. It was as if the author realized suddenly that he had reached his page limit. However, this book is a worthwhile read, and I look forward to seeing if its premise passes the test of further research.
Profile Image for Yanick Punter.
280 reviews36 followers
August 1, 2022
This is my re-read.

What I got from this is the known connection between liberalism + openness and conscientious + conservativism. Conservatives do not like greens: maybe they are on average more easily poisoned? It are greens which contain (light) toxins after all. Conservatives seem to have higher disgust and threat sensitivity. Perhaps they have weaker immune systems and (some of them) are not as strong. That having said, there are hints that highly attractive people and men with high upper body strength support conservative politics*. They seem poised for both dangerous and ordered environments. (*However upper body strength also goes with redistribution views.)

But I don't believe in the dichotomy of conservative vs liberal. I belief in a high number of different conservatives and liberals. Some conservatives seem to like the predictable, others seem to justify the dominance hierarchy - I see these two as different types.

The solution to me seems the c-s-r model:

I speculate that there are competitive-liberals, ruderal-liberals and survivor liberals. In the same way, competitive-conservatives, ruderal-conservatives and survivor-conservatives. I think the environment is key here.

Next: what type of environments can we distingish and what type of personality usually comes out of it? According to the c-s-r model there are high stress + low disturbance environments, low stress + high disturbance environments, low stress + low disturbance environments.

Here are some environments I can think of: messy environment (schizotypy/creative/liberal), chaotic environments (liberals?), high stress or harsh/poor (survivor, autistic, avoidant, biological context to sensitivity), unpredictable (ruderal or fast type), rich (biological context to sensitivity, competitive, aggressor, autistic), dangerous (ruderal or fast-type, paranoid schizophrenia), ordered environments (conservative).

Since liberals do better with uncertainty, it seems they would do better in such environment. From Dick Swaab I remember that biological context to sensitivity is associated with both poor and rich environments. In Australia, birds are more aggressive due to the availability of rich food, and so I make the link between aggressor and a rich environment. The others above, are guesses by me.

Next, I wonder where the diametrical mind fits into here. Due to this model, I see order or rigidness and chaos or ambiguity. I also see edge of chaos. I think that perhaps bipolar people fit the edge of chaos.

I'm thinking not just about the paternal vs maternal but also fast-type vs slow-type. Both competitive and ruderal seem to be fast-type, whereas survivor seems to be slow-type. Perhaps a competitive slow-type exists. Both competitive people and ruderal people should probably have fast growth rate and also age faster.

Perhaps survivor people are tougher as according to the c-s-r model survivor plants have tougher leaves. Maybe survivor people have better immune systems. There is probably more to the c-s-r model.

Following Avi Tuschman, I see inbreeders, I see outbreeders.

If there is a female brain and male brain, is there an extreme neutral brain? The iq of 120 seems to be the most attractive: could this be the edge of chaos? Could avoidant personality cluster with the autistic spectrum? Could dependent personality disorder cluster with the psychotic or autistic spectrum? Where does disgust sensitivity and the immune system fit into all of this? I see outbreeding as more novel (creative) whereas inbreeding is more conservative (perhaps even more intelligent?).

It seems that schizotypals see the whole whereas those with autism see the details.

Yaneer Bar-Yam says:

Most animals have many offspring. The number of offspring that survive to adulthood tells us something about how complex an animal’s environment is compared to its own complexity. Mammals have several to dozens of offspring, frogs have thousands, fish have millions and insects can have as many as billions. In each case, on average only one offspring per parent survives to have offspring. The others made wrong choices because the number of possible right choices is small. In this way, we can see that mammals are almost as complex as their environments, while frogs are much less complex and insects and fish are still less complex when compared with their environments.

Following the above, it seems logical that people with a lot of babies are also less complex (but I think this does not necessarily mean less intelligent). It seems possible that choices could be more creative or divergent.

I call schizophrenia systemfailure, following the below (by Scott E. Page):

In systems with capacity constraints a tradeoff arises between redundancy and diversity. Greater diversity entails more responsiveness—think back to the law of requisite variety—but increases the odds that the failure of any one entity could cause the system to collapse. Greater redundancy implies less ability to respond to new disturbances but agreater ability to withstand the loss of any one entity in thesystem. On balance, a system must trade off redundancy with diversity much in the same way it trades off exploitation(doing what it does well) and exploration (continuing to look for something better). Redundancy guarantees that the system can keep doing what it’s doing. Diversity enables it to respondto new disturbances.

I think I might be wrong here. But I see schizophrenia as having more diversity and at a higher risk at systemfailure (collapse). I see a liberal exploring vs a conservative exploiting. The case can also be made for a redundant x survivor type.
5 reviews
January 24, 2020
Worth reading if interested in political leanings

Overall, this was an enjoyable book. Obviously intended for the mass market, but plenty of peer reviewed studies were discussed and referenced, and it has good footnotes and bibliography. The authors repeatedly told us how they had no agenda, and that their personal ideologies are irrelevant to their findings. Of course, it is nearly impossible to pull that off over the course of an entire book, and their choices of examples and phraseology betrayed them at times, but the core concept that people's political leanings are genetically predisposed (not predestined), still came through. Be aware, if buying this to read on a Kindle device, that they did not bother to convert it to Kindle format - it is a "print replica" book, which can be quite annoying to deal with.
Profile Image for Rayann Reid.
56 reviews
October 27, 2017
I think this is an important book, because it goes against the idea that the right or the left is superior to the other. At the base of the problem, we think differently due to many factors in our biology and our environment. The problem I had with this book was that it seems incredibly drawn out, and it is quite dry for the most part. The authors attempt to add humor throughout, but much of it is describing studies done on various topics that could relate to differences in political belief. Perhaps I could have enjoyed this book more if I had been able to go through it at my own pace. Would recommend for those interested in psychology/sociology and anyone who is very strongly right or left, especially if they hold very negative and hateful feelings toward the other side.
Profile Image for David Walsh.
24 reviews3 followers
March 8, 2019
The book "Predisposed" gives us a clear idea on how our minds predisposition to certain beliefs are influenced by our genetics. The diversification of these predispositions in the right proportions in our society benefited mankind's evolution, allowing it to get to the social scale that exists today.

For those of you that would like a quick overview of the book, I would encourage you to watch the attached speech by one of the authors John Hibbing. The first 29 minutes of the video are focused on providing the evidence on how liberals and conservatives differ. The remainder of the video is focused on its conclusions. https://youtu.be/1uq-kxDrZYU
Profile Image for Roberta.
575 reviews2 followers
May 6, 2017
As a self proclaimed science geek, I found the data analyses and interpretations helpful in describing the conservative and liberal biological phenotypes. I have a far better understanding of myself and others politically. The implications however are harder personally. Like exercise, they require time and effort. I may not be up to that. Great read. However, the fact the the editor didn't catch the error in the last line of the book, requiring a loose page erratum addition, is just plain tacky. Sorry, my biological predisposition is showing.
Profile Image for Sherrie.
101 reviews11 followers
November 28, 2018
I couldn't even finish this one. (Goodreads should have that option to choose too other than read or want to read) I got two chapters in and after numerous statements by the authors such as nothing is fixed, everyone is different and can change over time depending on where, when, and how they have had experiences...etc., it's clear the title of the book is one of those "gotcha" hooks. Skipping ahead they ended the book in the same way, everyone is different and influenced by a myriad of things...
Profile Image for Lasse Birk Olesen.
36 reviews13 followers
November 27, 2018
Replicated empirical studies show that biology, including genetics, affects political and moral positions.

Democrats should not expect to convince most conservatives of their viewpoints or vice versa.

Growing recognition that homosexuality is partly heritable gave rise to growing acceptance of homosexuality. Likewise, recognising that political observation is partly heritable can give rise to more understanding and less hatred between political groups.
Profile Image for Christina.
45 reviews
July 24, 2021
While the first 2/3rds of this book is a bit of a dry read the information is SO important it is worth it to get to the grand finale of the final three chapters. This book has forever changed my perspective on American Politics. The bottom line is that we do not really choose what we believe, we are genetically predisposed. This gives me more empathy and understanding for those who view the world differently than I.
Profile Image for Marco.
377 reviews49 followers
April 6, 2021
This book has 300 pages, and is 200 pages too long.

It's a filler fast. It must be really good for someone who is so into this subjecto that he wants to bask for as long as humanly possible on everything related to it.

It was not my case.

But the message is clear: genetics is an important component of political temperament
Profile Image for Phoebe.
19 reviews
May 30, 2019
dragged a little in its explanations of scientific concepts, though it’s probably good that the authors took so many measures to avoid misinterpretation. also this book was not written in a way that made me feel convinced of the science it cited...but i think that was in part intentional? enjoyable and enlightening regardless
365 reviews2 followers
June 24, 2019
Interesting argument that something like 40% of each person's political predisposition is genetically determined. The argument seems to work to that point, but the interpretation given to this phenomenon and its significance is less convincing.
218 reviews2 followers
September 12, 2021
OK. The point is that peoples' genetics can in many cases predispose them to a worldview that in tern leads them left or right. Not a lot of help on how to deal with that -- just tolerate those with opposite leanings -- don't attempt to change.
Profile Image for Katie Moore.
6 reviews
January 7, 2019
Interesting insight into the biology between liberals and conservatives. Everyone views the world through a different lens.
Profile Image for Ko Matsuo.
541 reviews2 followers
July 15, 2019
This is an fascinating book. Hibbing argues that our political differences have some basis in our biological makeup, which is why conservatives and liberals can't get along.

"Liberals and conservatives often are reluctant to accept that their differences are rooted in psychology, let alone biology. Their own political beliefs seem so sensible, rational, and correct that they have difficulty believing that other people, if given full information and protected from nefarious and artificial influences, would arrive at different beliefs."

As a result,
"Whether the topic is climate change, evolution, genetically modified foods, or the biological basis of political beliefs, people are quick these days to apply the label of junk science to research on controversial matters. The implication is that some research is driven by special interests and hidden agendas to such an extent that it cannot be considered real science or, more likely, that some topics are simply not suitable for science."

Eye opening and controversial topic. The book itself is somewhat difficult to read as the author takes time to develop some topics.
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