Food, Now Voting. . .

13 10 2006

Don’t I have ANY control over how I think about these things?

From today’s Science Journal in the Wall Street Journal:

A growing number of studies offer clues as to how terrorism and other deadly events affect people’s voting decisions. The latest research shows that because such violent political acts are brutal reminders of death, they make conservatives, but not liberals, more hostile toward those perceived as different, and more supportive of extreme military policies, according to a study in April in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

For 20 years, researchers have been exploring how people manage the fear engendered by intimations of mortality. Reminded of the inevitability of their own death (which happens to a lesser degree by merely walking past a funeral parlor), people try to quench or at least manage the resulting “existential terror” in several ways. They become more certain of their worldview or faith. They conform more closely to the norms of their society. They show greater reverence for symbols of their society, such as flags and crucifixes.

. . .

Building up your own worldview requires disparaging (even unconsciously) that of others. If beliefs that contradict yours have any worth, then by definition they call into question the absolute validity of your own. The result is stronger feelings of hostility toward those with different values and beliefs.

This “worldview defense,” says psychology researcher Sheldon Solomon of Skidmore College, “reduces the terror that reminders of your own death bring.” These results have been replicated in some 300 lab experiments, including in cultures with very different ideas about an afterlife.

Which brings us back to the effect on voters of a terrorist attack and its brutal reminders of mortality. Although some voters would feel betrayed by incumbents who failed to protect them, researchers say, these days that trend would more likely be swamped by a surge toward candidates perceived as hawks on national security.

. . .

The link between thoughts of death and actual behavior shows up not only in labs but in the real world, too. After 9/11, Americans sprouted flag lapel pins. Patriotism and approval of the president soared. Tolerance for dissent plummeted. (“All Americans…need to watch what they say,” warned a White House spokesman.)

. . .

“Reminders of death do make New Yorkers cling to their worldview more strongly,” says psychology researcher Tom Pyszczynski of the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. “If that worldview has to do with tolerance and peace and prosocial beliefs, then those positions strengthen.”

. . .



What Next?

13 10 2006

An article yesterday began:

Six years ago, as his 11th-grade classmates struggled with the college-application ritual, Toby Hughes tried to envision his future.

A Georgia honors student with a 1350 SAT score, he knew he wanted to go into computer science, so he went to local computer companies and asked what they wanted in an employee. “They told me I would be more marketable if I had practical technical training as opposed to theoretical academic training,” says Mr. Hughes.

He began taking specialized computer-networking classes while still in high school, landed a $52,000 job after graduating, and now, at 24, makes well past that.

When I talk with other homeschooling parents, this is the sort of approach we often lean toward. Our children are not on an unthinking path of 12+ years of schooling with some vague idea that someone else has made sure they are doing all the things they need to do to get where they want to be. College, if it comes, will be a deliberate decision, not just the next year.

Actually finding out what the requirements are for a job you’re interested in and then working toward that . . . makes sense to me. 🙂