Saturday, 14 November 2020

Covidiots - Why Conservatives Don't Care About the Welfare of Others

Here’s Why Conservatives, Liberals Differ on COVID-19 | Lehigh University

In a thought-provoking paper by Luke Nowlan and Daniel M. Zane of Lehigh University Business School, the different reaction to the coronavirus pandemic seen in conservatives and liberals (particularly in the USA), and especially the measures governments are taking to mitigate the effects of it, they showed how these can be explained by differences in the level of superstitious belief in agency.

As has been noted before in this blog, conservatives and fundamentalist religious creationists in particular tend to suffer from the teleological thinking mode they inherit from their infancy, so tend to see agency in everything. Nothing can happen in their world that doesn't have a sentient mind making it happen. No object can do anything unless it wants to or something else makes it. The same mode of thinking also makes them susceptible to conspiracy theories, of which the Theory of Evolution is believe to be one.

Liberal thinkers however are much more likely to accept that some things happen randomly and without purpose or intent simply because the world is not deterministic, so random things can and do happen.

Paradoxically perhaps, conservatives do not attribute agency to the SARS-CoV-2 virus itself, so don't recognise that it represents a threat to them personally. It isn't seen as trying to infect them or wanting to make them sick, and what agency they assume is behind it they believe is trying to protect them from it, especially if it feels well-disposed towards them, hence prayers and magic spells as the preventative of choice. The agency they perceive most strongly is government and government agencies, and scientists, who are making them do something they perceive as an unwarranted and unnecessary threat to their personal freedom. And all because of something that isn't a threat to them personally anyway. In fact, being made by government to do something they don't think is necessary, is simply confirmation that governments and scientists are conspiring against them for evil reasons!
It's hardly surprising that this is the result of a toddler mode of thinking which people normally grow out of.
Liberals, on the other hand understand well the threat posed by the virus itself simply by its presence, and the way it replicates itself in their body once if gains entry. The measure taken by government, under the advice of scientists, are thus seen as sensible and necessary.

As the Lehigh University Press release explains:

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, political ideology has been perhaps the strongest predictor of consumers’ perceptions of the coronavirus’ threat. According to a new study from Lehigh Business, the differences between conservative and liberal responses to COVID-19 are mitigated when people perceive the virus itself to have agency―the ability to control its own actions and thus exert power over people.

Conservatives are generally more sensitive to threats that are relatively high in agency, propose Daniel Zane, assistant professor of marketing, Lehigh’s College of Business, and co-author Luke Nowlan, assistant professor of marketing, KU Leuven, Belgium, in their study.

“In the context of the pandemic, you have these players―the policymakers, the American public, media organizations, your neighbors―that, at least relative to the unobservable virus, have more agency,” says Zane, “whereas this virus has less agency.”

According to the paper, “Getting Conservatives and Liberals to Agree on the COVID-19 Threat” published in the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research in September, conservatives tend to see free will as the primary driver of outcomes in life, whereas liberals are more accepting of the idea of that randomness plays a role. Compared to liberals, conservatives tend to attribute outcomes to purposeful actions. So in the context of the pandemic, they're more likely to blame any negative outcomes in their lives on these more agentic policymakers or fellow Americans rather than the virus itself.

“According to our study, conservatives might at least in part be less likely to wear masks because they don’t feel as threatened by the virus itself,” says Zane. “Any hardships that they're facing in their lives around health, financial issues, even going to movie theaters or shopping malls, might not necessarily trace back to the virus for them. So, they feel like they don't have to protect themselves from it.”

Further details can be heard in the accompanying podcast by Professor Zane, which is accompanied by a full transcript.

One thing that is missing from this mix however, is the finding, published in Christianity Today, that white evangelicals, who tend to be the most vociferous campaigners against social distancing and wearing face-masks, tend to be the least concerned for the welfare of others. These same people who profess to be pro-life, when it comes to women's reproductive rights and freedoms, regard other people's deaths from Covid-19 as well worth the price of their own freedom from being inconvenienced.

Pro-life =/= pro-living.

The same thinking is probably behind the growing campaign from the wackadoodle right against the vaccinations now coming into production.

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