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“5 key ‘moral triggers’ polarize politics”

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By Starlight - Posted on 13 April 2010

Here is an interesting article detailing the polarization of Politics but I think we can apply it across the board to polarizing religious views as well.

“5 key ‘moral triggers’ polarize politics”

Research: Personality traits keep us from seeing eye to eye

By Rachael Rettner

The health care bill may be passed, but the road to reform certainly painted a polarizing picture of America. From a six-hour summit that failed to sway a single Republican, to shouts of "baby killer" and Tea Party protests, politicians and the public seemed to be from different planets.

Psychologically speaking, perhaps they are, say experts, who weigh in on the reasons behind the seemingly endless acrimony these days over a slew of issues, from gay marriage to abortion.

The reasons are many-faced, involving deep-seated personality differences, contrasting moral views, polarized political parties and today's 24/7, tell-it-all-in-great detail media, all of which prevent liberals and conservatives from seeing eye-to-eye, experts say. And at the end of the day, these divisions could explain why we can't all just get along.

Conflicting morals
Before they even get to the issues, liberals and conservatives are already starting off on the wrong foot for bipartisan agreement. Fundamental differences in morals and personality, paired with emotion-driven logic lead to a basic disconnect between the political bents.

Jonathan Haidt of the University of Virginia and his colleagues have pinned down five basic "moral triggers," or the factors people use to judge right from wrong and that have evolved in human societies. Different cultures and even individuals place more emphasis on certain triggers compared with others.

In a broad sense, they boil down to:
• Harm/care: People are sensitive to suffering and have negative feelings toward those who are harmful and cruel. They value kindness and compassion.
• Fairness/reciprocity: A history of cooperation means humans have evolved a sense of fairness and reciprocity, leading to altruistic actions.
• Ingroup/loyalty: People place moral value on those who do what's good for the group; are loyal to the group; and dislike disloyal members.
• Authority/respect: Humans tend to respect authority and tradition.
• Purity/sanctity: The idea that we view our bodies as sacred. This idea ties into religious views about the body and human actions.

Studies have shown that liberals tend to care only about harm and fairness when considering whether something is moral or not, said Peter Ditto, a professor of psychology and social behavior at the University of California, Irvine, who is involved with Haidt's research. In contrast, conservatives have a more traditional moral structure, and tend to care about all five morality factors, he said.
"So that's where a lot of the problems come in, is that the things that really bother conservatives don’t bother liberals very much," Ditto said. "And the two groups don't understand each other's morality very well."

Take gay marriage, for example: "From a liberal standpoint, gay marriage isn't a problem, it doesn’t harm anybody, and it's only fair that gay people be allowed to be married just like straight people can," Ditto said.

But for conservatives, gay marriage goes against the traditional idea of marriage, and so presents a real moral problem, Ditto explained.

Twisting the facts

These basic moral differences can then go on to drive the biased perception of facts , Ditto said. Often people don't agree on an issue, because they interpret — or misinterpret — the facts differently, or they simply ignore facts that don't fit their view. People on both sides of the political aisle do this, studies show, and so even what might seem like simple notions of "right" and "wrong" are judged based on altered realities by both parties.

"People process information, and it's biased to supporting their moral ideological view," he said. "And what you end up with is these sort of radically different perceptions of fact, so that it's not like they're just arguing about morals anymore; they perceive the world completely differently."

This bias worldview might have its roots in emotions as well as morals.
"You tend to form emotional ties to the belief that you hold," said Steve Hoffman, a professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Buffalo in New York. "And so you seek out that information, or those convictions, and those people that convey the convictions that you think you already have."

Read the full article at this link.


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