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Predisposed: Liberals, Conservatives, and the Biology of Political Differences [Kindle Edition]

John R. Hibbing , Kevin B. Smith , John R. Alford
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)

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  • Print ISBN-10: 0415535875
  • Print ISBN-13: 978-0415535878
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Book Description

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.

Editorial Reviews Review

Excerpt from The Left/Right Twenty Questions Game in Predisposed

The Five Questions from Hardwired i
  1. Could you slap your father in the face (with his permission) as part of a comedy skit?
    1. Yes
    2. No
  1. When you go to work in the morning, do you often leave a mess in your apartment or house?
    1. Yes
    2. No
  1. Which lesson is more important to teach to children?
    1. Kindness
    2. Respect
  1. Do you get bored by abstract ideas and theoretical discussions?
    1. Yes
    2. No
  1. Think about this carefully for 15 seconds - “Cleanliness is next to Godliness.” Which answer is closer to your current thoughts?
    1. Okay…makes sense
    2. What?

Which item from each pair comes closest to describing you?ii
    1. Eccentric
    2. Conventional
    1. Decisive
    2. Flexible
    1. Open-Minded
    2. b. Moralistic
    1. Imaginative
    2. Practical
    1. Simple
    2. Complex

Which item from each pair comes closest to describing you?ii
    1. Small towns
    2. Big cities
    1. Romantic movies
    2. Comedies
    1. Country music
    2. Classical music
    1. Motorcycle
    2. SUV
    1. Book about sports
    2. Book about music

Read the book to take the rest of the quiz and find out how you scored.

iHardwired 2009 Christine Lavin, John Alford, John Hibbing, Jeff Mondak, and Gene Weingarten.

iiThe Secret Lives of Liberals and Conservatives: Personality Profiles, Interaction Styles, and the Things They Leave Behind Political Psychology, Vol. 29, No. 6. (December 2008), pp. 807-840, by Dana R. Carney, John T. Jost, Samuel D. Gosling, Jeff Potter.


"The reviews are clearly presented, making the nature of studies and results accessible to nonexperts. The book includes the "Left/Right 20 Questions Game" for readers to test their own predispositions." Summing Up: Recommended. Undergraduate collections. - J. M Stonecash, emeritus, Syracuse University, in CHOICE

"Just fascinating."
—Taegan Goddard, Political Wire

"From beer-swilling fruit flies to defense-obsessed Republicans, Predisposed reveals why we differ politically and how we can bridge this chasm in an entertaining read by the leading bio-political scientists."
—Paul J. Zak, PhD, author of The Moral Molecule: The Source of Love and Prosperity

"This is a must read book for anyone – general reader or scholar – interested in politics and concerned about contemporary political polarization. This work is non-partisan, deeply researched, well-written, and highly informative. It is a book to send to others you know who, like these authors, want democracy to actually work better, since that is not likely to happen until we truly appreciate the nature of our varying political views. Over time, issues will change but our biological predispositions will not, nor will our political differences. When you have completed this book you will appreciate why this is true, and that since this is the way it always has been, and will be, we should deal with it."
John W. Dean, former Nixon White House counsel and author

"I don't know if John Hibbing, Kevin Smith, and John Alford are correct that understanding the psychological and physiological differences between liberals and conservatives will help to ameliorate ideological conflict, but I hope so. They have, in any case, written the most reasonable, accessible, fun, constructive, and down-to-earth account of scientific research on political orientation to date. Forget the sensationalistic blogs and read this book instead!"
John T. Jost, Professor of Psychology and Politics, New York University

"We should all be predisposed to like this book. These authors have offered a thoughtful, interesting, and intriguing argument about our political predispositions. My fondest hope is that this accessible book will spark a much needed debate about how to think about the origins and causes of political behavior. That debate would help us break out of the existing approaches that have shaped our thinking for far too long. Not everyone will appreciate what is said in these pages. But whether or not you like these ideas, the book is both enjoyable and thought-provoking."
John Geer, Professor of Political Science and Public Policy, Vanderbilt University, and author of In Defense of Negativity

Hibbing, Smith, and Alford have written a landmark book on our newfound understanding of the role biology plays in politics. It is both important and fun to read, with lovely stories and juicy tidbits from the latest research. I couldn't tear myself away! This is the kind of book that will change the way everyone thinks about both politics and what it means to be human."
James H. Fowler, author of Connected: How Your Friends' Friends' Friends Affect Everything You Feel, Think, and Do

"How do small biological differences map onto political postures? This stunning book takes into account the complexity of the world while teasing out the subtle patterns that make our truths so varied. An extraordinary work: balanced, nuanced, illuminating."
David Eagleman, Professor of Neuroscience and Psychiatry, Baylor College of Medicine, bestselling author of Incognito and Sum

"A wonderful example of theoretically informed experiments demonstrating the genetic, physiologic, and cognitive underpinnings of political predispositions. Biopolitics has come of age."
Milton Lodge, Distinguished University Professor of Political Science, SUNY at Stony Brook

"Destined to cause a stir, this book is by far the best source for what has emerged as an important new wave in the study of mass politics. In exploring how differences in people's biology, physiology, and cognitive makeup map onto politics, it provides a bracing sense of just how deeply our political differences run. Accessibly written and rigorously argued, it will provide a fascinating read for anyone interested in politics."
—Marc J. Hetherington, Professor of Political Science, Vanderbilt University

"We have known that we are political animals for a couple thousand years, but Predisposed provides critical clarity about how our biology influences human politics. At the same time, the authors dispel unfounded misconceptions that biology is destiny. The mix of cutting-edge science with humorous writing makes this book a fantastic read!"
—Darren Schreiber, Professor of Politics, University of Exeter

"This book will not make politics easier but it will make it easier to understand. The authors’ analysis will be especially valuable for those men and women who want to use our freedoms to make our union more perfect."
—U.S. Senator Bob Kerrey



Product Details

  • File Size: 1345 KB
  • Print Length: 304 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Up to 4 simultaneous devices, per publisher limits
  • Publisher: Routledge (September 23, 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #450,377 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The biology of politics November 17, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
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.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is not Political Science as you know it October 1, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is an excellent read. Pithy, thoughtful, meticulously researched and presented in a way that you almost forget you are absorbing complex and detailed scientific data. If you have ever wondered why Liberals and Conservatives seem so totally intractable, and policy is so overwhelmed by politics, this book will enlighten you. It has very little to do with the things you have always heard that inform our political beliefs like education, socioeconomic class, indoctrination, etc., it's just the way we're built. Much of what you believe is because of what your genes tell you to. If you don't believe that, read this book!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Read September 29, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Put down the most recent Chelsea Handler book or Betty White's biography and pick up Predisposed. This book will give you insight into the most recent studies on biobehavorial differences. Sound boring? It's not. With equal part substance and humor, you'll learn something without feeling like you're back in your high school government class that you rarely attended. You might even learn why your exceptionally annoying neighbor or your beloved parents have the political views that they do. All in all Predisposed is an entertaining and insightful read filled with ideas that everyone should be aware of.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific read October 14, 2013
An excellent dissemination of the recent surge of research on the potential biological underpinnings of political affiliation. It's written by two political scientists but incorporates research that will also appeal to those who are interested in psychology and biology. Covers a lot of really interesting work which made for an enjoyable and quick read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Doesn't deliver on its promise June 4, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The promise is stated in an early sentence "We hope to have explained how ephemeral issues of the day rest on the foundations of universal bedrock social dilemmas."

I'm a liberal but I want to understand how conservatives think, and also, perhaps even more importantly to me, to understand my own biases. The latter is important to me because I have a strong moral sense that arguments I make about policy should be sound.

But the book doesn't deliver on that promise. It discusses a large number of psychological, physiological, neurological, and genetic traits (which it calls predispositions) that correlate with political position on the conservative/liberal spectrum, but almost ignores how those traits get translated into policy positions. And when they do attempt such analysis it's not convincing.

Consider for example that one of the predispositions that it discusses is reaction to threatening images. "We measured EDA response [a physiological response] to these images and found that it was systematically correlated with a particular set of policy positions. We termed these "socially protective policies" because that is exactly what they seemed to reflect: policies designed to protect the interests of the participant as well as well as the participants social group. These issues included the death penalty, immigrations, foreign aid, and gun control. We found that higher EDA response to the threatening images ... consistently had more conservative policy stands."

This might be a useful observation, but if so the concept of "socially protective policy" needs to be more fully analyzed because in the case of gun control, for example, we need to explain why conservatives don't find images of people pointing guns at them threatening.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
arguably the most important book of my life required reading
Published 5 hours ago by V. Davis
5.0 out of 5 stars A Different Take on the Liberal/Conservative Debate
This was an excellent and well-written study - A real eye-opener. The notion that the difference between liberals and conservatives might, at least in part, be due to genetic... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Warner Mach
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent approach to explain why the left and right simply ...
Predisposed (Bio Politics/Political Psychology) is a must read for anyone wanting to expand their understanding of politics. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Daryl B.
4.0 out of 5 stars Predisposed: Excellent book despite its faults
I have recently finished reading "Predisposed" by John R. Hibbing; Kevin B. Smith and John R. Alford. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Milton L. Erhardt
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Written to be read by the average person.... to enlighten us about politics today.
Published 6 months ago by Richard J Elliott
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book so far this year
This is the best book I have read this year.
Published 6 months ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars like most personality dimensions
This is written to explain the thinking and methods behind the research that leads to the idea that political inclinations, like most personality dimensions, have a decided genetic... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Roger A. Webb
5.0 out of 5 stars A Very Interesting book
This book, as the cover says, is about the biological differences that contribute to predispositions to political and social positions of liberals and conservatives. Read more
Published 7 months ago by T. Teater
5.0 out of 5 stars great book!!
I have recently been delving into political psychology - this book is clear and unbiased in its analysis of the biological basis of political ideology!
Published 8 months ago by Renee Gibson
5.0 out of 5 stars I really liked this book
I really liked this book. It presented some ideas that I'd considered in the past, but never really had any scientific validation for. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Clift Norris
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