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5.0 out of 5 stars A Psychologist's Review of "The Republican Brain", April 30, 2012
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This review is from: The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science- and Reality (Hardcover)
The Republican Brain by Chris Mooney is a good overview of the current information Psychologists have of the differences between the liberal and conservative brain. He presents the information accurately, and the overall analysis of the existing political climate is dead on. However, I certainly would have preferred that the title of the book be "The Conservative Brain", and that he forego the references to the political parties. After all, there really still are liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats running around the country even though they are relatively quiet, and I do want to make some comments about the lack of comprehensiveness of his research concerning personality factors.
While it is true that Psychologists have widely accepted the scales for measuring the "Big Five" factors that characterize the human personality, there is another personality test being used which we could call the "Big Three" to differentiate them. The name of the test is The California Psychological Inventory (CPI) which is published by the Consulting Psychologists Press. They both produce the same results except that the CPI reports generate a higher order concept called personality type. The "Big Five" generates scores on five factors or dimensions; Openness to Experience, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Emotion Stability. The CPI generates scores on three factors or vectors; Externality vs. Internality, Norm-favoring vs. Norm-questioning, and Level of Satisfaction. I have a definite bias in favor of the CPI because it crosses the scores at their means and generates the higher level concept of "personality type". I have also relabeled the factors of the CPI to a more easily understandable Extravert vs. Introvert, Liberal vs. Conservative, and Adjustment to suit my needs. I have a graphic and a one page description of this on the home page of my website, [...].
I understand that he was focusing on the Republican Brain in the book and factors which cause them to deny scientific evidence which is why he only discussed and analyzed the research concerning Openness to Experience and Conscientiousness. I certainly wish he would have broadened his focus to include all `Big Five" dimensions or "Big Three" CPI vectors and personality types. There is a significant difference between the lifestyle and behaviors of Extraverted and Introverted conservatives. Similarly, there is a significant difference between Extraverted and Introverted liberals.
The liberal/conservative dimension does indicate differences in authoritarianism, closed mindedness, orderliness, sexual drive and creative sexual behavior, work/play ethic, recreational drug use, etc., but the extraverted/introverted dimension focuses on the huge differences in aggressiveness, dominance, risk-taking, lack of empathy, etc. By adding the extraverted/introverted dimension to his research and analysis, he would have given the reader a more complete understanding of human behavior. His discussion of the confrontational right wing "Tea Party'", Phyllis Schafly and son, and the vociferous, closed-minded, and strident science deniers could easily be explained by this personality dimension.
The remaining factor, Mental Stability in the "Big Five", and Adjustment as I use it in the CPI, is a separate dimension or vector that does not correlate with the other factors I discussed in the previous paragraphs. This means that scores on Openness to Experience, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, or Extravert vs. Introvert, Liberal vs. Conservative, are measures of "normal" personality while a low score on Mental Stability or Adjustment would indicate some sort of pathological process that would have to be further tested or at least, explored. Other tidbits which would have helped him clarify some of the questions or statements he discussed in his book are:
1. Intelligence is not correlated with the other factors and is probably equally distributed among the four personality types.
2. Gender is not correlated with the other factors and is probably also equally distributed among the four personality types.
3. Physical attractiveness is not correlated with the other factors and is probably also distributed among the four personality types.
4. Race, hyper-sexuality, creativity, Ph.D.s, scientists, and recreational drug use tend to cluster on the liberal side of the mean.
5. Bigotry, hypo-sexuality, conformity, and religiosity tend to cluster on the conservative side of the mean.
And finally, his explanation of personality dimensions as a continuum was absolutely necessary to clarify the variance within the same personality type. People scoring closer (possibly some percentage of one standard deviation) to the means would be "blended"; a mix of liberal, conservative, extraverted, and introverted values, behaviors, and lifestyles. These people comprise the "independents", liberal Republicans, and conservative Democrats in our current political mix. I believe he is a blended personality type in attitude, behavior, and lifestyle.
I also liked his discussion of the growing evidence of genetic predisposition of personality. DNA makes the body and the brain, and with more integrated research as suggested by NIMH, personality type will eventually be explained as differences in brain anatomy, neurotransmitters, prenatal and postnatal hard wiring of the brain, or other physiological factors yet to be discovered.
Overall, I liked his writing style, and conscientiousness in completing his book. Because he is not a Psychologist, he obviously had to do a lot of research to discuss the topic of political psychology. I would recommend "The Republican Brain" as a "must read" for every extroverted and introverted liberal. I would also recommend it for conservatives, but I know they will not read it. It would produce too much cognitive dissonance for them.The Abomination Project
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Showing 1-9 of 9 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Apr 30, 2012 3:05:27 PM PDT
Excellent review. I would like to learn more about the introvert/extravert subgroups. Over halfway through the book and no matter how much skepticism I try to muster, the patterns Mooney describes fit so much of what I observe in conservative speeches and writings.

Posted on May 1, 2012 2:48:35 PM PDT
There are always more research models that could be added. A fair amount of research has been done on Myers-Briggs personality types and on Hartmann's boundary types. All of this research has been correlated to the Big Five research. You won't find any of the research in contradiction to what Mooney presents, although other research could add further nuance to a complex field.

I was wondering what you meant about intelligence. You claim it isn't correlated to the other factors. What "other factors" are you referring to? I do know that research shows IQ to be correlated to the 'openness' trait. By the way, some of these other research models do find gender differences being correlated to other factors and hence not being equally distributed among all personality types.

In reply to an earlier post on May 2, 2012 5:43:28 AM PDT
Ricksj says:
Hi Benjamin,

Thanks for the comment.
I certainly didn't expect Chris Mooney to do a complete literature review. The CPI is simply my preference when I use a personality test because it generates personality types. I was surprised when Mooney didn't use the term "extravert" when describing Phyllis Schlafly and other activist conservatives who deny scientific evidence. It was the perfect place to use two other "Big Five" dimensions and briefly discuss the behavior of conservative extraverts vs introverts (agreeableness).
The revised CPI has one mean for both genders. It also doesn't indicate any significant correlations with standardized I.Q. tests although "blended" conservative scientists may be drifting over to the liberal side of the mean in recent studies as a reaction to the current political/scientific arguments. Mooney mentions this in his book.
I am not an employee of CPP, nor do I own any stock in the company. It's just a preference.

Posted on May 5, 2012 10:01:55 PM PDT
Norah Fan says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on May 7, 2012 4:01:34 AM PDT
Ken Kaplan says:
"Norah's post is what is known as an "ad hominem attack" which has no desire to contradict differing views with facts , research, or reasoned positions, but relies on emotional assault on a group or individual, usually to sidestep the issue at hand. Either "Norah" has had a bad experience with one or more psychologists, therefore condemning the entire profession, which is absurd, or is an example of the type of person profiled in the book.

In reply to an earlier post on May 7, 2012 5:05:28 AM PDT
Ricksj says:
Thanks for your outrageous comment.
If anything, your comment validates personality factor theory as I discussed in my review and responses to comments. It appears that you are both extremely conservative and extremely extraverted. You are the kind of person that I felt Mooney should have described in more detail when discussing conservatives like Rush Limbaugh, Phyllis Schlafly and son, etc.
Sorry, I didn't respond sooner to your comment, but I was busy engaging in "sexual license".

In reply to an earlier post on May 7, 2012 5:19:25 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 7, 2012 5:23:49 AM PDT
Ricksj says:
Hi Ken,
Thanks for your comment.
I think you have clarified Norah's "Mind Set" correctly without using psychological jargon. She would be a liberal's "worst nightmare" on a blind date. :)

In reply to an earlier post on May 8, 2012 4:04:33 PM PDT
Merlyn says:
I would have thought he would be tipped off when she opened the door, gave a stiff armed salute and snarled Seig Heil.

Run hard. Run fast. Run far.

In reply to an earlier post on May 9, 2012 7:53:15 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 9, 2012 7:56:10 AM PDT
Ricksj says:
Hi Merlyn,
If it were only that obvious. The reason I label conservative extraverts "phonies" is that they can pretend to be normal (blended moderates) until they get what they want. Nixon, Reagan, Bush Sr. and Jr. and now Romney are all examples of this political gamesmanship. They are like totally unethical used car salesmen who will say or do whatever is necessary to make the sale. Once the sale is made (elected), they get into their Nazi uniforms and escalate the war against liberals.
The hostile statements made by "tea partiers" and the far-right religious whackos are a pleasant change from the bull feces we normally hear from conservative candidates during elections. However, I think Romney will definitely be gaming the independents.

The Abomination Project
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