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Researchers Claim To Be Able To Determine Political Leaning By How Messy You Are 592

Posted by samzenpus
from the dirty-liberal dept.
According to a study to be published in The Journal of Political Psychology, you can tell someone's political affiliation by looking at the condition of their offices and bedrooms. Conservatives tend to be neat and liberals love a mess. Researchers found that the bedrooms and offices of liberals tend to be colorful and full of books about travel, ethnicity, feminism and music, along with music CDs covering folk, classic and modern rock, as well as art supplies, movie tickets and travel memorabilia. Their conservative contemporaries, on the other hand, tend to surround themselves with calendars, postage stamps, laundry baskets, irons and sewing materials. Their bedrooms and offices are well lit and decorated with sports paraphernalia and flags — especially American ones. Sam Gosling, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, says these room cues are "behavioral residue." The findings are just the latest in a series of recent attempts to unearth politics in personality, the brain and DNA. I, for one, support a woman's right to clean.

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Researchers Claim To Be Able To Determine Political Leaning By How Messy You Are

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  • Got books from Karl Marx, you might be a socialist, if you got book from Nozick or Ayn Rand you might be a liberal.

    I should have taken sociology courses instead.

    • Re:If you... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Count Fenring (669457) on Thursday October 16, 2008 @02:09AM (#25395357) Homepage Journal

      Ayn Rand is one for the liberals how?

      Libertarian, sure. But liberal... not so much.

      • "Ayn Rand is one for the liberals how?
        Libertarian, sure. But liberal... not so much."

        Yeah, either your parent post doesn't believe that republican's are typically fiscally conservative, or [s]he's never actually read Ayn Rand.

          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by coolsnowmen (695297)

            Yeah I've seen that too.

            Well I guess I should have been more specific. Republicans preach to a fiscally conservative ideology.

            What happens when republican politicians get in power is another matter entirely.

            Also, That only puts the president's party affiliation and not who is in control of the house/senate. Or are you implying correlation->causation? Because last I checked, the house was supposed to control the money.

            And the economic boom during clinton would have helped any president. He was lucky.

      • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

        by mc6809e (214243)

        Ayn Rand is one for the liberals how?

        Libertarian, sure. But liberal... not so much.

        Anyone that adheres to atheism is probably a liberal thinker. Ayn Rand, an atheist, was therefore a liberal thinker. She just wasn't a leftist. They aren't the same thing.

        • by descil (119554)
          You must be taking the definition of liberal quite ambiguously, to place it in the role of 'free thinker.' Ayn Rand, an atheist, may have been quite loose and free with her conceptions as well, but that hardly allows her to claim the liberal title. Unless you mean she's crazy, which I get. But not all atheists are crazy! Some are just bloodthirsty! and what's so wrong about that these days anyway?
  • by Dutchmaan (442553) on Thursday October 16, 2008 @02:06AM (#25395337) Homepage

    It seems to make sense to me, conservatives in my view have always been about protecting and preserving the America's physical assets and wealth, where as liberals conversely tend to put ideals above the nation's power and prosperity.

    and just for the record in case it matters to anyone. I tend to view myself a somewhat left leaning moderate.

  • the mess makes you!

    Seriously though these kinds of analysis of political leaning toward behavior seem as silly as the easily startled tend to be more conservative.

    How much of this do you folks in the Slashdot community out there really buy into?

    • Hmm. The opener was an old stand-by of the site. Well divided between different lines when given the space to do so, refusing to repeat the topic. Methinks I see a republican.
    • by jandersen (462034) on Thursday October 16, 2008 @03:14AM (#25395809)

      Seriously though these kinds of analysis of political leaning toward behavior seem as silly as the easily startled tend to be more conservative.

      Sille as it may seem when presented like this, it is not as stupid as that. In recent years there has been a lot of research into how mental processes relate to brain physiology, body chemistry etc, and in that context it isn't unreasonable to hypothesize about why people lean one way or another, politically.

      Also, please note that this a statistical result - there is a apparent correlation between political leaning and the way you keep order. This can be seen as just a special case of the idea that the way you live your life influences your political opinion - IOW nothing surprising there.

      What they don't say is that "if you are messy, you are always liberal".

      How much of this do you folks in the Slashdot community out there really buy into?

      Oh, every word, certainly. This is about critical thinking - it doesn't mean that you have to reject everything with scorn, out of hand, it just means that you don't accept things without first thinking about how they add up. It is surprising how often critical thinking leads you to accept and understand what others tell you.

      • by descil (119554)
        Too bad the definition of 'messy' is "prefers art over cleaning supplies." Maybe that's why the parent thought it was silly.

        TFA (try reading it) has some good qualitative analyses, but the extrapolation suggesting that those qualitative observations is backed by nonsense: red herring buzzwords about related (but not key) concepts, anecdotal evidence(examples that trigger stereotype formation, the view of the perfect rancher conservative house, the liberal hippy house... never mind those conservative hippies
  • by Deus.1.01 (946808) on Thursday October 16, 2008 @02:10AM (#25395365) Journal

    The rest of the world dont use.

    Trying to be social determinismts, you must use the most general and stereotypical easy deffinition, that's so broad contradictions don't got something to grab on.

    On my course about writing papers, the lecturer warned us about using generalities.

    This is beyond stupid.

  • by NobleSavage (582615) on Thursday October 16, 2008 @02:13AM (#25395385)
    What is MORE interesting is similar but older research cited in TFA:

    Positive personality traits associated with liberalism (self-reliant, resilient, dominating and energetic) and negative ones attributed to conservatism (easily victimized or offended, indecisive, fearful and rigid) appear as young as nursery schoolâ"age kidsâ"and correlate with those children's political beliefs in adulthood, according to a 20-year study published in 2006 in the Journal of Research in Personality. More recently, scientists linked the strength of a person's startle response to their political leanings: conservatives tended to scare easier, blinking harder than liberals when they heard a loud noise.

  • Irons? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Thursday October 16, 2008 @02:19AM (#25395437) Homepage Journal

    Conservatives surround themselves with irons? :looks around:

    C'mon, is my web cam on? Nobody I've ever known surrounds themselves with irons.

    I've got a messy desk, though I try to keep it organized every few days, I've got music on my drive from Flowing Waters to ragas to Beethoven to Miles Davis to trash pop, all my books are on shelves unless I'm using them, and, yes, I have an alligator head from Louisiana nearby, as well as a Voltron, but my workspace is well-lit and I have some postage stamps in this desk's hutch. No flags or sports memorabilia are in sight.

    I suspect that my mess's characteristics don't fit their model because the Liberal/Conservative single-political-dimension model is wildly oversimplistic. Trying to draw any conclusions based on it is just going to give you bad ideas.

    In the real world most people would think I'm a conservative, though people who actually know me would think I'm a Classical Liberal. I know, I'm off-axis, for shame.

  • by MillionthMonkey (240664) * on Thursday October 16, 2008 @02:23AM (#25395461)

    Their bedrooms and offices are well lit and decorated with sports paraphernalia and flags- especially American ones.

    What does it mean if they're dimly lit and well decorated with drug paraphernalia?

    • Well, my bedroom's dimly lit, but I keep the drugs and drug paraphernalia in my nightstand drawer. The rest of the room is mostly messy, being strewn with several hundred books, assorted laundry, and old-school Sun and SGI hardware.

      For what it's worth, my politics would be best described as radical libertarian/anarchist.

      • by descil (119554)
        Hmmm, but where do you keep the army boots, firebombs, and emergency detonators? Please be specific, your answers will be graded.
  • absurd (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Iowan41 (1139959) on Thursday October 16, 2008 @02:39AM (#25395603)
    It would get me exactly backwards! Sounds more like stereotyping than research.
    • I'll have you know that the signed hypodermic needle I have was used by Barry Bonds in his historic 700th steroid injection is going to be worth a fortune on ebay!
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by ajlisows (768780)

      I agree. This is pretty much stereotyping. My Office is well lit and messy, filled with a wide variety of CD's from "Folk" to "Classic and Modern Rock". I have books about Feminism, books about Religion (As well as books that define religions...Bible, Koran), books with maps, books about socialism, books about objectivism, books about capitalism, books about United States History, books about Biochemistry, Books about Immunology, a few dozen computer reference books, books ab

    • by vistic (556838)

      Congratulations, you're a statistical outlier!

  • I'm not a huge fan of idle, but if we're going to get random crap, it might as well be interesting, random crap. This story isn't too bad - I guess.
  • Pop psychology (Score:2, Interesting)

    by leereyno (32197)

    This sounds like pop psychology to me. Is this journal an "A pub?" Is it even a high B? Funny how the description was spun to make leftists look vital and engaging, while conservatives are portrayed as pedestrian or even boorish.

    I'm a staunch small-L Libertarian (which to leftists is indistinguishable from a conservative) and my home is usually quite neat and tidy. But in most other respects the description of a "liberal" abode matches mine. My home is filled with books, music, art, musical instrumen

    • Re:Pop psychology (Score:5, Interesting)

      by geekgirlandrea (1148779) <andrea+slashdot@persephoneslair.org> on Thursday October 16, 2008 @03:10AM (#25395799) Homepage
      Since when does a space have to be neat to be functional? I find neat and tidy spaces rather oppressively sterile and unliveable, whereas my messy spaces are comfortable and eminently functional. For what it's worth, I'd call myself libertarian too, but would be even more swift to distance myself from conservatives than from leftists.
    • by pecosdave (536896)

      I am also a Libertarian, it's hilarious how both messy and organized describe me. I'm going to speak in past tense as present since Ike recently upset a lot of what I'm going to say....

      I've got tons of books arranged neatly on book shelves. I have tons of DVDs's, on wall mounted organizers. I carry tons of stuff in my back packs and they all appear messy to those who don't know better, but I know what is in every pocket, and I have different backpacks for different occasions (one for each job). I have t

    • by descil (119554)
      Your skillful tongue does weave lies into oblivion. Seven cheers to the forsaking of your name!
  • I wonder if:

    1. younger people tend to have messier rooms than older people (age correlates with political identity)
    2. military people tend to be neater than non-military people
    3. poorer people tend to be messier than richer people (again, correlation)

    I'd like to see the actual report when it comes out to see which variables they're controlling for.

  • by Chrisq (894406) on Thursday October 16, 2008 @03:05AM (#25395765)
    You know you will be justified in calling them a fascist
  • Someone tagged that with "correlationisnotcausation." Yeah. Great. Really insightful there. Clearly no claim of causation was made, but it's important to remind us of that bumper-sticker bit of wisdom. Anything else? Can we get a "whatcouldpossiblygowrong" tag in there? Because really, something could ALWAYS unexpectedly go wrong. Maybe some more basic logic, like "adhominemattacksdontproveyourpoint?"

  • The Obama Hope poster on the wall is also a dead giveaway that you're in a liberal's den.

  • ...don't clean house until after November 4. Please.

  • by MaWeiTao (908546) on Thursday October 16, 2008 @03:25AM (#25395889)

    I guess this means I'm somewhere in the middle since my interests would indicate I'm a liberal but I have a tendency to want things neat and organized.

    I have to say, it's quite obnoxious how utterly polarized politics has become in the US. It's basically all or nothing with too many people on both sides, to the point where a potentially sound idea is completely dismissed because it might have hints of being conservative or liberal. Instead of fixing existing systems too many people are intent on completely trashing it and replacing it with whatever conforms to their worldview. I don't even bother trying to discuss politics with some people I know because it results in them becoming openly hostile. They wont even take the time to consider my viewpoint and argue it. Instead I'm dismissed as a shill for one entity or another. The friends I do get into interesting discussions with are the ones who are legitimately moderate.

    And this is amongst people who are somewhat informed, although some might draw all their news from one side of the aisle. Unfortunately, I encounter far too many people who don't know what the hell is going on beyond what they hear in sound bites. I find that overseas people seem to be better informed about politics. And their opinions seem to be more balanced. They seem inclined to side with parties based more on specific issues. And there's much less of this notion that one side has to take one stance on issues and the other side has to adopt the opposite stance.

    What troubles me is that this is basically using science to reinforce stereotypes. Maybe someday someone will come along and tell us we can be cured of our political affiliations.

  • by geekgirlandrea (1148779) <andrea+slashdot@persephoneslair.org> on Thursday October 16, 2008 @03:43AM (#25395991) Homepage

    This article just blithely assumes personality traits are fixed at birth and then determine political beliefs, and makes essentially arbitrary value judgements on those traits.

    Positive personality traits associated with liberalism (self-reliant, resilient, dominating and energetic) and negative ones attributed to conservatism (easily victimized or offended, indecisive, fearful and rigid) appear as young as nursery school-age kids--and correlate with those children's political beliefs in adulthood, according to a 20-year study published in 2006 in the Journal of Research in Personality. More recently, scientists linked the strength of a person's startle response to their political leanings: conservatives tended to scare easier, blinking harder than liberals when they heard a loud noise.

    Now that thing about the startle response is interesting, especially because it's a simple enough trait that one can easily imagine it really is just genetics. On the other hand what's the point in describing personality traits as positive or negative here? Why not just say these traits were more common in liberals, and these over here were more common in conservatives? What purpose is served by mixing value judgements in with the attempted science like that? What kind of messed-up person describes 'dominating' as a positive trait in a political context, anyway?

    • by descil (119554)
      the purpose is to create a social dipole,

      "conservatives tend to scare easier, blinking harder than liberals when they hear a loud noise"

      next we'll get into applying spin to the dipole, stay tuned for news at 11 :)
  • And that must be the result of being Libertarian!

    I don't want Obama, I have convinced myself he is a socialist, which is fine, but I don't want that.
    Errrrr, *gosh*, I don't really want McCain either. He's (R) but not a conservative. I'd trust his foreign policy, but his domestic policy would be some smarmy mish-mash of capitalist and socialist ideas that would get all fubar and result in just as much misery as I think Obama domestic policy would.
    I learned much too late that I really, really, liked Ron Paul.
    • I don't want Obama, I have convinced myself he is a socialist, which is fine, but I don't want that.

      Interesting. Which industries is he going to nationalise? I mean, other than banking, which pretty much everyone's nationalising at the moment...

  • ... because I don't fit their liberal living-space profile at all! Not even remotely. And I'm not even remotely conservative (I ridicule and despise tradition and ceremony for the sakes of themselves).

    They should have included me in their little study. I would have been the fly in the statistical ointment.

  • by HikingStick (878216) <{z01riemer} {at} {hotmail.com}> on Thursday October 16, 2008 @09:05AM (#25398421)
    It seems too small to be expanded to general conclusions.

    "...included surveys and room inspections of 76 college students and 94 professionals ranging fromrealtors to architects."

    It seems to me that you would need larger samples in more life/professional areas to draw reasonable conclusions. Could the tendency to be more or less organized also be attributable to one's profession or current life circumstance?

    My room is full of trinkets and mementos, three guitars, a set of congas, clutter, and colorful trinkets from friends in other countries, and colorful gifts from friends who have traveled where I have not had the opportunity to go. You'll find evidence of my hobby of dabbling in foreign languages. You won't find a single American flag, sport poster, or banner, yet the majority of my political views are squarely conservative. While it is an interesting topic of study, the sample will need to be much larger, and the demographic divisors much more granular, before onclusions may be extended to the general population.

  • What a crock ... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Bob-taro (996889) on Thursday October 16, 2008 @10:42AM (#25399811)

    FTA: "It's pleasurable for liberals to think more. They gravitate toward art, to things that are not as concrete," says Carney. "Conservatives have a need for order, for there not to be ambiguity. There you see that expressed by being more orderly, having more cleaning supplies, needing to have everything lined up and organized so that one feels one's environment is predictable and therefore safe."

    Who wants to bet that the person who made that comment is a messy liberal? "Liberals like thinking"? Even if there is a strong correlation here, how does having more books mean you like thinking more. Maybe "liberals like reading" would have made more sense. Then they go on to make being neat sound bad -- like it's some obsessive need based on insecurity. As for myself, I'm a very messy conservative who reads a lot and likes art.

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