Sunday, December 21, 2008

Do Mine Enemies Vindicate Me? by Anthony McCarthy.

Can’t resist pointing this one out. Some of you might remember the post I did on alleged scientific findings in the area of political orientation and the objections to my mocking poli-sci mating with evy-psy. As with many of my Sunday morning mockeries, it was an article in the prestigeous “Ideas” section of the Boston Globe, one of my daily papers.

One of the main sticking points was the inability to adequately define what a “conserative” was in order to study the issue with science. Well, I don’t know if the writer of the “Surprising Insights into the Social Sciences” - one of my more frequent targets- reads this blog but apparently someone has come to the same conclusion, sort of.

'Conservative,' whatever that means

THE CONSERVATIVE BRAND may be more powerful than we assume. A team of psychologists ran several experiments to see if the label "conservative" (which has a different meaning in politics than it does in finance, where it refers to lower risk) could affect financial decisions. Republicans preferred the financial option labeled "conservative" - but only if they had been asked about their political identity. Democrats were not affected either way by the label. The bias remained even when the label was inaccurate and even after the Republicans were specifically asked to explain the meaning of the "conservative" label in the context of the financial decision.

Morris, M. et al., "Mistaken Identity: Activating Conservative Political Identities Induces 'Conservative' Financial Decisions," Psychological Science (November 2008).


Also in the Boston Globe “Ideas” section is this far more satisfying column on the arbitrary usage monitors, who seldom go to the bother of even checking the OED to find out if their pronouncements are anything but arrogant and frivolous bloviation.

Wish I could find the old Nation article I used to re-read every once in a while, I believe it was by Jim Sleeper, mocking William Safire’s prescriptive grammar pretensions. He made some of the same points more than twenty years back. Alas, the phony linguists haven’t been mocked back into their holes.