As some of you who have read my posts and comments may know by now, I consider people on the Right to have pathology. And the further Right, the more pathology. They confound me. I cannot seem to grasp what makes them tick, so I turn to psychology to try to explain how they can possibly see things so differently than I do. Projection, poor cognition, feelings of inadequacy, fear, worship of authority—even a history of abuse, those are the most common traits I ascribe to them. I also have a theory (and I am definitely not the first to think of it) that Liberals and Conservatives have different world views based on how they view people:  Liberals seem to believe that people (and the corporations made up of them) are not always trustworthy—that they need to be regulated for the good of society. Conservatives seem to feel that left to their own devices, people and corporations will do the right thing; that the more freedom the better. OK, that’s very over-simplified, but I think it’s basically the way the divide works.

The other day, I stumbled across a site called Moral and they have a different theory about the divide between Left and Right—that it is based on our morality. Specifically, on the importance we each place on different aspects of morality. Not that either side is more moral than the other, but that our moral systems are different. The guy behind the site is Dr. Jonathan Haidt, from the University of Virginia. He says that morality in all cultures around the world can be boiled down to 5 basic building blocks or foundations:

1) Harm/care, related to our long evolution as mammals with attachment systems and an ability to feel (and dislike) the pain of others. This foundation underlies virtues of kindness, gentleness, and nurturance.
2) Fairness/reciprocity, related to the evolutionary process of reciprocal altruism. This foundation generates ideas of justice, rights, and autonomy. [Note: In our original conception, Fairness included concerns about equality, which are more strongly endorsed by political liberals. However, as we reformulate the theory in 2010 based on new data, we are likely to include several forms of fairness, and to emphasize proportionality, which is more strongly endorsed by conservatives]
3) Ingroup/loyalty, related to our long history as tribal creatures able to form shifting coalitions. This foundation underlies virtues of patriotism and self-sacrifice for the group. It is active anytime people feel that it’s “one for all, and all for one.”
4) Authority/respect, shaped by our long primate history of hierarchical social interactions. This foundation underlies virtues of leadership and followership, including deference to legitimate authority and respect for traditions.
5) Purity/sanctity, shaped by the psychology of disgust and contamination. This foundation underlies religious notions of striving to live in an elevated, less carnal, more noble way. It underlies the widespread idea that the body is a temple which can be desecrated by immoral activities and contaminants (an idea not unique to religious traditions).

His goal in all this is noble: To find a way for us on both sides of the political spectrum to understand each other. His work has been widely discussed and here is an article from the New York Times about it. Andrew Sullivan also used his tests to decide if he was still a Conservative! The site has several really interesting quizzes to see where we are on the political spectrum, based on how we answer questions on the five foundations of morality.  I recommend these quizzes. Some seem very easy, but the moral dilemmas get harder. I found some of them really challenging.

This graph represents one of my test scores. You can take one or several of his tests here.  But please don’t feel you should share yours! ( Edit: I should have noted that my scores are in green. )


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escribacatchoiceladyboomer1949KQµårk 死神Khirad Recent comment authors
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These are great tests, Cher. I took them awhile ago (I think someone posted the link on HP). It was an interesting internal journey. I came out pretty liberal.

KQµårk 死神

Cher since you were talking about liberal and conservative leanings in the country’s electorate I thought you would find this story on OpenLeft interesting which show Democratic voting patterns decidedly turning left, especially in recent years. I think there are few big caveats here because without the Dixiecrats the Dems are much more socially liberal compared to the 30’s to the 70’s AND since the center has moved so far right from the 60’s that I think these numbers are a bit relative to the current political reality AND I think this is a measure of the polarized thinking in our politics as well.

DW-Nominate, the only ideological voting scorecard for members of all Congresses, all-time (1789–current), shows Democratic Senators moving, on average, decisively to the left over the past eighty years. While the trend was particularly pronounced during the 1960’s, according to their methodology it continues to this day. In fact, hard as it may be to believe, the current Democratic Senate caucus (Lieberman and Sanders included), is ranked as the most left-leaning Democratic Senate caucus of all time.

First, here is the mean DW-nominate score for all Democratic Senators, by decade, starting with the 1931-1940 period. The number in parenthesis is the total number of Democratic Senators during that decade:

Democratic Senators, mean DW-nominate score by decade, 1930-2010
Scale is negative 1.000 to positive 1.000, with lower numbers indicating a more left-leaning economic voting record
1930’s: -0.111 (334)
1940’s: -0.096 (289)
1950’s: -0.167 (269)
1960’s: -0.271 (330)
1970’s: -0.291 (299)
1980’s: -0.303 (249)
1990’s: -0.370 (248)
2000’s: -0.394 (253)

Second, here is more recent detail on the trend, looking at each individual Congress (two-year period). Once again, the number in parenthesis is the total number of Democratic Senators during that Congress (including Independents Jeffords, Lieberman and Sanders; also including Senators who did not serve an entire two-year term):

More recent detail, 1989-2010
101st: -0.319 (56)
102nd: -0.331 (58)
103rd: -0.341 (57)
104th: -0.357 (48)
105th: -0.381 (45)
106th: -0.373 (46)
107th: -0.378 (51)
108th: -0.378 (49)
109th: -0.402 (45)
110th: -0.405 (51)
111th: -0.416 (60)

Whether this means the center is shifting I doubt it so far but it shows that the only way to shift left is to keep Democrats in power somehow.


I took all the stages of the test, and the only place where I was “conservative” was on the balance between “do your own thing” and societal standards. The reason is part of what we’ve all been discussing – the hyper individualism of both the left and right that leads to a disconnect with the sense of us as a society where we need to balance our own wants against those of other people.

I found the thing pretty arbitrary over what does “disgusting” mean? A fat banker swiping a kid’s free lunch is disgusting. I think they mean two guys kissing. I am fine with the latter but would be repulsed by the former. OK – maybe I am weird, but disgusting is too loaded a term for each of us for that to be clear.

George Lakoff distinguishes liberals and conservatives as the “nurturing mother” vs. the “strong, disciplining father”. Well – he never met MY mother. She had a huge problem with rich people’s disrespect of others, of their tax dodging, of their self indulgence, and she was a martinet about it. No nurturing there!

I think the distinction of how to find shared values is a good one, it works. But there are over-broad generalizations about some things – I get on very well with conservatives who think people should have a sense of self-reliance. So do I – to shake off the corporate dominance of our lives, NOT because I think people are lazy. See? Common value with no common ground. Conversations about society and change and all need to be long because this way lie pitfalls.

The problem is – we are not having these conversations with many people. One thing that absolutely distinguishes this group on the Planet is how many of us have decent relationships with conservative and even bigoted people. While we marvel at their ability to be intolerant while loving people in those categories, WE are also showing our best side in respecting them, even with their flaws and illogic.

I am distressed that people who mourn the dead miners in WVA would also mock them out for their social conservatism on any other day. Years spent teaching union folks, mostly Catholic, often conservative socially, I remain wedded to a genuine love for them as “salt of the earth” and not needing for them to agree with me on social issues. We do agree on everything else.

All this keeps the song running through my mind,

“Human kindness, overflowing. I think it’s gonna rain today.”

Maybe that’s where and what we are all striving to be – kind. Then the rest comes more easily.


c’lady, I love the way you always call upon our better angels.

Like you, I value self reliance and the assumption of personal responsibility, and find common ground with conservatives in those areas…though, as you note, maybe for different reasons.

I also was a bit confused by the term “disgusting”in the survey. Karl Rove wearing tight plaid pants would qualify, but I doubt that’s what the survey-creators intended by the term. Two guys/girls kissing, on the other hand, not a problem.

I have to add, too, that my mother sounds a lot like your mother. Very liberal, but at the same time, very rigid standards. And gods help them who did not live up to ’em!
Yet she could be amazingly supportive and funny when she wanted to be. These complex people; maybe they’re the ones who taught us to love complex, even contradictory, people!


Karl Rove! Tight plaid pants! TMI and BAD visuals!!! Eeeuuuuuwwww!!!

You have defined “disgusting” for me!

Kes – I think we must be related. Clearly we had the same mother! I think those of us who had a balance between a sense of compassion toward others and a sense of responsibility for self probably wound up strong. Everyone here, no matter what the journey, has those two trait – compassion and self-direction.

My non-scientific evidence? No whining exists on the Planet. Pure proof of the fact adults with strong and healthy egos live here. Now – refuste that if you can! Hah!


I bow to your superior logic and admit defeat, oh, mighty c’lady! 😀

Truly the Planet is a unique environment, isn’t it? To me, it seems like being able to go to the most amazing grad school in the world every day, for free. (Or a voluntary contribution.) I’m so grateful to AdLib and the other Founders.

I can honestly say I learn something new here every single day. The only downside is that sometimes, when I’m “out there” I find myself restless and a little impatient with ordinary small talk. I find myself missing the big ideas and discussions that are part and parcel of daily life here. In short, this place has absolutely spoiled me rotten!

Now — last question before bed time — did your mom bear an amazing resemblance to Betty White? If so, then we did indeed have the same mom. Anyone know if Betty White had a secret twin sister?


No, sad to say. Guess we’re not related after all! My mother – and especially her sisters – resembled Betty Davis. All three were really pretty young women, but my mother grew sour as she aged, and lost the verve she’d had, while her sisters flourished. My aunt for whom I am named, aged beautifully despite crippling rheumatoid arthritis, and the other sister remained lovely until her untimely death in her 60s from a small plane accident. But no, none resembled Betty White whom I would have adored being related to! Lucky you!


Bette Davis was absolutely stunning as a young woman. Don’t know if you’ve ever seen “The Letter.” But there’s a particular shot of her face framed in a beautiful white lace veil that’s unforgettable.
So — lucky you, as well. Good genes!


Yes — I lucked out and have “Betty Davis eyes”. The rest of me – not so much.


😆 I got nothing of Betty White, unfortunately! I’ll leave it at that! Sigh.


It’s undoubtedly my age, but I’m so Progressive that the great, great, great, great, ad-infinitum relatives (the ones having no clue anything or anyone existed beyond the tips of their noses) have been spinning in their graves for hundreds of years. My parents tossed in the towel when I married and ultimately divorced a Catholic. God help me, I’m doomed. 👿


boomer, dear – of COURSE God will help you, and you’re NOT doomed.

I keep wanting to know – if God is a sentient presence, who the HELL would understand our angst better? Who would be more compassionate to our frailties? To our pain? And who would be more supportive of our positive and healthy escape from that pain? Or sad when we might not have the strength?

Sheesh – if God is nothing more than a vicious, overwrought, self-centered old bat keeping microscopic tally on our tiny infractions, then who needs it/him/her? Might as well check into some snake pit and let Nurse Ratched at us. No difference.

KQµårk 死神

Oh and it also has nothing to do with conservatives trusting human nature more. Each individual conservative just thinks the can game the system better with fewer rules.


You know, KQ – this seems simple, but I think you are actually right on here. If conservatism is based on “zero sum” everything – I win it all, you lose everything – then yeah, gaming the system without getting caught would be the highest achievement. I think you’re truly on to something important with this observation.

KQµårk 死神

It’s the core reason many conservatives vote against their self interests economically. Many of them especially the men who think they are entitled because of their standing in society due to their race or education just don’t understand they are in the same boat as the rest of it. Many conservatives I’ve known felt some day they were going to reach that brass ring someday and that’s why they fight for tax breaks for the ultra rich when they are lucky to get up to middle management or struggle running a small business.

KQµårk 死神

Another member posted this on another site a while ago and I took some of the tests too. It may also explain why liberals will never be a good base to a left leaning party when you think about it as well and is probably a big reason why Dems strive for the middle instead of being more liberal. There simply is no loyal base when that base distrusts people who govern so much.

These tests also illustrate that most of our founding fathers were extremely liberal because they tried to set up the very checks and balances that make liberals distrust government.

But there is a major disconnect that is not measured in these tests when conservatives are not in power they do not trust government at all. So I think in a way it measures the wrong thing. In my view some people want a real democratic society while some people want to feel like they are in control of society and that need for control can come from the left or the right.


Hmm..I took the test and it said I was a Nigerian, Marxist, Socialist, Hitler, Antichrist.

Whoops, that was Glenn Beck’s script for today.


I don’t know how to embed pics here so I’ll just do the following

Universalism: 3.0
Lib-purity: 3.5
Authenticity: 4.2
Waste: 3.6
Self-control: 1.7

There’s a ‘quiz’ from the UK which I found useful in finding out where you are on the political spectrum – I’m waaaay more south-west than Ghandi (economically minus 8.25, socially minus 7.08)!!

I ran across an online paper/book a few years ago – The Authoritarians by Bob Altmeyer, Associate Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada

OK, what


I really need to just write it down – this is the second or third time I’ve done it again. In the years I’ve done this I’ve moved right. Here’s where I am now:

Economic Left/Right: -7.62
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -7.33

Someone (not Flossy) tried to pass off a thing that put all authoritarianism to the left (never mind that in the left-right spectrum they go different paths and meet each other when they go to the extreme). This does a far better job. P.S. I love where the political parties in the UK and US have moved over the years. And yes, it is scary to see how close the Dems and GOP are together in the whole scope of things. Also funny is where Wagner is (his music is much better than it sounds, so goes the old saw).


It blows my mind that Gordon Brown – putatively a labor socialist – is further right than Stephen Harper – our home-grown conservative who is way too conservative for my taste. I like Prokoviev being where he is – I love his music and I’d hate to have to give him up because of his politics 🙂


One of my favorite pieces since we played it in Philharmonic:

It’s all good. Deliciously dark, passionate, and brooding.

Gordon Brown is part of New Labour. Bliar is who really moved the party right, and since the late 70’s members of the party have had infights (think like American inner political caucuses) and even jumped ship.

Seriously, Stephen Harper, while not big on its scope, still defended funding for arts and the defence of Canadian culture (from us evil Yanks). I’d like a Republican even paying lip-service to that. I doubt a UK Tory would do such a good job, either.


Deliciously dark, passionate and brooding – right on!! You must have a crystal ball – my favorite suite by my favorite composer!!

I had the very great privilege of seeing Fonteyn and Nureyev dance Romeo and Juliet at Covent Garden before I left the UK *sigh* – such a great partnership!!

Romeo’s Death


Totally. How do I love a well-crafted tragedy performed to Slavic tonals.


Then you would love the Bulgarian Women’s Choir – I could listen to them all day. I won’t hijack this thread any more by posting vids – but you can hear them on youtube!!


“As some of you who have read my posts and comments may know by now, I consider people on the Right to have pathology. And the further Right, the more pathology.”

For the most part I agree with the statement about sociopathology of people on the right. Faith is a large part of this. And blind faith is absolutely essential whether it’s religious or political or economic. However, I know sociopaths on the right and on the left. And the pathology always takes the same form when it starts. Dishonesty born from cynicism. Also, in our unbridled, unfettered, unregulated capitalism, lying and cheating becomes an easy way to gain a leg up. Ironically in an extreme socialist system, the same thing happens. Lying and cheating is used to “game the system.”


This is always a fascinating topic, Cher, whether we’re talking about Authoritarian Personalities or “Values” and “Morality,” as you discuss here.

The most interesting article I’ve seen on this same topic, Cher, dates back to 1964:

The Paranoid Style in American Politics

And this handy table:

The rational thinker versus the paranoid


nellie, thanks so much for those references! As Cher said, especially the Rational vs Irrational chart is wonderful.

There it is, in a nutshell. (The operative word being “nut” on the paranoid side of things?) 🙂


Fascinating, Cher! Thanks for posting. I took a different test, but there were a couple of areas in which I was the polar opposite of a conservative: “Authority” (My take: Always question it!) and Loyalty (My take: The tribe is not more important than society as a whole!) I guess those weren’t exactly surprises to me, come to think of it! But it was fun to take the test. 😀