Pablo is dead right on everything else he studies and with his work on utilitarianism, but to assert that conservatives are inherently dumber is a diversion from his usual sterling arguments. The social conservatives-- opposed to gay marriage, for example-- were separated in the study from the libertarian conservatives (or "classical liberals" as Thomas Jefferson was) who hold that position for intellectual, not strictly emotional, reasons. The libertarian conservatives were smarter than the self-identified liberals according to the study.

I'm not sure whether the study broke liberals down into social conservative and socially liberal subsets, but it should have to be fair because let's keep in mind that many liberals also hold one or more of these positions (on abortion and gay marriage). It was an overwhelming number of Democrats, for example, who voted down California's gay marriage law last November.

Finally, the study only examined verbal skills, not math or science or any other type of skill that may contribute to intelligence.

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"If people can't think clearly about anything that has become part of their identity, then all other things being equal, the best plan is to let as few things into your identity as possible."

First, it's impossible unless you make a really big effort to hack your mind on the metacognitive level f.e. mediating in a cave for 20 years.

Just staying on the cognitive level i.e. trying to change your thoughts, you will simply identify with other things, such as you will identify with an image of yourself being rational, objective etc. etc. - and then you have the same problem. So as it's nearly impossible (on the cognitive level), why even try?

Second, why should I or you want to "think clearly" in everything? IMHO rationality is a tool to be used whenever appropriate, not a holy cow to worship. When you are designing an airplane, you must design the aerodynamics ratioanally but you can design the interior decoration non-rationally: artistically for example. Rationality is a tool you use whenever it's useful.

So why should I want to think clearly about everything? Why shouldn't I f.e. identify with a football team and merrily allow my identification to cloud my judgement if that, on the whole, makes me happier?

That's my problem of the whole "Overcoming Bias" blog. It's normal to overcome biases in one or two things, in those things it's very important to get a correct answer. But why would we want overcome all biases? Would that make us happier? I doubt so.

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Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who's the smartest group of all? Why, what a miracle, it's the group I identify with!

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It's funny how as soon as someone brings up an example invoking the identifications "conservatism" and "liberalism", the thread gets semi-hijacked into an argument over which team is actually smarter.

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Pablo:I don't think this is a crude way of looking at the data.

That's your prerogative, but nothing you wrote afterward supports that position. All you did was restate your original claim-- that conservatives have a lower average IQ than liberals-- which I accept.

It may surprise you to learn that most languages don't even have a word for 'libertarianism', which indicates how rare and recent this position is.

The term "liberalism" has historically meant libertarianism (or close to it), and that tradition goes back hundreds of years.

But all of this about IQ suggests a more basic question: are smarter people more likely to be right?

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This is a very crude way of looking at the data.

I don't think this is a crude way of looking at the data. First, conservatism correlates not only with IQ, but with a host of other factors. (See paper below.) Secondly, even in the US "libertarian conservatives" constitute a very small subset of conservatives, whereas in most part of the world this position is marginal or nonexistent. (It may surprise you to learn that most languages don't even have a word for 'libertarianism', which indicates how rare and recent this position is.) The political category of conservatism thus has considerable explanatory power and scope--much like, say, the categories of White, Black or Asian.

Lazar Stankov, Conservatism and cognitive ability, Intelligence (2009)

"Conservatism and cognitive ability are negatively correlated. The evidence is based on 1254 community college students and 1600 foreign students seeking entry to United States' universities. At the individual level of analysis, conservatism scores correlate negatively with SAT, Vocabulary, and Analogy test scores. At the national level of analysis, conservatism scores correlate negatively with measures of education (e.g., gross enrollment at primary, secondary, and tertiary levels) and performance on mathematics and reading assessments from the PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) project. They also correlate with components of the Failed States Index and several other measures of economic and political development of nations. Conservatism scores have higher correlations with economic and political measures than estimated IQ scores."

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It is not true that "being partisan" amounts to "being dumb".The claim that "people can never have a fruitful argument about something that's part of their identity" only applies if they are dumb in the first place.

It is perfectly possible to have fruitful arguments with people who have "identity investments" in the topic at hand, provided these people are intelligent.The trick is to recognize yourself as partisan. The whole premise applies only to people who lack the capacity for self-reflection necessary to recognize their own identity investments.

The plan to "let as few things into your identity as possible" clearly isn't for everyone. It amounts to desctruction of the self. In the same vein, you might argue that the most economic thing to do would be to shoot yourself in the head. It may be worth thinking in earnest about the proposition of losing your self, but then you are discussing Buddhism or mysticism, not rationality.

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Pablo:"Conservatives are dumber."

This is a very crude way of looking at the data. Religious right conservatives are dumber, but libertarian conservatives are actually smarter than the liberal average. So says this article. And I could find more if I had The Blank Slate with me.

In general:Partisans are on average more informed about politics than non-partisans. This suggests that labels do not make anyone dumb. I would guess that partisans are just better at sifting through arguments and finding the ones that best match their underlying preferences.

If someone wants to make their beliefs more objectively correct, he should give himself an incentive to be right-- say, place a bet on Intrade or something along those lines. Rational irrationality.

But a more objectively correct worldview doesn't necessarily entail abandoning ideologies. It seems to me that preferences are a major factor here. For example, there's a wide ideological divergence among professional economists. Outside of totalitarianism/socialism, any general view is respectable. Presumably these people are looking at many of the same facts, and reacting differently based on their different concerns. This explanation is compatible with the genetic transmission of political orientations.

Why assume that personal labels are ignorant dogmas? And by refusing to label yourself, aren't you creating a new dogma?

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You can pair every self-identification with a set of values. Choosing self-identifications is thus a way of choosing values.

If you believe there are good and bad values, you should believe that there are good and bad self-identifications. (For example, identification as "good person", a "hard worker", a "good parent".) If you believe that values are arbitrary, but that choosing values is good or essential, you shouldn't have any preference over self-identifications.

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Perhaps a more succinct way to put it is that Graham is advocating detachment as necessary for intellectual honesty. It also phrases it as something to do rather than avoid.

steven, I link to some stats on that issue here.

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Well, of course I've long been an anti-identifywithist.

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the quickest way to misery is to withhold from one's self a well-chosen set of identities. open mindedness is something excellent to strive for, but not at the cost of well-being.

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I've seen stats saying conservatives are dumber and other stats saying it's very close to equal. It seems clear, though, that liberals have more variance in their smartness, so I would guess the average smart liberal is significantly smarter than the average smart conservative.

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As others have pointed out, we can try to avoid identification as a strategy for debiasing ourselves. But we can also emphasize identification as a test of bias in others. Thus, when interacting with people, we can deliberately make true statements about topics that are likely to be part of their identities, such as politics or religion, and see how they react. Here are two examples:

Atheists are smarter.

Conservatives are dumber.

These two statements are true. They are also likely to elicit strong negative reactions in many people. They are thus good ways of testing how biased these people are.

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My policy with labels/identifications is that I will only use them insofar as they don't limit me in some way. Any label I'm actually willing to use is always going to be (a) contextual, and (b) descriptive of something the content of which would be obvious or at least in evidence even without the label in place.

E.g., I don't have a problem calling myself "female", because that seems a convenient word for someone with my phenotype/genotype, but I don't go around calling myself "feminist" because of all the ideological baggage associated with feminism as a philosophy.

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How long into the past do you have to go before old wounds are forgotten? The history of Northern Ireland, to name but one example, shows how people don't forget, but rather embellish their histories of conflict. It might perhaps be more helpful to delineate the contours of this remembrance than to try to abolish it. At Fourcultures there's a post about a war that took place a long time ago in a galaxy far away...

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