Interesting correlation

There are times when I’m certain I can tell who is going to be in favor of gun control just by looking at them. They look scared all the time. Sort of like they are about to run home and tell mommy because you looked at them wrong. I have commented on this before (see also the picture in that post). Now we have some research to indicate there is a correlation but it is different from what I expected:



Alford and his colleagues studied a group of 46 adult participants with strong political beliefs. Those individuals with “measurably lower physical sensitivities to sudden noises and threatening visual images were more likely to support foreign aid, liberal immigration policies, pacifism and gun control, whereas individuals displaying measurably higher physiological reactions to those same stimuli were more likely to favor defense spending, capital punishment, patriotism and the Iraq War,” the authors wrote.



The researchers noted a correlation between those who reacted strongly to the stimuli and those who expressed support for “socially protective policies,” which tend to be held by people “particularly concerned with protecting the interests of the participants’ group, defined as the United States in mid-2007, from threats.” These positions include support for military spending, warrantless searches, the death penalty, the Patriot Act, obedience, patriotism, the Iraq War, school prayer and Biblical truth, and opposition to pacifism, immigration, gun control, foreign aid, compromise, premarital sex, gay marriage, abortion rights and pornography.


There are some profound implications if these results are true:



The paper concluded, “Political attitudes vary with physiological traits linked to divergent manners of experiencing and processing environmental threats.” This may help to explain “both the lack of malleability in the beliefs of individuals with strong political convictions and the associated ubiquity of political conflict,” the authors said.

6 thoughts on “Interesting correlation

  1. The way I read it is; they figure if you favor gun rights, you’re paranoid, and you’re in favor of everything they think they hate about Bush– warrantless searches, clinging to religion, the desire to smack pacifists around, bigotry against immigrants, demands for “obedience”, the death penalty, the whole deal. They’re calling you names and saying it’s based on “science”. What they fail to examine at all are the libertarians. We want liberty; so what’s wrong with us? Maybe they can disect a few of our brains and find the flaws.

  2. Sounds to me like I always figured; the left-wing is getting over-excited over ideas, and is out of touch with the real world, which at times IS scary.

  3. So, were the “strong reactions” ones of fear? Or were the strongly-reacting participants displaying an awareness and agility of mind that the others didn’t, i.e. were they perhaps more alert to threats? What were the “other” images interspersed with the test images? Were they the same for both test sets? How were they ordered? Was there no way they could have set up an emotional reaction? I’m taking a big salt lick with this one.

  4. So, how do we know that they haven’t confused cause and effect?

    Or perhaps they are correlated, but neither causes the other?

    Or perhaps they are both caused by an unrelated third effect?

  5. We don’t really know if there is any causation going on. And they don’t appear to claim there is. Just correlation.

  6. Those individuals with “measurably lower physical sensitivities to sudden noises and threatening visual images….”

    Which means those who are more out of touch with reality.

    Also 46 is a very small sample size, and I guess that they used the standard college student as the test subject. This gives a very narrow band of a very small study population. Had they tested a larger segment of the population across a broad age spectrum the results will probably be much different.

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