Low-Effort Thinking Leads to Conservatism

By Bob Cesca: There’s a new study out this week indicating that “low effort” thinking contributes to conservatism. In other words, kneejerk reactions to issue-oriented questions are more often conservative, while thoughtful deliberation is more liberal.

In a press release about the study, University of Arkansas psychologist Dr. Scott Eidelman said, “People endorse conservative ideology more when they have to give a first or fast response.” According to The Huffington Post, part of the study involved quizzing various bar patrons about political topics, and, predictably, the higher the blood alcohol, the more conservative the response to the topic. In other words, impaired and uninhibited snap reactions were conservative. Less impaired and more restrained reactions were liberal.

Cover of "Idiocracy"

The end result of conservatism?

I know what you’re thinking: we don’t need a psychological experiment to tell us this. Conservatives are reactionaries. Doy. But they’ll deny it up and down.

One of the most-often overheard maxims of a conservative thinker is “shoot first, ask questions later.” That applies to everything. It’s simply easier to eject a response from the gut than it is to consider all of the facts surrounding an issue or social attitude. A black kid wearing a hoodie is a criminal. A gay couple is a threat because they’re don’t look like a straight couple. All Muslims are terrorists. A study conducted by a university has a far-left liberal bias.

That last one is, of course, a conservative paradox: their snap reaction is to deny that conservatives give snap reactions to complex topics. Wrap your head around that one for a few minutes. If you were to present the results of this study at face value, conservatives would absolutely object and immediately dismiss the results. But if you were to ask them about the “shoot first, ask questions later” maxim you’d probably get an affirmative response.

Many conservatives are suspicious of well-educated people. They’re suspicious of measured thought and, as was the case with President Obama’s deliberations over Afghanistan several years ago, they consider it to be weak and effete. Meanwhile, conservatives would prefer that we indiscriminately destroy our enemies and convert them all to Christianity or whatever nonsense they blurt out.

Conservatives don’t particularly care about nuance and much prefer leaders who are instantly decisive irrespective of what the reaction might be — as long as there’s a reaction. Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran. Torture all evildoers. Cut taxes. Poor people are freeloaders.

A writer for Tucker Carlson’s The Daily Caller declared yesterday that his “white guilt” was at an end because his bike was stolen. “The odds were very high that a black person had taken my bike,” he wrote. And therefore he was done making an effort to overcome his racial biases. Low-effort kneejerk racist thinking.

Now, granted, sometimes the thoughtful response leaves us with no other choice but to lash out — to take the offensive with swift and powerful action. There’s a thoughtful way to condemn a violent action or to oppose political enemies. But conservatives haven’t quite figured out how to do that, because, naturally, that would require thoughtful effort.

And so the Republican Party, being dragged along by its tea party tail, is becoming increasingly all about snap positions — positions that fit onto a bumper sticker and, more importantly, sound ballsy, but which, upon careful examination, make no fucking sense at all. It takes zero effort to read a slogan printed on a bumper sticker, but it takes a little time to examine a chart or to read a position paper. Consequently, low-effort thinking is being reinforced and rewarded.

Over the weekend, President Obama said, “We are going to have a big and important debate in this country, and I cannot wait. This is going to be a big debate and it’s going to be a fun debate. It’s always good to have the truth on your side.” That’s fantastic, if all things were equal. But the Republicans have spent a considerable amount of effort obfuscating the truth with easy-to-read kneejerk ideas. While the president tells us (figuratively) that diet and exercise will help us live longer, the Republicans tell us to drink more shitty Brawndo because it’s got what plants crave.

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  • liberal bias

    Great article! Keep up the good work!