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Unread August 7th, 2006, 04:38 PM
Margaret McGhee Margaret McGhee is offline
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 271
Default Re: Cat parasite may be responsible for cultural traits

Thanks for posting this. I ran across a mention somewhere else but never read it thoroughly.

It says: Lafferty's analysis found that countries with high Toxoplasma prevalence had a higher aggregate neuroticism score, and western nations with high prevalence also scored higher in the 'neurotic' cultural dimensions of 'masculine' sex roles and uncertainty avoidance.
That causes me to think again about my previously stated guess that psychological liberal / conservatism could have inheritable components but not likely. This offers a pathogen model for such biases I hadn't considered - still not inherited, however - except maybe an inherited susceptibility or resistance to the pathogen?

It Says: Lafferty suggested that because climate affects the persistence of infectious states of Toxoplasma in the environment, it helps drive the geographic variation in the parasite's prevalence by increasing exposure risk. The parasite's eggs can live longer in humid, low-altitude regions, especially at mid latitudes that have infrequent freezing and thawing.
This fits with my own experience of finding a higher incidence of psychological conservatism among males especially in southern US where I travelled on business for many years. Returning often to my home in the pacific northwest provided a very vivid contrast - only anecdotal, of course.

I didn't really understand the statement from the article: Efforts to control this infectious pathogen could bring about cultural changes.
Are they saying that liberal / conservative personality changes may be the result of social attempts to control the pathogen rather than the effects of the pathogen itself? Oh, I think they meant to say the results of successful efforts to control this infectious pathogen could bring about cultural changes.

An additional thought: I think it is wrong to assume that conservative psychological states would always align with conservative politics - or for liberal psychological states to align with liberal politics. My own view is that a better variable for predicting the correlation of beliefs and subsequent behavior would be the tendency to harbor strong emotional beliefs at the top of one's personal belief hierarchy. The result is that one's important behavior decisions will be guided by emotions primarily from that source - and one's intellect would be used primarily to justify rather than examine those conclusions.

I suspect that in N. America such strong beliefs have mostly been held by political conservatives for the last few decades after WWII. But many events these days have convinced me that many on the political left are adopting similarly strong emotional beliefs as the higher order identity beliefs in their personal belief systems.

This was seen recently in the Gingrich revolution - a very religious-like belief in the supreme morality of conservative politics that swayed many Americans attracted to the church-meeting-like atmosphere of such righteous causes.

The liberals then were still largely bound by rationality and turned off by the hallelujahs on the right. Now it seems many formerly rational liberals have seen the light and are adopting religious-like beliefs to combat the right.

The current plight of Joe Lieberman seems to be a case in point. I'm no Lieberman fan but I do think the case against him is more emotional than rational. In this case Bush is the devil and Lieberman has supported Bush when he has agreed with him. It wasn't that much but some on the far left have become religiously opposed to the presence of Israel in the mideast. Lieberman has generally supported Bush whenever policies come up involving militant Arabs - who Bush generally sees as the devil.

I guess I'm saying I still don't see eveidence that strong liberal or conservative outlooks are inherited - but that the tendency to hold strong emotional beliefs in one's mind that are often expressed as strong liberal or conservative biases in politics - could well be.


Last edited by Margaret McGhee; August 7th, 2006 at 09:22 PM.
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