I just found a fascinating website -- http://www.yourmorals.org/ -- which was mentioned in a fascinating article I was reading about the psychological differences between conservatives and liberals.
This website is set up, apparently, by a group of psychologists who are doing research on this topic. There are a bunch of surveys to do on various topics such as politics, religion, personality, etc. If you register on the site, they get information on your demographics, including whether you consider yourself liberal or conservative, and they draw conclusions from all that.
Setting aside the possible problems with the validity and reliability of such data (flashbacks to my grad school days . . . ), some of their findings so far are interesting. The essence of it is that liberals and conservatives don't just have different opinions on things, they literally think in different ways. For one thing, they have different ideas about morality:
Liberals emphasize fairness and protection from harm, while conservative morality means upholding authority and loyalty, and a strong sense of disgust.
Makes a modicum of sense . . . but also begs for elaboration. For example, how do you decide what is and isn't harmful? Or determine a source of authority? Disgust over what, exactly? Over anti-social behavior, or over something like vomit?
And how do you define "fairness"?
Brief summary of a parable I just read: a group of peasants were lumbering down a long, hot road. A man galloped past them on a fine, fast horse. One peasant saw him and grumbled in his mind, "It's no fair that man has a horse! He should have to walk like the rest of us!" Another peasant saw him and thought, "Cool! A horse! I'm going to work really hard and save up money so I can have a horse, too."
Is it unfair that one man has a horse and another doesn't? A "yes" or "no" isn't sufficient to answer the question. And therein lie the differences between liberals and conservatives.
I'm a conservative. I'm also very concerned about people being treated fairly and being protected from harm -- people with horses and people without. So, am I an atypical conservative, or is this summary of the data a bit simplistic?
That's a rhetorical question, in case you can't tell.