Professor Bargh tells all in the Washington Post:
Conservatives, it turns out, react more strongly to physical threat than liberals do. In fact, their greater concern with physical safety seems to be determined early in life: In one University of California study, the more fear a 4-year-old showed in a laboratory situation, the more conservative his or her political attitudes were found to be 20 years later. Brain imaging studies have even shown that the fear center of the brain, the amygdala, is actually larger in conservatives than in liberals. And many other laboratory studies have found that when adult liberals experienced physical threat, their political and social attitudes became more conservative (temporarily, of course). But no one had ever turned conservatives into liberals.
Until we did.
John Bargh, the (God help us!) James Rowland Angell Professor of Psychology at Yale.
Personally, I’d bet if I could get my hands on Professor Bargh for experimental purposes, I could prove empirically that the liberal Professor would react a lot more strongly to the physical threat of getting punched in the nose than I (the extreme conservative) would. We could play Mexican Standoff, and I’d even let the good professor have the first punch.
I had thought that the supposed ability of savants to associate physical features with psychological dispositions or states (Phrenology) was long discredited, but obviously in today’s academic culture ancient heresies and crackpot notions do keep coming back.
When I read this kind of thing, I blush for Yale and I wish once again that Peter Salovey could be immediately replaced by someone genuinely educated and serious: the kind of old-fashioned scholar who would take one look at this Washington Post article and send the onomatopoeic Professor Bargh and his entire preposterous department of “social psychology” packing.