Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Liberal vs. Conservative Rooms

Do liberals and conservatives have different personality types? One recent study (“The Secret Lives of Liberals and Conservatives”) says yes. Liberals tend to be more open-minded, creative, curious, and novelty seeking, whereas conservatives tend to be more conscientious, orderly, conventional, and better organized.

I guess this underscores why we need both liberals and conservatives. Someone needs to keep order and someone needs to look for better ways of doing things. Someone needs to point out when order becomes oppression and someone else needs to point out that not every way of doing something different is better. We just need to find some balance, preferably in ways other than shouting at each other and comparing each other to Hitler.

What I found most interesting about the study was how it used unobtrusive measures. An unobtrusive measure indirectly studies something without intruding on the person or thing being studied. For instance, instead of asking people in a museum what most interested them, or using cameras to count people, an unobtrusive measure would look at traffic patterns in carpet. The areas that are most worn would indicate which displays are the most popular. It's a very clever way to study something, and reduces the odds of bias by both the researcher and the researchee.

The ideology/personality study looked at the rooms and offices of liberals and conservatives, as one unobtrusive data point. What people leave out for others to see may tell us something about their personality, and may be correlated with a conservative/liberal ideology.

The results were interesting. Some items seem to confirm stereotypes (conservatives displays flags, liberals own folk music), others seem random (conservatives keep stamps, liberals keep tape), and others seem to go against type (Classic Rock for liberals?)

Below are the results, with conservatives items first and liberal items second:

Conservative, in decreasing order of likeliness:

.34 Sports-related décor (posters, paintings, photos)
.31 Event calendar
30 Postage stamps
.29 Presence of string/thread
.28 Iron and/or ironing board
.25 Laundry basket
.23 Any type of flag (including USA flags)
.23 Alcohol bottles/containers
.21 Flag of USA
.20 Well-lit (vs. dark)
.17 Fresh (vs. stale)
.16 Neat (vs. messy)
.15 Clean (vs. dirty)
.15 Modern (vs. old-fashioned)
.12 Colorful (vs. gloomy)
.06 Stylish (vs. unstylish)

Liberal, in increasing order of likeliness
-.01 Comfortable (vs. uncomfortable)
-.10 Organized (vs. disorganized) CDs
-.11 Cluttered (vs. uncluttered)
-.11 Distinctive (vs. ordinary)
-.15 Full (vs. empty)
-.19 Varied (vs. homogeneous) CDs
-.21 Books about travel
-.22 Classic rock CDs
-.22 Modern rock CDs
-.22 Reggae music CDs
-.22 Collections (e.g., stamps, action figurines, etc.)
-.22 Cultural memorabilia (e.g., trinkets brought back from vacation)
-.22 Tickets for/from travel
-.23 Many (vs. few) CDs
-.24 Books about ethnic topics
-.24 Folk music CDs
-.24 Tape dispenser
-.25 Movie tickets
-.25 Books about feminist topics
-.25 Books about music
-.25 Oldies music CDs
-.25 International maps (maps of countries other than the USA)
-.25 Many (vs. few) books


brownie said...

Then again, traffic patterns on carpet might just indicate the way to the crapper.

Dan S said...

Hey, don't knock the crapper. It's a popular place to be.

brownie said...

And especially don't knock OVER the crapper.

Anonymous said...

Conservatives don't need crappers

Tim said...

Fascinating list. I always knew that I had some very conservative personality traits, like being conscientious and organized.

You could summarize the differences by just saying, "Liberals like books!" But then I knew that already.

So why did you order the lists in decreasing, then increasing, order of likeliness? Was it the creative liberal in you? The orderly conservative in me was thrown off by it.

Robert Sievers said...

According to that list, I am liberal.

Dan S said...

I always knew there was hope for you Bob.

Jenna said...

fascinating. I love that liberals love books and books about books and books about anything...have you met my husband?

Julia said...

Very interesting post. What a brilliant way to do a study. Thanks.