Polite versus compassionate

After reading these two words, my first thought was that you can have a whole range of people, some compassionate but not polite (ahem, here, I hope), polite but not compassionate (we all know somebody like that, usually a family member or coworker), or compassionate and polite (I wish I was one of those) or neither (some Twitter and Facebook comments and profiles come to mind…).

It turns out that it is not the case. As in: usually, people are either one or another. Of course there are exceptions, but the majority of people that seem to score high on one trait, they tend to score low on the other.

Hirsh et al. (2010) gave a few questionnaires to over 600 mostly White Canadians of varying ages. The questionnaires measured personality, morality, and political preferences.

After regression analyses followed by factor analyses, which are statistical tools fancier than your run-of-the-mill correlation, the authors found out that the polite people tend to be politically conservatives, affirming support for the Canadian or U.S. Republican Parties, whereas the compassionate people more readily identified as liberals, i.e. Democrats.

Previous research has shown that political conservatives value order and traditionalism, in-group loyalty, purity, are resistant to change, and that they readily accept inequality. In contrast, political liberals value fairness, equality, compassion, justice, and are open to change. The findings of this study go well with the previous research because compassion relies on the perception of other’s distress, for which we have a better term called empathy. “Politeness, by contrast, appears to reflect the components of Agreeableness that are more closely linked to norm compliance and traditionalism” (p. 656). So it makes sense that people who are Polite value norm compliance and traditionalism and as such they end up being conservatives whereas people who are Compassionate value empathy and equality more than conformity, so they end up being liberals. Importantly, empathy is a strong predictor for prosocial behavior (see Damon W. & Eisenberg N (Eds.) (2006). Prosocial development, in Handbook of Child Psychology: Social, Emotional, and Personality Development, New York, NY, Wiley Pub.).

I want to stress that this paper was published in 2010, so the research was probably conducted a year or two prior to publication date, just in case you were wondering.

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REFERENCE: Hirsh JB, DeYoung CG, Xu X, & Peterson JB. (May 2010, Epub 6 Apr 2010). Compassionate liberals and polite conservatives: associations of agreeableness with political ideology and moral values. Personality & Social Psychology Bulletin, 36(5):655-64. doi: 10.1177/0146167210366854, PMID: 20371797, DOI: 10.1177/0146167210366854. ABSTRACT

By Neuronicus, 24 February 2020

Only the climate change scientists are interested in evidence. The rest is politics

Satellite image of clouds created by the exhaust of ship smokestacks (2005). Credit: NASA. License: PD.
Satellite image of clouds created by the exhaust of ship smokestacks (2005). Credit: NASA. License: PD.

Medimorec & Pennycook (2015) analyzed the language used in two prominent reports regarding climate change. Climate change is not a subject of scientific debate anymore, but of political discourse. Nevertheless, it appears that there are a few scientists that are skeptical about the climate change. As part of a conservative think tank, they formed the “Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) as an alternative to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In 2013, the NIPCC authored Climate Change Reconsidered II: Physical Science (hereafter referred to as ‘NIPCC’; Idso et al. 2013), a scientific report that is a direct response to IPCC’s Working Group 1: The Physical Science Basis (hereafter referred to as ‘IPCC’; Stocker et al. 2013), also published in 2013″ (Medimorec & Pennycook, 2015) .

The authors are not climate scientists, but psychologists armed with nothing but 3 text analysis tools: Coh-Metrix text analyzer, Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count, and AntConc 3.3.5 concordancer analysis toolkit). They do not even fully understand the two very lengthy and highly technical papers; as they put it,

it is very unlikely that non-experts (present authors included) would have the requisite knowledge to be able to distinguish the NIPCC and IPCC reports based on the validity of their scientific arguments“.

So, they proceed on counting nouns, verbs, adverbs, and the like. The results: IPCC used more formal language, more nouns, more abstract words, more infrequent words, more complex syntax, and a lot more tentative language (‘possible’, ‘probable’, ‘might’) than the NIPCC. Which is ironic, since the climate scientists proponents are the ones accused of alarmism and trumpeting catastrophes. On the contrary, their language was much more refrained, perhaps out of fear of controversy, or just as likely, because they are scientists and very afraid to put their reputations at stake by risking type 1 errors.

In the authors’ words (I know, I am citing them 3 times in 4 paragraphs, but I really enjoyed their eloquence),

“the IPCC authors used more conservative (i.e., more cautious, less explicit) language to present their claims compared to the authors of the NIPCC report […]. The language style used by climate change skeptics suggests that the arguments put forth by these groups warrant skepticism in that they are relatively less focused upon the propagation of evidence and more intent on discrediting the opposing perspective”.

And this comes just from text analysis…

Reference: Medimorec, S. & Pennycook, G. (Epub 30 August 2015). The language of denial: text analysis reveals differences in language use between climate change proponents and skeptics. Climatic Change, doi:10.1007/s10584-015-1475-2. Article | Research Gate full text PDF

By Neuronicus, 4 November 2015