Politics matters

“It turns out that people place more emphasis on finding a mate who is a kindred spirit with regard to politics, religion and social activity than they do on finding someone of like physique or personality,” said John Alford, associate professor of political science at Rice University and the study’s lead author.

On a scale of 0 to 1, where 1 means perfectly matched, physical traits (body shape, weight and height) only score between 0.1 and 0.2 among spouse pairs. Personality traits, such as extroversion or impulsivity, are also weak and fall within the 0 to 0.2 range. By comparison, the score for political ideology is more than 0.6, higher than any of the other measured traits except frequency of church attendance, which was just over 0.7.

Link, via Razib Khan. He’s written a lot of good stuff lately, the main reasons why I’ve not linked to him more is that a) I feel bad about linking to so much of his stuff all the time, b) I’ve not exactly tried to hide the fact that I think you people should be reading his stuff already. He has two posts on trust up at his discover gnxp blog which you should go read right away if you don’t already have (The slow decline of trust over time, The End of Trust: Hawk & Dove, maybe some of you’ll find the gender difference post interesting as well, I didn’t consider the main finding at all surprising).

In my mental model, people should ideally choose a mate where the disagreements which exist between the partners can be more or less ignored on a daily basis. If they can’t, the partners are more likely to run into problems in the long run. Politics is difficult to ignore on a daily basis because people spend a lot of time discussing it (I tend to think that this and gossip makes up a large percentage of total daily verbal communication for the average individual); it’s part of many people’s every day lives in some way or another, so choosing a mate with very different views is probably quite costly on average. I don’t think all of this is just politics, it’s also that politics correlates with other stuff that really matters a lot in the long term; like views on child rearing and loyalty/trust-aspects (‘if (/s)he does not agree with me on X, I can’t really trust him/her’) – remember that a lot of politics is about signalling that you belong to the ‘good tribe’, and people (especially females) who belong to the good tribe and have invested some in belonging to that tribe will be much less likely to partner up with one of the ‘bad guys’.

Like Razib, I’ve been unable to find the paper online. If I do, I’ll post a link here later.

May 11, 2011 - Posted by | politics, Psychology, Random stuff, Religion

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