Monday, January 23, 2012

Conservatism: Cohort effects vs. Aging effects

Preliminary research based on interviews suggests that people don't really get more conservative as they age overall (HT:MR). It may look that way because older people today are more conservative than younger people. The research argues that what matters is when you become an adult. During the Depression and WWII, the social environment promoted a lot of values today's conservatives value, and the changed environment promotes different values. What happens within the person?
 Results, which are just starting to emerge, suggest that each belief follows its own complicated pattern. Seniors seem to have become more liberal about subordinate groups, for example, but more conservative about civil liberties. ... Late in life, [Pillemer of Cornell's] research shows, people often become more open, more tolerant, and more appreciative of compassion. Even if they started out conservative, they may become less extreme in their conservatism.

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