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Right-wingers find more meaning in life, say researchers
A new study of thousands links right-wing authoritarian attitudes and feeling one's life is more meaningful.
- A team of psychologists looked at the link between right-wing attitudes and having meaning in life.
- They found that supporters of authoritarian ideologies felt their lives had more significance.
- Future studies are necessary to see if this holds true outside of the U.S.
Do right-wingers feel more significance in life? Such is the implication of a new study that found an existential connection in right-wing authoritarian attitudes.
The spread of right-wing ideologies around the Western hemisphere in recent years was the inspiration for the study by a team comprised of scientists from the University of Missouri, Columbia University, Central Michigan University, and Rutgers University.
Jake Womick, a PhD candidate at the University of Missouri and corresponding author of the study, said the researchers wanted to understand what made authoritarian thinking so appealing to some.
"One potential answer we wanted to test was that it may serve an existential function, facilitating a sense that the individual's life is meaningful," explained Womick. "This hypothesis was first generated by psychologists attempting to understand the rise of the Nazis during WWII. Until now, it has gone empirically untested."
The study was comprised of four surveys, with one questioning 2,391 American adults. It found that people scoring high on a measurement of right-wing authoritarianism also reported having higher levels of meaning in life. They agreed with such ideas as "The established authorities generally turn out to be right about things, while the radicals and protestors are usually just 'loud mouths' showing off their ignorance" as well as sentences like this one – "I have a good sense of what makes my life meaningful."
Even after controlling for such factors as personality differences and religiosity, the same connection held.
In an interview with Psypost, Womick expounded that people who support right-wing authoritarianism also tend to hold anti-democratic positions. They also generally have prejudices towards minorities and anyone who is not part of their group. "Our research shows that one reason this worldview may be appealing is because it is positively related to the sense that one's life is meaningful," said Womick.
The second survey of 505 people looked deeper at the issue and discovered that the feeling of having more meaning in life, experienced by right-wing thinkers, was linked to a sense of significance as opposed to purpose or coherence.
The third and fourth surveys, involving 971 and 833 subjects respectively, showed that the sense of meaning stayed strong for right-wing authoritarians even during times of psychological duress.
Womick explained that a specific way in which right-wing attitudes add to having more meaning is that they make people feel that their lives and contributions to society matter. This same pattern was actually found in studies of religiosity.
The scientist pointed out that their study does not claim that being more authoritarian in outlook will lead to more meaning in life.
"We are not saying authoritarianism leads to higher meaning in life. Rather, we are seeking to understand the relationship between these variables," Womick said.
Other reasons exist as well that contribute to people's choice of right-wing thinking, namely preference for social conformity, seeing the world as dangerous or believing there are threats within your group or society.
Womick also cautions that neither does their study mean that a right-wing society would have more meaning for its members, adding "our results simply speak to individual differences in right-wing authoritarianism and show that people high on this construct tend to rate their lives as more meaningful, on average."
More studies are necessary to find whether these correlations persist in countries other than the United States. There is also a possibility, according to the scientists, that meaning leads to right-wing authoritarianism and not the other way around.
Of course, it is also worth mentioning that meaning can be derived in many ways other than political opinions – think family life, daily routine, work, all types of activities that put us in a good mood.
You can check out the study "The Existential Function of Right-wing Authoritarianism" authored by Jake Womick, Sarah J. Ward, Samantha J. Heintzelman, Brendon Woody, and Laura A. King in the Journal of Personality.
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Got $55 million lying around? If so, you might be able to score a spot aboard the International Space Station starting 2024.
- NASA awarded a contract to startup Axiom Space to attach a "habitable commercial module" to the International Space Station.
- The project will also include a research and manufacturing module.
- The move is a major step in NASA's years-long push to privatize.
Image: Axiom Space<p>But first, space-tourist-hopefuls would have to pass through physical and medical exams, and 15 weeks of expert training. After that, the trip sounds pretty comfy:</p><p>"There will be wifi," Suffredini <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/09/style/axiom-space-travel.html" target="_blank">told the New York Times</a> last year. "Everybody will be online. They can make phone calls, sleep, look out the window. [...] The few folks that have gone to orbit as tourists, it wasn't really a luxurious experience, it was kind of like camping. [...] Pretty soon we're going to be flying a butler with every crew."</p>
A render of the ISS tourist experience.
Image: Axiom Space<p>In a blog post, NASA wrote:</p><p>"Developing commercial destinations in low-Earth orbit is one of <a href="https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-opens-international-space-station-to-new-commercial-opportunities-private" target="_blank">five elements</a> of NASA's plan to open the International Space Station to new commercial and marketing opportunities. The other elements of the five-point plan include efforts to make station and crew resources available for commercial use through a new commercial use and pricing policy; enable private astronaut missions to the station; seek out and pursue opportunities to stimulate long-term, sustainable demand for these services; and quantify NASA's long-term demand for activities in low-Earth orbit."</p>
NASA's push to privatize the ISS<p>When a Russian rocket launched the first module of the ISS into space in 1998, NASA expected the space station to operate for about 15 years. But the agency has extended the life of the ISS twice, with funding currently set to expire in 2024. NASA spends between $3 and $4 billion per year operating and shuttling astronauts to and from the station. That's a decent chunk of the agency's $22.6 annual budget. What's more, the "major structural elements" of the ISS are certified only through 2028.</p><p>Meanwhile, NASA has been eyeing other projects, namely: putting humans back on the moon in 2024 and establishing a lunar presence. So, to save and redirect money, the agency has been starting to hand over the aging space station to the private sector, which could use it for commercial research and space tourism.</p><p>But some have questioned the move to privatize the ISS, including NASA's own inspector general, Paul K. Martin.</p><p>"An obvious alternative to privatization is to extend current ISS operations," Martin wrote in a <a href="https://oig.nasa.gov/docs/CT-18-001.pdf" target="_blank">2018 report</a>. "An extension to 2028 or beyond would enable NASA to continue critical on-orbit research into human health risks and to demonstrate the technologies that will be required for future missions to the Moon or Mars."</p>
Image: Axiom Space<p>Martin noted that "research into 2 other human health risks and 17 additional technology gaps is not scheduled to be completed until sometime in 2024," meaning that any slip-ups in the process would mean such research might go uncompleted. He also wrote that it's "questionable" whether the private sector could turn a profit on the ISS without "significant" government funding. The Institute for Defense Analyses, a federally funded research and development center, <a href="https://docs.house.gov/meetings/SY/SY00/20180517/108302/HHRG-115-SY00-Wstate-LalB-20180517.pdf" target="_blank">also found</a> that it "is unlikely that a commercially owned and operated space station will be economically viable by 2025."</p><p>The implication is that, if the ISS is handed over to the private sector, taxpayers could end up indirectly supporting space tourism for the ultra-rich. Whether that's worth any of the research benefits that might come from the ISS post-2024 is anybody's guess.</p><p>As the ISS enters its final years, China <a href="http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2019-10/17/c_138479514.htm" target="_blank">plans</a> to complete construction of a manned space station in 2022.</p>
The coronavirus pandemic has brought out the perception of selfishness among many.
- Selfish behavior has been analyzed by philosophers and psychologists for centuries.
- New research shows people may be wired for altruistic behavior and get more benefits from it.
- Crisis times tend to increase self-centered acts.
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