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Schmidt Wrote: When I try to understand why Ted Cruz is so ideologically driven, all I have to do is look at his father. They share the same genes. And although one's political views is a combination of genetic and environment, it seems the Senator Ted Cruz's "father environment" reinforced his genetic predispositions.
What I have a harder time understanding is the mental state of those that consider Ted Cruz a hero.
Let me claify my statement. As one who has read numerous books and articles by psychologists and neuroscientists, I'll share what they are saying. My apologies for the length of this post.
1. George Lakoff, The Political Mind:
"Most of us think we know our own minds. This is because we engage in conscious thought, and it fills much of our waking life. But what most people are not aware of, and are sometimes shocked to discover, is that most of our thought -- an estimated 98 percent -- is not conscious. It is below the level of consciousness....Unconscious thought is reflexive -- automatic, uncontrolled. Conscious thought is reflective. Most thought is reflexive, not reflective."
2. University of Maine, Children and Brain Development: What We Know About How Children Learn
: "At birth, the human brain is in a remarkably unfinished state. Most of its 100 billion neurons are not yet connected in networks. Forming and reinforcing these connections are the key tasks of early brain development. Connections among neurons are formed as the growing child experiences the surrounding world and forms attachments to parents, family members and other caregivers.
"In the first decade of life, a child’s brain forms trillions of connections or synapses. Axons connect to dendrites, and chemicals called neurotransmitters help send messages (called “impulses”) across the resulting synapses. Each individual neuron may be connected to as many as 15,000 other neurons, forming a network of neural pathways that is immensely complex. This elaborate network is sometimes referred to as the brain’s “wiring” or “circuitry.” As the neurons mature, more and more synapses are made. At birth, the number of synapses per neuron is 2,500, but by age two or three, it’s about 15,000 synapses per neuron. This is like going from 100 to 600 friends on Facebook, and each of those friends in turn, is connected to 600 more people! The neural network expands exponentially. If they are not used repeatedly, or often enough, they are eliminated. In this way, experience plays a crucial role in “wiring” a young child’s brain. Brain development does not stop after early childhood, but it is the foundation upon which the brain continues developing. Early childhood is the time to build either a strong and supportive, or fragile and unreliable foundation. These early years are very important in the development that continues in childhood, adolescence, and adulthood."
3. Studies of Minnesota Twins
Carolyn Funk et al, August 13, 2009: Genetic and Environmental Transmission of Value Orientations: A New Twin Study of Political Attitudes
The most compelling and well documented set of studies that support the genetic link to one's predisposition to traits of conservatism or liberalism have been conducted on some 1,100 twins listed in the University of Minnesota twins registry. These twins have been the subject of multiple behavioral studies over the years, and as they have advanced in age psychologists and political scientists have gone back to them to see how their political views have evolved.
You can read the abstract and download the 29 page paper at the above link, but I'll attempt to summarize. As the abstract states, the researchers tested "the degree to which genetic and environmental factors influence...social orientations and compare these findings with similar analyses on the Wilson-Patterson index of liberal-conservative ideological orientation, self-identified ideology, right-wing authoritarianism, and egalitarianism." In other words, previous studies have used various professionally recognized indices to rank and quantify one's political orientations, but these have not been without some disagreements about the validity of the methods. What this study has done is ask the twin respondents to answer sets of questions in a new social orientation index and but also for the other methodologies for comparison and validation. The correlations of the twins social values are tested against both a shared and unique environment...the shared environment being the common family environment until their early 20s when the twins go their own separate ways and then experience "unique environments." The paper can be difficult to read, and I'll apply journalist bias and go to the findings without all the discussion:
The Society Works Best Index shows a substantial influence of both genetics and unique environment. "Additive genetic factors account for 44% of the variance in this index of social orientations while unique environmental factors account for 56% of the variance.
The Wilson-Patterson Index of Liberal-Conservative Ideology also shows a substantial influence of both genetics and unique environmental factors. Additive genetic factors account for 66% of the variance in this index while unique environmental factors account for 34% of the variance.
Applying the right-wing authoritarianism (RWA) scale, additive genetic factors account for 60% of the variance in the RWA while unique environmental factors account for 39% of the variance.
When it comes to egalitarianism, additive genetic factors account for 41% of the variance while unique environmental factors account for 59% of the variance.
Similarly, a little over half of the variance (52%) in self-identified ideology is accounted for by genetic factors with the remainder (48%) accounted for by unique environmental factors.
None of the indices showed any kind of meaningful correlations with the shared environment of their childhood and teen years. All of them correlated with the unique environments after they "left the nest."
The authors applied Cronbach's (alpha) coefficient to test for consistency of these methods, and all varied between 0.65 and 0.87, which mathematically would be classified as "good."
The authors summarize their findings: "Like many political behavior scholars, behavioral geneticists at first assumed that social attitudes would be influenced entirely or mostly by shared environmental influences. Those assumptions were shown to be faulty as the body of evidence from the behavioral genetics tradition accumulated. To this point, only a handful of studies have tested for genetic and environmental influences of value orientations. Evidence to date suggests that a large number of value orientations are, at least, moderately heritable. Such a finding would be in keeping with genetic research across a wide range of psychological traits."
4. John R. Hibbing et al, 2014, Predisposed -- Liberals, Conservatives, and the Biology of Political Differences
The authors find that peole have diverse psychological, physiological and genetic traits that define their orientation to politics.They disagree, however, with bucketing people into either a conservative or liberal group. While statistically they may fall in one or the other, most people's views fall on a continuum somewhere between the extremes, and for the most part it's issue by issue, with most people having a mix of both liberal and conservative leanings on several issues...or maybe just indifference. Only a very few hot button issues seem to really define them, or to put it another way, arise their passions. Quoting the authors:
"You were born with a unique genetic package. This package was immediately modified by prenatal and early prenatal forces, further modified by a wide range of environmental influences during development and beyond. These sources of influence combined into dispositional tendencies that affect your behavior and attitudinal responses to whatever situations the world presents to you. These tendencies are inertial; they structure your attitudes and behaviors but do not predetermine them."
"These predispositions are physically grounded in the circuitry of the nervous system, so once instantiated they can be very difficult but far from impossible to change. Altering a predisposition is like turning a supertanker...but it can be done."
5. Summing it all up. My few cherry picked extracts cannot do justice to the books, a couple of which I have read twice. Genetic factors can account for perhaps some 40 to 60 percent of one's political views, but one's environment and life's experiences can have a heavy influence on whether those genetically driven political views are moderated or reinforced. Early childhood nurturing (or the lack of) has a significant effect on the way the brain develops these predispositions.
My contention is that Ted Cruz's political views and his intransigent positions mimic the traits of his father, from what I have observed in both in their speeches and actions. For example, he still defiantly states he would repeal every word of Obamacare despite the Republican shift away from that position.
I don't know how much Ted's mother influenced his predispositions, but I can certainly believe that his authoritarian father had an influence. If you have read Robert Altemeyer's book, The Authoritarians
, you will easily peg both of them as what Altemeyer calls, the authoritarian leaders..."people born with a greater tendency to try to intimidate and dominate others. If these attempts pay off, these “natural bullies” will be on their way. Others may have the genes but not the “muscle” or the smarts to carry it off."
Ted Cruz is a natural bully whose disposition is reinforced by the life long dominating influence of his father.