Software for the finest computer – The Mind


Posted by Tim Bryce on March 6, 2013


– Are liberals smarter or is it a matter of different wiring?

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I have always been fascinated by the disparity between liberals and conservatives, particularly as witnessed in the last electoral cycle. The contrast is as sharp as black and white. It’s as if two different races of people occupy the land with totally different perspectives and values. I’m not sure why this is, but I want to give my two cents on the subject.

A couple of years ago there was considerable discussion regarding the thesis that liberals were smarter than conservatives. A couple of college research studies, one in the UK and another in the United States, suggested as much. In reality, these studies offered theories, and were far from conclusive. Frankly, I’m not sure IQ is a good measure, as I know plenty of people on both sides of the aisle who could score high marks on intelligence tests.

Instead, maybe it’s a left brain/right brain type of phenomenon. My stereotype of liberals is as a group of very creative people, almost artistic in nature. Such people feel inhibited by rules and boundaries as it frustrates their creativity. They prefer shattering regulations in order to enjoy complete freedom. In contrast, conservatives flourish under rules as it offers the structure and organization they desire to provide them with direction. They may not be as creative as liberals, but they can be craftsmen of the highest order as they comprehend the disciplined process for building something, and the penalties for violating a step within it.

In this respect, the difference between liberals and conservatives is essentially no different than art versus science. An art form relies on the intuitiveness of the person performing the work, something that is difficult, if not impossible, to pass on to another human being. For example, apprentices serving under an artist may try for years to emulate the master, but may never attain his level of skill and creativity. In contrast, a science is based on a governing body of proven concepts and principles and, as such, can be easily taught to others. What I am suggesting herein is that liberals tend to gravitate to art, and conservatives towards science. Whereas liberals yearn for unbridled freedom of expression, conservatives prefer a methodical approach for living their lives.

There is perhaps nothing better to exemplify the difference between liberals and conservatives than school uniforms. While conservatives tend to embrace the concept, liberals reject it out of hand claiming it will inhibit the individuality of their offspring. In contrast, conservatives view it as something positive, promoting teamwork and cooperation. This may explain why conservatives are more likely to embrace traditional values as opposed to breaking with them. Liberals bristle at such a notion. Their permissive attitudes tend to challenge the norms of the day.

Although this is not a hard and fast rule, I find liberals tend to thrive on recognition as they are, in a sense, performing like an artist. In fact, they can be quite vocal in attracting attention. On the other hand, conservatives are less inclined to be in the spotlight, and tend to just go about their vocations quietly. Not surprising, liberals chafe at criticsm as it represents an attack of their creative spirit. Conservatives are more receptive to criticism as it is perceived as a natural part of the discipline and order of life, e.g., “right and wrong.”

There are those who suggest liberals are more compassionate, but I do not agree with this premise. Time and again, I have seen conservatives generously lend a helping hand both in terms of time and money, particularly those with a deep religious faith. However, they tend to go about it more quietly than their liberal counterparts. As an aside, I tend to believe liberals avoid religion, not because they question spirituality, but because organized religion embodies a collection of governing rules to live by.

So, are liberals smarter than conservatives, or is it a simple matter of different wiring based on the art versus science analogy? I tend to believe liberals live in the abstract world of “What if,” while conservatives live in the pragmatic world of “What is.” It is more about ego than it is about intelligence.

Keep the Faith!

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Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of  M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at

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Copyright © 2013 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved

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  1. Tim Bryce said

    A J.S. of Skidway Lake, Michigan wrote…

    “Interesting observations. I like the example of school uniforms. I wore them for 12 years and never felt that my creativity or individuality was stifled. In fact, a uniform frees people to forget about trivialities and concentrate on more important issues. Liberals do like to buck the system, but have no idea of what the consequences will be or how to deal with them.

    It’s been my observation that Conservatives are generally better educated than Liberals. Yes, I’m aware that educators are often Liberals, but successful, respectable intelligent people are most often Conservatives. The exception is the Obamaphiles. I am still puzzled by the number of bright, well-educated people who have been taken in by him.

    Let’s face it. If Liberals were smarter, they wouldn’t be Liberals.”


  2. Paul Ergler said

    Interesting observation, one with witch I have long been in agreement. But there has always been one puzzling anomaly: if liberals are the ones with such permissive attitudes, why are they always pushing for laws to govern personal behavior (i.e. buying large soft drinks) while conservatives embrace individual freedom and responsibility?


    • Tim Bryce said

      Paul – Liberals only observe the rules when it suits their needs. Otherwise they couldn’t care less.


      • jbgray said

        Look at it from a higher vantage-point, and it becomes obvious that group beliefs tend to be inconsistent.

        “Liberal” and “conservative” are not about two different types of brain or natural divisions of human nature; they’re just badges of membership of a group. The cost of membership is becoming subject to the group’s social influence on your beliefs, however consistent that may be. People who disagree with the consensus are pressured to keep quiet or change their minds down the line.

        The effect is magnified if you’re a member of another group. Someone who calls themselves a liberal looking at conservatives will see them as being much more alike than they actually are. Or, in this instance, vice-versa.

        There was some research on this in the 60s and 70s. It turns out that all you need to do to make one group of people like anothergroup less and start polarising beliefs is… call them Group A and Group B. They will do the rest. It’s called the minimal group paradigm—for a great example, look up the Robbers Cave Experiment, or just watch an episode of Survivor.


    • Some of what you’re describing isn’t really liberal vs. conservative in a broad sense; rather, it’s a combination of US-specific social identities and some measure confirmation bias..

      A specific example: there is little controversy over school uniforms in the UK, despite our political equivalent of the GOP being significantly more liberal than your Democrats. I’m extremely politically liberal, but I remember being glad as a teenager that we had uniforms: coming from a very poor family, it was a relief knowing that our poverty was not always on display. Uniforms were a great equaliser, and in that sense liberating.


  3. Tim Bryce said

    An M.K. of New York wrote…

    “Tim, an interesting and courageous piece! You’ve given some interesting examples, as well.

    Over the several years that I’ve given this some thought, as I am wont to do, I’ve come to accept 2 Truths with regard to Leftists:

    The Faith of the Leftist is in themselves. Their ego, and their almost God-like Worship of Academia, will allow for nothing else.They have replaced Religion with the “religion” of Leftism. They believe that they’re far too “intelligent” to have Faith in anything outside of themselves. They abhor the Values of the Conservative…because the Conservative must subordinate themselves to those Values. The Leftist subordinates themselves to nothing save for their own selfishness and narcissism. After all…they are smarter and more intelligent than the rest of us, regardless of evidence to the contrary. In addition, they actually believe that they “care” more than anyone else; though the FACTS prove that the opposite is True. I’d go this far; Leftism (narcissism) is the fastest-growing Religion in the World…far-eclipsing that of any other, including Christianity and Islam. In this regard, the difference I see between Leftists and Conservatives is the difference between Narcissism and Humility.

    Secondly (and in glaring contradiction to their misguided belief that they are “more intelligent” than Conservatives), Leftists base their every belief, thought and action on ‘feelings,’ and not on RESULTS. They are motivated by what makes them feel good; not in what DOES good.

    One final observation:

    Leftists have an insatiable thirst for Control; despite the false narrative that it is Conservatism that exhibits that trait. It is the Leftist, and NOT the Conservative, who thirsts for Centralized Power…the ultimate mechanism of Control. And it is the Conservative, and not the Leftist, who Values Liberty. Additionally…and possibly the most glaring difference of ALL…Conservatives Value HUMAN LIFE over ideology; Leftists do not. “


  4. Tim Bryce said

    A U.V. of Largo, Florida wrote…

    “I agree. Conservatives love a framework to work within and improve, whereas Liberals always seem to be “pushing the envelope” regardless of the consequences.”


  5. Tim Bryce said

    An R.G. of Nevada City, California wrote…

    “This topic has fascinated me for awhile now. Here’s another article you might like:


  6. Tim Bryce said

    A K.R. of Orlando, Florida wrote…

    “Although that may be true for a few tree hugging artsy type liberals I think you are generally wrong. Liberals are the ones regulating us to death. Conservatives are more for individualism and freedom..”


  7. Tim Bryce said

    A C.C. of Phoenix, Arizona wrote…

    “Interesting perspective that I’ve never considered. Looking around me at those I know, I can see a connection to some degree. “


  8. Tim Bryce said

    A V.D. of Houston, Texas wrote…

    “I think we place far too much credit with the right verses the left, as it applies to the common citizens. This division is more of a creation by Washington than a mentality based upon independent thought. I say this because that same left verses right mentality does not actually exist in Washington, but is a manufactured illusion to divide the people as a distraction. If you weigh the words coming from those in Washington (both sides) you can easily see that those words rarely coincide with their actions to follow those words. There is no scenario in Washington that cannot be resolved with a deal between the two sides, and rarely does that deal relate to the actual good of the nation, or the people who call it home. Now the left verses right mentality with the common citizens is quite real, although it is produced and maintained by those in Washington, and while we see who can hate the loudest, they do as they please. When you hear the right or the left in Washington speak either in favor of opposition to anything, look deeply at their actions that will follow. In most cases, you will see actions or results that do not coincide with the words that came earlier. The division between the right and the left is a very strong tool for Washington, and sadly we are far too preoccupied with that created division to know the difference.”


  9. Tim Bryce said

    A B.B. of Florida wrote…

    “Great column!”


  10. Tim Bryce said

    An M.T. of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania wrote…

    “The liberals have the WH and media on their side. The low-information voter (of which, I know many) believe the lies they present. Anyone with a little bit of common sense has to realize how the WH and the Media are killing us with false information. Personalities have nothing to do with it. The uninformed (by their own choice) are the real ones destroying the nation. They do this with their choice of whe will represent us in D.C.”


  11. Faruque Malik said

    Tim, all my years I have’nt found any clue of what conservatives want to conserve, and what liberty the liberals want. Your words have put my thinking in a correct perspective, it is only a matter of the wiring.


  12. Tim Bryce said

    A G.F. of Houston, Texas wrote…

    ” This is a good question, and tantalizingly close is the notion that Conservatives are Anal Retentive and Liberals are Anal Expletive. On advanced introspection, it may be that Conservatives love playing the vicious murderous bastard vs the vindictive manipulative bitch over their respective helpless inflants or voracious mad brats, as appropriate:

    In the end, it is clear that “we” are the heroes and “they” are the villains.”


  13. Tim Bryce said

    An M.B. of Orange County, California wrote…

    “A smarter liberal IS mostly an oxymoron.”


  14. Francis Dryden said

    Tim I have followed your blog faithfully for years but do not feel moved at all by this one… I consider myself about 3 seats to the right of Genghis Kahn and feel that fiscal responsibility and sensibility are the difference… your descriptions would in so many cases let people think I am a “lefty” which is as far from the facts as Obama is from reality. Sorry Tim.


  15. I dunno Tim – I think your definition is for old liberals – new liberals – the socialists – the ones in power now – want to regulate AIR – literally – and the food we eat and the guns we have the right to own. They want the opposite of “freedom” they want to have the government regulate morality in every aspect. They do all of this though – from strictly emotions, and do not apply forward thinking about consequences and certainly they do not apply logic. This is a rare time when I believe we disagree a bit. But no matter! Still a great column that gives much food for thought.


  16. Tim Bryce said

    An S.Y. of Dunedin, Florida wrote…

    “Polarities are just too general. I’m very liberal socially, but I’m a neat, orderly person whose first degree was in science, the second in law, and I am a person of faith. I can read financials, and don’t particularly have an “artist’s temperament.” I think that rules that preserve privilege and status for one group are suspect (e.g., laws that treat men and women differently), but rules that preserve order in a neutral way (e.g., red = stop, green = go; don’t steal) are essential.

    I also hasten to say that using polarities is not a conservative tendency over a liberal one; there are as many liberal ideologues as conservative ones. Both are difficult to talk with on certain subjects – i.e., whatever subject the ideologues are most certain they are “right” about.

    I think this is all much more nuanced than polarity allows. There are several other models that provide ways of understanding thought patterns and behavior than simple either/or polarities. Personally, I’ve found two approaches to be helpful when working with people who think differently than I do. First are James Fowler and M. Scott Peck and their discussions of “styles of faith,” which group people based on their uses of external vs. internal authority. Second is the Myers-Briggs type indicator, based on Jungian psychology. The benefit of these approaches is that they go beyond claims of right vs. wrong, and instead focus on mutual understanding, respect and dignity- which, I hope, are valued by all.”


  17. Kevin Schachter said

    Well, now I’m confused. You’ve just described your “Favorite Liberal” as a true conservative.


  18. Tim Bryce said

    An R.T. of Atlanta, Georgia wrote…

    “After reading the article – I found it quite fascinating – I have to wonder just which I am. I’ve always thought I’m a conservative, and am somewhat a man of science in that I’ve been in the professional practice of information technology for 55 years. However, I seem to bounce back and forth regarding some of your points. Maybe I’m a concerberal, or a liberservative. I’m not sure, anymore. However, pursuing this too much further could easily drive me sane.”


  19. Tim Bryce said

    A C.R. of Charlottesville, VA wrote…

    “Liberals are either a) Sophomores (smart fools) or b) inflicted with a mental disease which has run to epidemic proportions.”


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  23. […] between liberals and conservatives on more than one occasion. More recently, I examined their personalities, but herein I want to discuss their perspectives of the American […]


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