Personality Types, Creativity, and Same-Sex Marriage

Co-authored with June Carbone 

UCLA’s Williams Institute has just issued two studies on the economic effects of gay marriage. The first study, on the relationship between a state’s approach to marriage equality and population migration – documents that members of the “creative class” —  people who “create’ as their job – who are in same-sex relationships were much more likely to move to Massachusetts following the Goodridge decision and the legalization of same-sex marriage. The study’s author suggests that this could improve help the state’s economy in the long-term. A second study shows that same-sex weddings have added over $100 million to the Massachusetts economy  (although this is not even a drop in the bucket in the $300 billion spent in Massachusetts in, for example 2004). Serendipitously, David Brooks wrote an op ed in the New York Times today, “In Praise of Dullness,” discussing  a different study that found the ideal C.E.O. is ” humble, diffident, relentless and a bit unidimensional,” in short, “not the most exciting people to be around.”  This study complements the work of journalists and political scientists, such as Bill Bishop and Andrew Gelman,  who increasingly find that the high tech centers of the country (including the Boston corridor) attract that same creative class open to new ideas and approving of same sex marriage, while the conscientious, more religious, and conventional family oriented types are drawn to other regions – regions that tend to oppose same-sex marriage.

Do these divisions suggest that opposition to same-sex marriage is in our genes – or at least our personality types? The CEOs and the creative class of the new economy may not belong to different tribes, but they tend to see the world through different lenses that color  their  perceptions.      Thus, those opposed to same-sex marriage are unlikely to be persuaded by these – or any other — data. Different ways of framing issues – including the calls for a reaffirmation of traditional values versus insistence on the need for greater acceptance of diverse family forms – appeal to different worldviews.

When political issues are framed in these terms, practically or metaphorically, they reinforce deeply held beliefs. Such beliefs are resistant to argument, logic, or facts. Indeed, cultural research by Yale’s Cultural Cognition Project  as well as linguist George Lakoff suggests that when empirical data conflict with these beliefs, people reinterpret or deny the empirical findings rather than change their views (cites to all of this work is in the book manuscript for Red Families). Neuroscientists have even shown that different parts of the brain are activated by information that conforms to or challenges people’s beliefs. Consequently, when many people are confronted with new scientific information on issues that are culturally controversial, then religious authorities are more convincing than the cold, hard data.

For those of us who believe in gay marriage, however, bring on more studies like this!

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