Psychological Study Contrasts Occupy Wall Street with the Tea Party

The Association for Psychological Science recently announced the results of a study that contrasted the attitudes of liberal groups such as “Occupy Wall Street” and more conservative groups such as the tea party.

Occupy Wall Street stemmed from a group of people who set up a camp in Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan as a protest against what they perceived to be the influence of Wall Street corporations on American life and corporations. The movement, which started in September, 2011, spread to a number of American cities. It was marked by occasional violence and unsanitary conditions in many of the occupier camps. The movement largely died out as winter came and outdoor camping became untenable in many American cities.

The tea party, on the other hand, is a largely middle class movement that arose in protest against government over spending, over taxation, and encroachment on private lives. It proved to be very successful in affecting the outcome of the 2010 midterm elections. Subsequently a scandal was sparked by revelations that the IRS was targeting various tea party groups for harassment and intimidation. The tea party originally employed mass protests to get its message across, but more recently has shifted its tactics to working the political process to elect public officials sympathetic to their views.

The study concluded that liberals such as members of the Occupy Wall Street movement suffer from what is called “truly false uniqueness,” by assuming that others do not share their beliefs. In contrast conservatives and moderates such as members of the tea party have something called “truly false consensus” by assuming that others share their beliefs more than is the case.

The study suggests that these attitudes explain why the tea party has been successful in effecting social and political change and that Occupy Wall Street was not.

“‘The Tea Party movement developed a succinct set of goals in its incipient stages and effectively mobilized its members toward large-scale social change quite quickly,’ says psychological scientist Chadly Stern of New York University. ‘In contrast, despite its popularity, the liberal Occupy Wall Street movement struggled to reach agreement on their collective mission and ultimately failed to enact large-scale social change.'”

In other words, the tea party was able to focus on a set of widely agreed to goals while Occupy Wall Street had too much internal disagreement to be effective.

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