Your answers to four simple questions can predict the type of coffee you drink and your view of God.

Researchers around the world use these questions to accurately predict the views people hold on many issues. The book Prius or Pickup summarizes the data and shows that the traits we prefer in children correlate to the type of vehicle you drive (small or large vehicle), the TV shows you watch (those with stereotypical characters versus complex characters), and the kind of beer you drink (light versus craft beers). More significantly, the answers people give accurately predict their stances on issues ranging from health care to immigration.

Which of the following characteristics in children do you prefer?

  • Independence or Respect for Elders
  • Good Manners or Curiosity
  • Well Behaved or Being Considerate
  • Self-Reliance or Obedience

Nurturant or Authoritative?

Several political scientists, sociologists, and psychologists use two cognitive models (which I call Nurturant and Authoritative) to explain the polarization in American on social and political issues. The models are identified by the responses to the four questions about preferences in children.

Nurturants prefer Independence, Curiosity, Being Considerate, and Self-Reliance. Authoritatives prefer Respect for Elders, Good Manners, Well Behaved, and Obedience. The models embody very different core values. Nurturants prioritize empathy, cooperation, perspective taking, the importance of community, and the need for nuance. Authoritatives prioritize obedience to rules, maintaining social order, individual responsibility, and cognitive closure (certainty).

My book, Embracing Prodigals, uses the Nurturant and Authoritative modes to explore the polarization in American Christianity regarding doctrinal and social issues. I explain how these different values motivate people to hold very different views on topics such as hell, God, atonement, and the nature of the Bible. In addition, it is fascinating how the views one holds on doctrines such as hell correspond to the views people affirm on criminal justice.

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