What separates liberals from conservatives?
Researchers are finding that these differences are becoming more and more attributed to basic biology.
Political psychologists and political scientists are increasingly convinced that our previous ideas about the differences between liberals and conservatives — that our beliefs come solely from friends, family, upbringing and personal interests — is wrong.
It’s now suggested that liberals and conservatives disagree because they differ genetically, physiologically and psychologically.
University of Nebraska’s John Hibbling and his colleagues argue that the differences between liberals and conservativeslie in “the nature of their physiological and psychological responses to features of the environment that are negative.” Conservatives, so it seems, have a “negativity bias,” responding much more rapidly to threatening or negative stimuli.
In another Hibbling paper, he and his team conducted a study in which they used “eye trackers and other devices” to record involuntary responses to a variety of threatening stimuli, such as photos of a large spider on a frightened individual’s face, an open wound filled with maggots, and a stunned person’s bloody face.
People with higher physiological reactions to these kinds of stimuli, the study found, favored more conservative ideologies.
And it makes sense: Conservative beliefs — capital punishment, defense spending, tighter immigration laws, and strong law enforcement, to name a few — are mainly in the name of protecting the nation against potential internal and external threats.
One who adheres to these beliefs would certainly have a biological makeup that, in a science lab, responds more dramatically to threats.
Social psychologist John Jost even recently noted the following:
There is by now evidence from a variety of laboratories around the world using a variety of methodological techniques leading to the virtually inescapable conclusion that the cognitive-motivational styles of leftists and rightists are quite different. This research consistently finds that conservatism is positively associated with heightened epistemic concerns for order, structure, closure, certainty, consistency, simplicity, and familiarity, as well as existential concerns such as perceptions of danger, sensitivity to threat, and death anxiety.
Virtually inescapable conclusion.
All of this matters. We live in a society where politicians attempt to sway minds with impressive rhetoric, persuasive speeches and compelling arguments.
However, placing politic ideologies in the context of science paints a much different picture.