You might like to think that where you place yourself on the spectrum of political ideologies is the result of carefully considered thought processes, of nuanced reason, and most importantly, of choice. Nope. Not entirely.
Research conducted at Rice University finds that Liberals and Conservatives are different in terms of personality, psychology and genetics. You are genetically hardwired to be who you are, which will probably predispose you to an alignment with one political party or group or another.
Dr. John Alford, an associate professor of Political Science, is heading up the research at Rice in association with work being done at the University of Nebraska.
"Our broad basic conclusions are that people’s political orientation, largely related to things like ideology, or interest and level of participation in politics, are shaped to a large degree by biological factors including genetic inheritance. Our estimation is that about half of the variations of traits in individuals like Right/Left ideology are genetic and biological traits. And about half are the kinds of things we would ore traditionally believe, the effects of environment, free will, or the nature of the times,” Dr. Alford tells KTRH News. “It’s not nature or nurture. We are nature and nurture.”
The primary focus of their research has been physiological and psychological responses to negative environmental features. It is Alford’s working hypotheses that biology -- not reason or the careful consideration of facts -- predisposes people to see and understand the world in different ways.
The study found that compared with liberals, conservatives tend to register greater negative physiological responses to stimuli and devote more psychological resources to them. For example, when study participants were shown pictures from the International Affective Picture System (a database of pictures used to elicit a range of emotions), eye-tracking revealed that conservative respondents fixed their gaze on negative images more rapidly and stayed focused on negative images longer. And by negative, think of an image of danger; an image of something that is threatening to you and your way of life.
“Conservatives warm quickly to the idea that liberals don’t really attend much to things that might be dangerous or aversive. Conservatives tend to think of themselves as more appropriately aware of danger, threat or aversive things in the environment,” says Alford.
Alford says his hope is that it helps people understand, in these times of political polarity, that someone who thinks differently then you was born that way. Some people just honestly see the world differently. He likens it to understanding left-handedness. No one intentionally means to be left-handed: it’s just the way some individuals are hardwired. And as you would not make judgments on someone’s character or question someone’s motives for being left-handed, the same goes for political identity.