Category: Political

Conservatives Are More Likely To Share Fake News — But Only If They Are Low In Conscientiousness

By Emma Young

Why do people share fake news? All kinds of studies have looked into what encourages it, and which personal attributes play a role. As the authors of a new paper in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General point out, multiple studies have found that political conservatives are relatively more likely to disseminate false news than those on the political left. However, their new work finds that this is an over-simplification — that the link is “largely driven” by conservatives who are also low in conscientiousness. This is an important finding for a few reasons. On the upside, it’s a far less politically polarising message. On the downside, this group does not seem to be receptive to the main identified way of stopping fake news from spreading.

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We Generally Prefer Political Allies Who Try To Understand Opponents’ Views

By Emily Reynolds

We often hear that we’re living in an age of polarisation and divisiveness, unable to transcend political boundaries to listen to those who we disagree with. But how do we feel about those people who share our views but who seek to understand opponents anyway?

This is the subject of a new study in Psychological Science, authored by the University of British Columbia’s Gordon Heltzel and Kristin Laurin. They find that while we generally prefer those who seek alternative views, this falters when they appear to be susceptible to changing sides.

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Left-Wing Authoritarianism Is Real And Needs To Be Taken Seriously In Political Psychology, Study Argues

By Emma Young

Authoritarianism has been well-studied by psychologists. Well, right-wing authoritarianism has. In fact, as that’s typically the only type that’s studied, you might be forgiven for thinking that’s what authoritarianism is. The very idea of left-wing authoritarianism (LWA) has received not only little academic attention, but a lot of scepticism from psychologists. “I think I have not found any authoritarians on the left because if there ever were any, most of them have dried up and blown away….” wrote Bob Altemeyer, pioneer of work on right-wing authoritarianism, in 1996.

But as Thomas Costello at Emory University and colleagues write in their new paper in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology: Personality Processes and Individual Differences, “From Maoist China to the Khmer Rouge (and perhaps even the French Reign of Terror), history abounds with examples of LWA at the broader societal level, rendering psychology’s inability to identify left-wing authoritarians puzzling.”

Puzzling is right. Perhaps predominantly left-leaning researchers have been unwilling to even go there…. But in their new paper, Costello and his colleagues absolutely go there. They conclude that LWA does indeed exist, and they define not only its characteristics but the characteristics of the people who subscribe to it. They also reveal substantial similarities between authoritarians on the political right and the left.

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Negative Media Coverage Of Immigration Leads To Hostility Towards Immigrants And In-Group Favouritism

By Emily Reynolds

The media plays a huge part in shaping our understanding of the world, including how we respond to other people. Coverage of immigration is no different, and previous research has suggested that even subtle changes in language and framing can change the way people think about immigrants.

A new study, published in Scientific Reports, looks at the real life impact of negative media portrayals of immigrants. It finds that negative coverage can increase hostility towards immigrants and favouritism towards members of the non-immigrant in-group — which can have serious financial, emotional and social consequences for communities.

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Around The World, People Co-operate More Willingly With Others From Their Own Country

By Matthew Warren

Many of the world’s most pressing problems require global co-operation. If we are to combat climate change or contain the spread of devastating diseases, for instance, we need to work across borders and share resources.

So a new study in Nature Communications doesn’t make for encouraging reading. Using a common paradigm for studying co-operation, Angelo Romano from the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods and colleagues look at how more than 18,000 participants from 42 different countries co-operate with people from their own nation and elsewhere. They find that in every single country, participants show national parochialism: they co-operate more readily with people from their own country than with others.

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Social Media Posts That Are Hostile Towards Political Opponents Get More Shares

By Matthew Warren

What makes something go viral online? A lot of work has highlighted the role of emotion: social media posts that express strong emotions — and particularly negative emotions — tend to spread further.

Now a study in PNAS has identified another factor which seems to have an even greater effect on how often posts are shared. Steve Rathje from the University of Cambridge and colleagues find that tweets and Facebook posts that contain more language referring to political opponents get more shares. These posts may be so popular, the team finds, because they appeal to feelings of anger and outrage towards the political out-group.

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Do Liberals And Conservatives Really Have Different Moral Foundations? Differences May Be Less Clear Cut Than Often Claimed

By Emma Young

The idea that political conservatives and liberals differ in fundamental ways — in their biology and neurology, personality and moral foundations — has received a good deal of attention. However, cracks have begun to appear in this idea. In 2019, we covered new work finding that conservatives are not in fact more readily disgusted than liberals (disgust has a moral dimension, of course). And the year before, Jesse Singal, a regular Digest guest blogger, covered evidence suggesting that claims about liberal-conservative personality differences have been overblown.

Now a major new review and meta-analysis of research into political orientation and moral foundations — essentially, how people view morality — calls into question some influential earlier conclusions. Writing in the Psychological Bulletin, J. Matias Kivikangas at Aalto University and colleagues report finding support for the idea of some basic moral differences between conservatives and liberals. However, they also conclude that the differences are less clear cut than had been thought, and the results are also less generalisable across regions, countries and political cultures than has been claimed.  

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US Politicians Use Moral Language More Often When They Have Less Power

By Emily Reynolds

Whatever your political affiliation, making appeals to people’s morality can be a powerful rhetorical tool. Politicians frequently use language that refers to moral principles of harm, fairness, loyalty, authority and purity, in order to defend policy positions, appeal to new voters and appease old ones. And it’s an approach that seems to work. Research suggests that people are far more likely to take action once they connect a particular issue with their own moral or ethical convictions — even to the point of committing acts of violence.

But how and when politicians use moral language shifts with changes in the political landscape, according to a new study from the University of Toronto’s Sze-Yuh Nina Wang and Yoel Inbar, published in Psychological Science. Looking at Democrat and Republican politicians in the US, they found that moral language increased as political power decreased, suggesting that its use is not fixed. 

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Liberal Americans’ Distress At 2016 Election Result Shouldn’t Be Labelled “Depression”, Study Argues

Photo: Supporters of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton react during election night 2016. Kena Betancur/AFP via Getty Images

By Emily Reynolds

Anyone who’s been invested in an election result will understand the close relationship between politics and emotion — something that is perhaps even more affecting when that result is disappointing. After the 2016 presidential election, for example, articles appeared in the US press describing a “national nervous breakdown” and offering tips to deal with so-called “political depression”, and empirical studies indicated that the same event had caused psychological distress.

But while it would be hard to deny that politics can have a serious impact on our mood, is it correct to call that “depression”? Almog Simchon at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and team ask this question in a new paper published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology — and while they find self-reported “Trump depression” in liberal Americans post-election, the empirical data suggests this isn’t an enduring or even clinically significant experience.

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Narcissistic People Are More Likely To Take Part In Political Activities

By Emily Reynolds

There’s likely to be a diverse set of factors driving any given person’s interest in politics. It could be that their parents had a political affiliation they’ve subsequently inherited; they may have had a personal experience that changed how they see the world; politics could provide a social life or community connections; they might consider political action a civic duty; or they might just be passionate about a particular issue.

According to a recent paper in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, there may be another motivation, too — namely narcissism. The paper finds that particular kinds of narcissism are related to taking part in political activities, suggesting that deeply rooted individual factors may play a large part in our willingness to engage in politics.

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