Category: Political

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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People Who Want To Be More Empathic May Also Develop “Liberal” Moral Values

By Emily Reynolds

No matter how happy you are in yourself, there’s probably something about your personality you’d like to change. Maybe you feel you’re too uptight or want to be more outgoing, or perhaps you’d like to be less moody or more tolerant of other people’s shortcomings.

It’s likely that such a change in personality will have some kind of social consequence, whether that’s in your relationship with your spouse or your ability to get on with your colleagues. But it might also affect which moral values you hold important.

That’s what Ivar R. Hannikainen and colleagues suggest in a new paper in the Journal of Research in Personality. They found that growth in one area, empathy, was associated with a shift in moral foundations to a more classically “liberal” style of morality.

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People Prefer Strangers Who Share Their Political Views To Friends Who Don’t

By Emily Reynolds

Friendship tends to be based on some kind of shared experience: growing up with someone, working with them, or having the same interests. Politics is an important factor too, with research suggesting that we can be pretty intolerant of those with different political positions — not an ideal starting point for friendship.

This can have a significant and tangible impact. One Reuters/Ipsos poll, for example, found 16.4% of people had stopped talking to a family member or friend after Trump was elected, while 17.4% had blocked someone they care about on social media.

So what happens when you find out a trusted friend has different politics to you? They don’t fare well, according to a new study in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships authored by Elena Buliga and Cara MacInnis from the University of Calgary, Canada.

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For Political Candidates, Making Jokes Online Might Backfire

By Emily Reynolds

Over the last few years, memes have played an increasingly important part in online political discussion: in 2016, the Washington Post dubbed the 2016 presidential election “the most-memed election in U.S. history”, and CNN has already christened the 2020 race “the meme election”.

But politicians may want to pause for thought before they hit send on that jokey tweet. New research in Communication Research Reports, from Ohio State University’s Olivia Bullock and Austin Huber, suggests that humour doesn’t always go down well online — and that this can impact what voters think of particular candidates and potentially how they vote.

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We Tend To See Acts We Disapprove Of As Deliberate — A Bias That Helps Explain Why Conservatives Believe In Free Will More Than Liberals

By guest blogger Jesse Singal

One of the most important and durable findings in moral and political psychology is that there is a tail-wags-the-dog aspect to human morality. Most of us like to think we have carefully thought-through, coherent moral systems that guide our behaviour and judgements. In reality our behaviour and judgements often stem from gut-level impulses, and only after the fact do we build elaborate moral rationales to justify what we believe and do.

A new paper in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology examines this issue through a fascinating lens: free will. Or, more specifically, via people’s judgments about how much free will others had when committing various transgressions. The team, led by Jim A. C. Everett of the University of Kent and Cory J. Clark of Durham University, ran 14 studies geared at evaluating the possibility that at least some of the time the moral tail wags the dog: first people decide whether someone is blameworthy, and then judge how much free will they have, in a way that allows them to justify blaming those they want to blame and excusing those they want to excuse.

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Liberals And Conservatives Feel Moral Outrage In Different Parts Of The Body — But There’s Also A Lot Of Overlap

By Emily Reynolds

There are lots of differences between those who express opposing political affiliations — and they may not just be ideological. Liberals and conservatives have different shopping habits, for instance, with one series of studies finding that liberals preferred products that made them feel unique, whilst conservatives picked brands that made them feel better than others. They even view health risks differently when they’re choosing what to eat.

But could there also be physiological differences between liberals and conservatives? Some evidence seems to suggest this might be the case, though as we reported earlier this month past findings, such as differences in physiological responses to fear, may not be as solid as previously thought. However, new research in Psychological Science has found that people of different political affiliations may differ in another way: where in the body they feel emotions relating to moral concerns. Continue reading “Liberals And Conservatives Feel Moral Outrage In Different Parts Of The Body — But There’s Also A Lot Of Overlap”

Here’s How We Perceive The Political Leanings Of Different Fonts

Photo: The serif font Jubilat was used on signs for Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential bid — though a new study suggests that sans serifs are generally seen as more liberal. Credit: Brett Carlsen/Getty Images.

By Emily Reynolds

Fonts can be very distinctive indeed. Even if robbed of their original context, it can be easy to identify the fonts used on the front of a Harry Potter book, adorning a Star Wars poster, or on the side of a Coca-Cola can, to name a few examples.

But particular fonts can also leave us with other impressions: the font used to brand a beloved book, for example, has different emotional connotations to the one you use to type emails. And according to new research in Communication Studies from Katherine Haenschen and Daniel Tamul at Virginia Tech, particular fonts may also carry some political connotations, too.

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