Polar base

Kevin Lewis

December 12, 2014

The Psychological Advantage of Unfalsifiability: The Appeal of Untestable Religious and Political Ideologies

Justin Friesen, Troy Campbell & Aaron Kay
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming

We propose that people may gain certain “offensive” and “defensive” advantages for their cherished belief systems (e.g., religious and political views) by including aspects of unfalsifiability in those belief systems, such that some aspects of the beliefs cannot be tested empirically and conclusively refuted. This may seem peculiar, irrational, or at least undesirable to many people because it is assumed that the primary purpose of a belief is to know objective truth. However, past research suggests that accuracy is only one psychological motivation among many, and falsifiability or testability may be less important when the purpose of a belief serves other psychological motives (e.g., to maintain one’s worldviews, serve an identity). In Experiments 1 and 2 we demonstrate the “offensive” function of unfalsifiability: that it allows religious adherents to hold their beliefs with more conviction and political partisans to polarize and criticize their opponents more extremely. Next we demonstrate unfalsifiability’s “defensive” function: When facts threaten their worldviews, religious participants frame specific reasons for their beliefs in more unfalsifiable terms (Experiment 3) and political partisans construe political issues as more unfalsifiable (“moral opinion”) instead of falsifiable (“a matter of facts”; Experiment 4). We conclude by discussing how in a world where beliefs and ideas are becoming more easily testable by data, unfalsifiability might be an attractive aspect to include in one’s belief systems, and how unfalsifiability may contribute to polarization, intractability, and the marginalization of science in public discourse.


Neuroticism and State Differences in Partisanship in the USA: Emotional Stability, Ideological Orientation, and Republican Preference

Stewart McCann
Journal of Social and Political Psychology, 2014, Pages 242-267

Relations between Neuroticism, Republican-Democrat preference, and conservative-liberal ideological orientation were examined with the states of the USA as units of analysis. State-aggregated Neuroticism scores were based on 1999-2005 responses of 619,397 residents to the 44-item Big Five Inventory. State Republican-Democrat preference was based on the 2002 occupancy of the U.S. Presidency, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, state House, state Senate, and state Governorship, as well as state-aggregated partisanship responses of 110,305 persons to 1998-2002 CBS/New York Times national polls. State conservative-liberal ideological orientation was based on 1998-2002 state-aggregated responses of 103,828 persons to CBS/New York Times national polls. Using correlation, partial correlation, and hierarchical multiple regression, it was determined that lower state resident Neuroticism is associated with Republican preference, and that both conservative-liberal ideological orientation and state resident Neuroticism account independently for variance in Republican-Democrat preference. These relations were found when 1998-2002 state socioeconomic status, white percent, and urban percent were statistically considered and controlled in partial correlation and hierarchical regression analysis. In contrast, corresponding analyses involving the other Big Five showed that only Openness and Conscientiousness showed any relation to partisanship, albeit infrequent and inconsistent. State resident Neuroticism is the primary state-level Big Five predictor of Republican/Democratic Party choice.


Primary Systems and Candidate Ideology: Evidence From Federal and State Legislative Elections

Jon Rogowski & Stephanie Langella
American Politics Research, forthcoming

The nomination of ideologically extreme candidates in party primaries has led many scholars and observers to speculate about the role played by different kinds of primary systems. Models of candidate competition that account for the two-stage nature of the electoral process suggest that more restrictive primary systems produce more ideologically extreme candidates. In contrast with previous research that examines the relationship between primaries and legislative ideology, we focus on how primary systems affect the ideological extremity of candidates’ campaign platforms. Using data on more than 85,000 major party candidates for Congress and state legislatures from 1980-2012, we find no evidence that the restrictiveness of primary participation rules is systematically associated with candidate ideology.


The Ideological Asymmetry of the American Party System

Yphtach Lelkes & Paul Sniderman
British Journal of Political Science, forthcoming

Most Americans support liberal policies on the social welfare agenda, the dominant policy cleavage in American politics. Yet a striking feature of the US party system is its tendency to equilibrium. How, then, does the Republican Party minimize defection on the social welfare agenda? The results of this study illustrate a deep ideological asymmetry between the parties. Republican identifiers are ideologically aware and oriented to a degree that far exceeds their Democratic counterparts. Our investigation, which utilizes cross-sectional, longitudinal and experimental data, demonstrates the role of ideological awareness and involvement in the Republicans’ ability to maintain the backing of their supporters even on issues on which the position of the Democratic Party is widely popular. It also exposes two mechanisms, party branding and the use of the status quo as a focal point, that Democrats use to retain or rally support for issues on the social welfare agenda on which the Republican Party’s position is widely popular.


How Impressionable Were the Younger Reagan Cohorts?

Zachary Cook
The Forum, October 2014, Pages 481–497

Younger voters today, defined as under the age of 30 and often labeled the Millennial Generation, have shown high support for Barack Obama and for certain statements about activist government. Are we witnessing some generational effect for a significant percentage of the Millennials, stemming from their growing up during impressionable years under first George W. Bush and then Obama? To study this question with a historical analogy, I use the ANES to compare under-30 cohorts under Jimmy Carter as a benchmark and then Ronald Reagan much more extensively. I find evidence consistent with categories advanced by Sears (1983). The Reagan years disproportionately shifted this age group’s symbolic attitudes, including partisanship, self-reported ideology, and approval of Reagan himself, but not most specific policy opinions. If this finding generalizes, recent events may leave a Democratic imprint on the Millennials, but their current measures of policy liberalism should not be attributed overmuch to Obama’s influence.


Who Knows Best? Education, Partisanship, and Contested Facts

Mark Joslyn & Donald Haider-Markel
Politics & Policy, December 2014, Pages 919–947

An alert, informed electorate is considered vital to a robust democracy, and the main path to that electorate includes formal education. The educated citizen is politically attentive, knowledgeable, and participatory, and the uneducated citizen is not. However, this fact conceals a less favorable effect of education. Educated citizens possess the cognitive skills to reject facts inconsistent with prior dispositions. And educated citizens are among the most invested partisans. Thus education is indispensable for an ideal democratic citizen, but that same education can create a resistant, insular democratic participant. We examine this duality across several prominent empirical cases where political facts are in dispute and employ goal-oriented information processing theory to generate hypotheses. In each case, we find that the most educated partisans are furthest apart in their factual understanding. Our primary concern resides with the inability of education to overcome powerful partisan motives; education intensifies those motives.


Political Language in Economics

Zubin Jelveh, Bruce Kogut & Suresh Naidu
NYU Working Paper, December 2014

Does political ideology influence economic research? We rely upon purely inductive methods in natural language processing and machine learning to examine patterns of implicit political ideology in economic articles. Using observed political behavior of economists and the phrases from their academic articles, we construct a high-dimensional predictor of political ideology by article, economist, school, and journal. In addition to field, journal, and editor ideology, we look at the correlation of author ideology with magnitudes of reported policy relevant elasticities. Overall our results suggest that there is substantial sorting by ideology into fields, departments, and methodologies, and that political ideology influences the results of economic research.


Incidental Disgust Increases Adherence to Left-Wing Economic Attitudes

Dragos Petrescu & Brian Parkinson
Social Justice Research, December 2014, Pages 464-486

Previous research has suggested that disgust is associated with conservative political attitudes (Cognit Emot, 23:714–725 by Inbar et al. 2009). The present research evaluated whether disgust can also lead to more liberal attitudes, due to its relation to fairness-related violations. Across three studies, we demonstrated that inducing feelings of disgust lead participants to adopt more left-wing political attitudes with regard to economic issues. In Study 1, participants induced to experience disgust by looking at four photographs reported more left-wing economic attitudes than participants who were exposed to sadness-inducing images. In Study 2, the same effect was observed but only for participants who had greater sensitivity to their bodily sensations. Study 3 replicated Studies 1–2 and also showed that besides economic attitudes, participants’ general political orientation was also shifted toward the liberal spectrum by a disgust induction. Taken together, these results provide evidence for a relationship between feelings of disgust and the endorsement of equality-promoting political attitudes. Our results, therefore, provide a different perspectives on disgust and the first evidence that it can also lead people to adopt more liberal attitudes on economic issues.


Things Aren't Going That Well Over There Either: Party Polarization and Election Law in Comparative Perspective

David Schleicher
University of Chicago Legal Forum, forthcoming

One of, if not the, most important change in American political life over the last 30 or so years has been the rise of extreme party polarization. Our two major parties are increasingly ideological distinct and distant from one another, and increasingly willing to abandon long-standing institutional norms and short-term policy compromise in the name of achieving long-run party goals. Efforts to understand why the parties have changed largely have been parochial, largely looking for explanations in American politics, history, media and institutional arrangements. This focus has a logic to it. Politics in most other advanced democracies does not feature the same type of polarization between parties, and therefore the answers for why American politics has gone in this direction seem to lie inward rather than abroad. But it is still a mistake. This short essay argues that a common shift in voter preferences towards more radical and fundamentalist opinion among even a small slice of the electorate can explain polarization in the United States and changes in politics abroad. In many European countries with proportional representation (PR), we have seen the rise of parties so radical that established parties refuse to form coalitions with them. In “Westminster” systems, which due to their use of first-past-the-post vote counting and single-member districts are supposed to tend towards having two parties, we have seen the rise in third-and fourth party voting. Notably, in most Westminster systems, there is little intra-party democracy, leading groups of voters with more radical opinions without the ability to influence mainstream parties, which makes those with radical opinions more willing to waste votes. A plausible story about American political development is that the same voters and interest groups who would form radical parties in PR systems and support spoilers in Westminster systems use intraparty democracy to influence our two-party system and create polarization. Election laws and institutional design shape the way radicalism influences politics. If this is right, several lessons follow. Any effort to understand why American parties have changed must look at factors that are common across many western democracies. Further, the rise of radical parties in PR systems and spoilers in Westminster systems have created governance problems that are of a type with the problems created by our extreme polarization. We should thus be skeptical that there are institutional design reforms that can make American governance work easily in the face of polarization.


Partisan sorting in the United States, 1972–2012: New evidence from a dynamic analysis

Corey Lang & Shanna Pearson-Merkowitz
Political Geography, forthcoming

Whether Americans have “sorted” into politically like-minded counties and to what extent is hotly debated by academic and journalists. This paper examines whether or not geographic sorting has occurred and why it has occurred using a novel, dynamic analysis. Our findings indicate that geographic sorting is on the rise, but that it is a very recent phenomenon. In the 1970s and 1980s, counties tended to become more competitive, but by 1996 a pattern of partisan sorting had emerged and continued through the present. Results suggest this pattern is driven by Southern re-alignment and voting behavior in partisan stronghold counties. Lastly, we find evidence that migration can drive partisan sorting, but only accounts for a small portion of the change.


Not All Education is Equally Liberal: The Effects of Science Education on Political Attitudes

Christine Ma-Kellams et al.
Journal of Social and Political Psychology, 2014, Pages 143-163

Education stands as a potent predictor of political attitudes; however, the underlying mechanisms and moderators of this relationship are not well-understood. We hypothesize that the liberalizing effect of education is moderated by discipline, and that the scientific ethos that serves to guide empirical inquiries facilitates the development of more liberal political attitudes via concerns about fairness and equality. As predicted, being educated in a science-related discipline, as opposed to a non-science discipline, was associated with greater political liberalism; importantly, this effect could not be accounted for by self-selection (Study 1). Furthermore, concerns about fairness and equality, as captured by an individual’s social dominance orientation, mediated the relationship between studying science and political liberalism (Study 2). Study 3 replicated these findings and attest to their generalizability. Study 4 directly assessed the underlying mechanism, endorsement of the scientific ethos, and replicated the mediational model; those who endorsed the scientific ethos more strongly reported more liberal political attitudes, and this was mediated by their lower social dominance orientation.


Nonpolitical Images Evoke Neural Predictors of Political Ideology

Woo-Young Ahn et al.
Current Biology, 17 November 2014, Pages 2693–2699

Political ideologies summarize dimensions of life that define how a person organizes their public and private behavior, including their attitudes associated with sex, family, education, and personal autonomy. Despite the abstract nature of such sensibilities, fundamental features of political ideology have been found to be deeply connected to basic biological mechanisms that may serve to defend against environmental challenges like contamination and physical threat. These results invite the provocative claim that neural responses to nonpolitical stimuli (like contaminated food or physical threats) should be highly predictive of abstract political opinions (like attitudes toward gun control and abortion). We applied a machine-learning method to fMRI data to test the hypotheses that brain responses to emotionally evocative images predict individual scores on a standard political ideology assay. Disgusting images, especially those related to animal-reminder disgust (e.g., mutilated body), generate neural responses that are highly predictive of political orientation even though these neural predictors do not agree with participants’ conscious rating of the stimuli. Images from other affective categories do not support such predictions. Remarkably, brain responses to a single disgusting stimulus were sufficient to make accurate predictions about an individual subject’s political ideology. These results provide strong support for the idea that fundamental neural processing differences that emerge under the challenge of emotionally evocative stimuli may serve to structure political beliefs in ways formerly unappreciated.


Education, Intelligence, And Attitude Extremity

Michael Makowsky & Stephen Miller
Public Opinion Quarterly, Winter 2014, Pages 832-858

Education and general intelligence both serve to inform opinions, but do they lead to greater attitude extremity? The potential civic returns to education include not only the sophistication of citizen opinions, but also their moderation. We use questions on economic policy, social issues, and environmental issues from the General Social Survey to test the impact of education on attitude extremity, as measured by deviation from centrist or neutral positions, while controlling for intelligence. We use quantile regression modeling to identify effects on both the most extreme beliefs as well as the most ambivalent. We find that intelligence is a moderating force across the entire distribution in economic, social, and environmental policy beliefs. Completing high school strongly correlates to reduced extremity, particularly in the upper quantiles. College education increases attitude extremity in the lower tail, while postgraduate education increases extremity in the upper tail. Results are discussed in the context of enlightenment and motivated-reasoning theories of beliefs and education. The relevance to political party core and swing voters is briefly discussed.


Revoking a leader's “license to fail”: Downgrading evaluations of prototypical in-group leaders following an intergroup failure

David Rast et al.
Journal of Applied Social Psychology, forthcoming

Drawing on the social identity theory of leadership, we examined how leadership as an identity function alters perceptions and evaluations of in- and out-group political leaders over time. Participants responded to two online questionnaires, before and after the 2012 U.S. Presidential election between Democrat Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney. We assessed respondents' strength of party identification, perceptions of each candidate's prototypicality, and evaluations of each candidate. Results supported the hypothesis: after his loss, Romney was presumably perceived as less prototypical of the Republican Party among strong identifiers, who symbolically revoked Romney's “license to fail.” Weakly identified Republicans were unaffected by his defeat, granting him a “license to fail.” Unexpectedly, Democrats and Republicans following his electoral success evaluated Obama more harshly.


Parenting and Politics: Exploring Early Moral Bases of Political Orientation

Ronnie Janoff-Bulman, Nate Carnes & Sana Sheikh
Journal of Social and Political Psychology, 2014, Pages 43-60

Based on Lakoff’s (2002) Strict Father and Nurturant Parent metaphors for political conservatism and liberalism respectively, two studies explored parenting styles, political ideology, and the moral orientations that might link the two. Restrictive parenting (by both mother and father) predicted political conservatism, and this path was mediated by a strong Social Order orientation (Study 1) reflecting, more broadly, an inhibition-based proscriptive morality (Study 2). Political liberalism was associated with a Social Justice orientation, but was not predicted by nurturant parenting in either study. Study 1 included mothers’ reports of their own parenting, and these were correlated with the students’ responses. Findings support a restrictive moral underpinning for conservatism, but raise questions about the assumed unique association between parental nurturance and political liberalism, which is addressed in the discussion.


How Party Affiliation Conditions the Experience of Dissonance and Explains Polarization and Selective Exposure

Emily Vraga
Social Science Quarterly, forthcoming

Objectives: Dissonance theory has been widely studied in the social sciences, especially given its implications for polarization and selective exposure. This study expands previous research by investigating how this process may differ when a foundational political identity such as party affiliation is at stake.

Methods: This study adapts a classic dissonance paradigm — writing a counterattitudinal essay under conditions of high versus low choice — to a political context by manipulating the topic of the essay to advocating membership in the opposing political party.

Results: In this context, party affiliation conditions response to writing a counterattitudinal essay: only Republican respondents demonstrate heightened dissonance, selective exposure, and polarization as a result of this task, particularly when the essay is political.

Conclusions: Dissonance may not be a universal response to potentially arousing tasks, but if only some groups experience dissonance and polarization after enumerating the benefits of an opposing party, it may bias democratic functioning.


Stability and Change in Political Conservatism Following the Global Financial Crisis

Petar Milojev et al.
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, January 2015, Pages 127-139

The current study analyzes data from a national probability panel sample of New Zealanders (N = 5,091) to examine stability and change in political orientation over four consecutive yearly assessments (2009-2012) following the 2007/2008 global financial crisis. Bayesian Latent Growth Modeling identified systematic variation in the growth trajectory of conservatism that was predicted by age and socio-economic status. Younger people (ages 25-45) did not change in their political orientation. Older people, however, became more conservative over time. Likewise, people with lower socio-economic status showed a marked increase in political conservatism. In addition, tests of rank-order stability showed that age had a cubic relationship with the stability of political orientation over our four annual assessments. Our findings provide strong support for System Justification Theory by showing that increases in conservatism in the wake of the recent global financial crisis occurred primarily among the poorest and most disadvantaged.


A four-party view of US environmental concern

Lawrence Hamilton & Kei Saito
Environmental Politics, forthcoming

Research on US public concern about environmental issues finds ideology or political party are the most consistent background predictors. Party is commonly defined by three groups: Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. Here, using statewide New Hampshire survey data, we elaborate this approach to distinguish a fourth group: respondents who say they support the Tea Party movement. On 8 out of 12 science- or environment-related questions, Tea Party supporters differ significantly from non–Tea Party Republicans. Tea Party supporters are less likely than non–Tea Party Republicans to trust scientists for information about environmental issues, accept human evolution, believe either the physical reality or the scientific consensus on anthropogenic climate change, or recognise trends in Arctic ice, glaciers, or CO2. Despite factual gaps, Tea Party supporters express greater confidence in their own understanding of climate change. Independents, on the other hand, differ less from non–Tea Party Republicans on most of these questions — although Independents do more often accept the scientific consensus on climate change. On many science and environmental questions, Republicans and Tea Party supporters stand farther apart than Republicans and Independents.


Homophily, Group Size, and the Diffusion of Political Information in Social Networks: Evidence from Twitter

Yosh Halberstam & Brian Knight
NBER Working Paper, November 2014

In this paper, we investigate political communications in social networks characterized both by homophily–a tendency to associate with similar individuals–and group size. To generate testable hypotheses, we develop a simple theory of information diffusion in social networks with homophily and two groups: conservatives and liberals. The model predicts that, with homophily, members of the majority group have more network connections and are exposed to more information than the minority group. We also use the model to show that, with homophily and a tendency to produce like-minded information, groups are disproportionately exposed to like-minded information and the information reaches like-minded individuals more quickly than it reaches individuals of opposing ideologies. To test the hypotheses of our model, we analyze nearly 500,000 communications during the 2012 US elections in a social network of 2.2 million politically-engaged Twitter users. Consistent with the model, we find that members of the majority group in each state-level network have more connections and are exposed to more tweets than members of the minority group. Likewise, we find that groups are disproportionately exposed to like-minded information and that information reaches like-minded users more quickly than users of the opposing ideology.


Social Context and Information Seeking: Examining the Effects of Network Attitudinal Composition on Engagement with Political Information

Lindsey Levitan & Julie Wronski
Political Behavior, December 2014, Pages 793-816

The people we associate with everyday have an important influence on our exposure and reactions to political stimuli. Social network members in particular can have a dramatic impact on our political views and behavior. Prior research suggests that these attitudinal differences may reflect the information available in a social network: attitudinally congruent networks expose individuals to supporting positions, bolstering their views, while heterogeneous networks provide information on both sides of an issue, generating doubt and ambivalence. In contrast, the current studies examine the effects of individuals’ networks in motivating them to find and engage with new political information on their own. Using ANES panel data, a laboratory-based information board session that examines behavior in detail, and an experimental design that manipulates network composition, we find that individuals in attitudinally heterogeneous social networks are more likely to seek out and attend to political information. They spend more time looking for political information, and then (having found it) spend more time reviewing that new information compared to those whose network members are more like-minded. An experimental study further demonstrates that network composition causally determines these information-seeking preferences. Implications for democratic citizenship in light of these findings are discussed.


The Surprised Loser: The Role of Electoral Expectations and News Media Exposure in Satisfaction with Democracy

Barry Hollander
Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, December 2014, Pages 651-668

People tend to predict their preferred political candidate will win an election. The resulting “surprised losers” are examined as playing a role in the established gap between electoral winners and losers on such important outcomes as trust in government and satisfaction with the electoral process and democracy. Exposure to Fox News programming can increase wishful thinking among Republican candidate supporters, but among surprised losers, it does not increase negative attitudes.


Different relational models underlie prototypical left and right positions on social issues

Ain Simpson & Simon Laham
European Journal of Social Psychology, forthcoming

Social issues are important dividing lines in the “culture wars” between the political left and right. Despite much research into social issue stance and ideology, little research has explored these with Relational Models Theory (RMT). RMT proposes four distinct models that people use to construe social relations, each entailing distinct moral considerations. In two studies, participants read summaries of the models, rated how relevant each was to their positions on several social issues (e.g., capital punishment), and expressed issue positions. In Study 1, Communal Sharing and Equality Matching construals predicted prototypical liberal positions across a range of issues; Authority Ranking and Market Pricing construals predicted prototypical conservative positions. By using multilevel modelling in Study 2, individual differences in average Communal Sharing and Authority Ranking construals predicted prototypical liberal and conservative positions, respectively, independent of several factors known to predict social issue stance. In issue-specific analyses (e.g., focusing on euthanasia), all models showed effects independent of self-reported ideology, while for certain issues (same-sex marriage, animal testing, gun control, and flag burning), issue construal using different models predicted opposing positions, implicating relational models in moral disagreement. This paper provides novel tests of Relationship Regulation Theory and suggests that RMT is relevant in understanding political ideology, social issue stance, and moral judgement.


The tree to the left, the forest to the right: Political attitude and perceptual bias

Serge Caparos et al.
Cognition, January 2015, Pages 155–164

A prominent model suggests that individuals to the right of the political spectrum are more cognitively rigid and less tolerant of ambiguity than individuals to the left. On the basis of this model, we predicted that a psychological mechanism linked to the resolution of visual ambiguity – perceptual bias – would be linked to political attitude. Perceptual bias causes western individuals to favour a global interpretation when scrutinizing ambiguous hierarchical displays (e.g., alignment of trees) that can be perceived either in terms of their local elements (e.g., several trees) or in terms of their global structure (e.g., a forest). Using three tasks (based on Navon-like hierarchical figures or on the Ebbinghaus illusion), we demonstrate (1) that right-oriented Westerners present a stronger bias towards global perception than left-oriented Westerners and (2) that this stronger bias is linked to higher cognitive rigidity. This study establishes for the first time that political ideology, a high-level construct, is directly reflected in low-level perception. Right- and left-oriented individuals actually see the world differently.


Losing Hurts: Partisan Happiness in the 2012 Presidential Election

Lamar Pierce, Todd Rogers & Jason Snyder
Harvard Working Paper, October 2014

Partisan identity shapes social, mental, economic, and physical life. Using a novel dataset, we study the consequences of partisan identity by examining the immediate impact of electoral loss and victory on happiness and sadness. Employing a quasi-experimental regression discontinuity model we present two primary findings. First, elections strongly affect the happiness/sadness of partisan losers (for about a week), but minimally impact partisan winners. This is consistent with psychological research on the good-bad hedonic asymmetry. Second, the happiness consequences to partisan losers are intense. To illustrate, we show that partisans are affected two times more intensely by their party losing the U.S. Presidential Election than both respondents with children were to the Newtown Shootings and respondents living in Boston were to the Boston Marathon Bombings. We discuss implications regarding the centrality of partisan identity to the self and its well-being.


Are Leftists More Emotion-Driven Than Rightists? The Interactive Influence of Ideology and Emotions on Support for Policies

Ruthie Pliskin et al,.
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, December 2014, Pages 1681-1697

Although emotions and ideology are important factors guiding policy support in conflict, their interactive influence remains unclear. Based on prior findings that ideological leftists’ beliefs are more susceptible to change than rightists’ beliefs, we tested a somewhat counterintuitive extension that leftists would be more susceptible to influence by their emotional reactions than rightists. In three laboratory studies, inducing positive and negative emotions affected Jewish–Israeli leftists’, but not rightists’, support for conciliatory policies toward an adversarial (Studies 1 and 3) and a non-adversarial (Study 2) outgroup. Three additional field studies showed that positive and negative emotions were related to leftists’, but not rightists’, policy support in positive as well as highly negative conflict-related contexts, among both Jewish (Studies 4 and 5) and Palestinian (Study 6) citizens of Israel. Across different conflicts, emotions, conflict-related contexts, and even populations, leftists’ policy support changed in accordance with emotional reactions more than rightists’ policy support.


Associations between parental ideology and neural sensitivity to cognitive conflict in children

Tracy Dennis, David Amodio & Laura O’Toole
Social Neuroscience, forthcoming

Processes through which parental ideology is transmitted to children — especially at a young age prior to the formation of political beliefs — remain poorly understood. Given recent evidence that political ideology is associated with neural responses to cognitive conflict in adults, we tested the exploratory hypothesis that children’s neurocognitive responses to conflict may also differ depending on their parents’ ideology. We assessed relations between parental political ideology and children’s neurocognitive responses to conflict, as measured by the N2 component of the event-related potential. Children aged 5–7 completed an age-appropriate flanker task while electroencephalography was recorded, and the N2 was scored to incongruent versus congruent flankers to index conflict processing. Because previous research documents heightened liberal–conservative differences in threat-relevant contexts, each trial of the task was preceded by an angry face (threat-relevant) or comparison face (happy or neutral). An effect of parental ideology on the conflict-related N2 emerged in the threat condition, such that the N2 was larger among children of liberals compared with children of moderates and conservatives. These findings suggest that individual differences in neurocognitive responses to conflict, heightened in the context of threat, may reflect a more general pattern of individual differences that, in adults, relates to political ideology.


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