I’ve grown very very tired of research that purports to study conservatives and liberals. It seems that most of it is constructed to prove that the former are bad guys and the latter good guys.
But this one seems to be a rare exception—although I’m sure someone can interpret the results in the usual conservatives-bad/liberals-good manner. At the very least, though, I find the results interesting:
Conservatives reacted more strongly to, fixated more quickly on, and looked longer at the unpleasant images; liberals had stronger reactions to and looked longer at the pleasant images compared with conservatives…While liberals’ gazes tended to fall upon the pleasant images, such as a beach ball or a bunny rabbit, conservatives clearly focused on the negative images – of an open wound, a crashed car or a dirty toilet, for example…
[C]onservatives also exhibited a stronger physiological response to images of Democratic politicians – presumed to be a negative to them – than they did on pictures of well-known Republicans. Liberals, on the other hand, had a stronger physiological response to the Democrats – presumed to be a positive stimulus to them – than they did to images of the Republicans.
Conservatives often criticize liberals for believing, against all evidence, that basic societal problems can be “fixed” if only we have enough goodwill (beachballs and bunnies, anyone?). And liberals often criticize conservatives for being fear-based (as in the so-called War on Terror, for example) or pessimistic about the possibilities of human improvement.
Not that this sort of research proves much of anything at all, or closely ties into any of that. But still, it’s interesting to someone like me, who puzzles over these differences and who’s looked at the clouds of politics from both sides now. Of course, I tend to also reject any physiological or innate explanations of political differences, because (among other things) how would they account for changers?