How do conservatives see liberals

Psychology: Liberals see beautiful things, conservatives see threatening things

A person's political views are at least in part biologically based. This is the conclusion US researchers come to after experiments with liberal and conservative men and women. Conservatives are naturally more concerned with negative aspects, the researchers write in the journal "Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B". Liberals, on the other hand, focused more on the positive.

The psychologists and political scientists around John Hibbing from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln included 200 men and women with an average age of 42 years in the study.

Their political views were asked for through tests and questionnaires. Then the participants were placed individually in front of a screen on which two images could be seen: a pleasant one of a happy child or a cute rabbit, and an ugly one of an open wound with maggots or a spider on a face. The strength of emotional reactions was recorded using electrodes on the skin, and eye movements using so-called eye trackers.

“Conservatives reacted more strongly to unsightly pictures, looked more at them and let their gaze linger on them longer; In comparison, liberals reacted more strongly to the pleasant pictures and looked at them longer, ”says a statement from the university about the study. "It is said that conservatives and liberals do not look at things the same way," psychologist Michael Dodd is quoted as saying. "These results prove it."

Another experiment with clearly liberal or conservative thinking people confirmed the result, according to the researchers. 46 subjects were again presented with pictures, this time such well-known Democrats and Republicans as Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Conservative people reacted more physiologically to the images of the democrats - liberals too. The experts concluded that some reacted more violently to negative stimuli, others to positive stimuli.

The researchers emphasize that they do not want to evaluate political orientations under any circumstances. However, the result shows how important biologically determined characteristics are in this area. Instead of assuming that the opponent is uninformed or deliberately difficult to understand, political differences should - at least in part - be seen to be based on differences in investment and perception.

Conservatives often said liberals are far from reality, Hibbing is quoted as saying. And liberals complained, conservatives feared for no reason. "If you consider what each side sees, where their attention is, what they perceive physiologically, then the answer is: both sides are right."

Almost a year ago, a study was published that found that conservatives have a larger fear center in their brains. This was reported by a group from University College London in the journal "Current Biology". Even before that, there was neuroscientific evidence of biological differences between liberals and conservatives.

New York researchers had shown, for example, that conservative people show a greater tendency to insist on the existing. Liberals are therefore better at recognizing signals that require a change in established habits. The analysis of electrical impulses in the brain was published in "Nature Neuroscience". For their study, the psychologists examined activities in the brain of people who had classified themselves as left or right.