Are political choices hardwired?

We may think we vote in line with out economic interests and social values, but our politics may be driven largely by our biological makeup. University of Nebraska researchers measured how aroused the nervous systems of highly conservative and liberal voters became while they viewed positive images, such as pictures of babies or cute animals, and negative scenes featuring car wrecks or fearsome insects. The conservatives showed greater interest in negative images, while liberals responded more strongly to positive ones. When researchers showed both groups collages that intermingled positive and negative images while tracking their eye movements, they found that conservatives focused on the more alarming material. Even on a physiological level, conservatives appear to spend more energy “monitoring things that make them feel uncomfortable,” psychologist Mike Dodd tells LiveScience.com. That may make them more receptive to campaigns that stress their fears, while liberals are more drawn to hopeful plans for the future. “It’s amazing the extent to which they perceive the world differently,” said political scientist John Hibbing, who helped design the study.

— The Week, February 24, 2012

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