Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Why Are You Looking at Me Like That?

Political Leanings Revealed by the Eyes

"Across a variety of tasks, we are beginning to find a consistent pattern where conservatives are more responsive to threat/disgust, more responsive to angry faces, and less sensitive to gaze cues than liberals," Dodd wrote in an e-mail to LiveScience. "Liberals, on the other hand, are proving to be more responsive to positive/appetitive stimuli, more responsive to happy faces, and more sensitive to gazes."
Consistent with the observation that "A conservative is a liberal who has been mugged by reality".

There are several possible explanations for the result, Dodd said. One possibility is that liberals are more empathetic and thus more responsive to others. Another theory is that conservatives are better at following instructions and were thus more likely to listen when the researchers said to ignore the face.

Dodd and his colleagues believe that a more likely explanation is that conservatives value personal autonomy more than liberals, making them less likely to be influenced by others.

The results are correlational, meaning there's no way to know whether your tendency to pay attention to others influences your political beliefs or whether political beliefs change behavior.

"Both possibilities exist," Dodd said. "I do tend to think that it is more likely that basic cognitive biases influence how you process the world, making you more or less likely to seek out liberal or conservative ideals."
 There are a number of interesting follow up questions to be explored:

  1. Do these patterns persist after a change in government for liberal dominated to conservative dominated or vice versa?
  2. What happens when a person shifts political orientation.  Do these patterns shift or not?  If the do, do they anticipate or follow that shift?

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