Tag Archive: Liberal

Politics and Eye Movement: Liberals Focus Their Attention on ‘Gaze Cues’ Much
Differently Than Conservatives Do

ScienceDaily (Dec. 9, 2010) — It goes
without saying that conservatives and liberals don’t see the world in the same
way. Now, research from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln suggests that is
exactly, and quite literally, the case.

In a new study, UNL researchers measured both liberals’ and conservatives’
reaction to “gaze cues” — a person’s tendency to shift attention in a direction
consistent with another person’s eye movements, even if it’s irrelevant to their
current task — and found big differences between the two groups.

Liberals responded strongly to the prompts, consistently moving their
attention in the direction suggested to them by a face on a computer screen.
Conservatives, on the other hand, did not.

Why? Researchers suggested that conservatives’ value on personal autonomy
might make them less likely to be influenced by others, and therefore less
responsive to the visual prompts.

“We thought that political temperament may moderate the magnitude of
gaze-cuing effects, but we did not expect conservatives to be completely immune
to these cues,” said Michael Dodd, a UNL assistant professor of psychology and
the lead author of the study.

Liberals may have followed the “gaze cues,” meanwhile, because they tend to
be more responsive to others, the study suggests.

“This study basically provides one more piece of evidence that liberals and
conservatives perceive the world, and process information taken in from that
world, in different ways,” said Kevin Smith, UNL professor of political science
and one of the study’s authors.

“Understanding exactly why people have such different political perspectives
and where those differences come from may help us better understand the roots of
a lot of political conflict.”

The study involved 72 people who sat in front of a white computer screen and
were told to fixate on a small black cross in its center. The cross then
disappeared and was replaced by a drawing of a face, but with eyes missing their
pupils. Then, pupils appeared in the eyes, looking either left or right.
Finally, a small, round target would appear either on the left or right side of
the face drawing.

Dodd said the participants were told that the gaze cues in the study did not
predict where the target would appear, so there was no reason for participants
to attend to them. “But the nature of social interaction tends to make it very
difficult to ignore the cues, even when they’re meaningless,” he said.

As soon as they saw the target, participants would tap the space bar on their
keyboard, giving researchers information on their susceptibility to the “gaze
cues.” Each sequence, which lasted a few hundred milliseconds, was repeated
hundreds of times.

Afterward, participants were surveyed on their beliefs on a range of
political issues to establish their political ideology.

In addition to shedding light on the differences between the two political
camps, researchers said the results add to growing indications that suggest
biology plays a role determining one’s political direction. Previous UNL
research has delved into the physiology of political orientation, showing that
those highly responsive to threatening images are likely to support defense
spending, capital punishment, patriotism and the Iraq War.

Traditionally, political scientists have accounted for political differences
purely in terms of environmental forces, but this study shows the potential role
of cognitive biases — wherever they may come from — as a relevant area of
future research.

“Getting things done in politics typically depends on competing viewpoints
finding common ground,” Smith said. “Our research is suggesting that’s a lot
tougher than it sounds, because the same piece of ground can look very different
depending on which ideological hill you view it from.”

The study, funded in part by the National Science Foundation, is in a
forthcoming edition of the journal Attention, Perception &
and is authored by UNL’s Dodd, Smith and John R. Hibbing.

University of Nebraska-Lincoln (2010, December 9). Politics and eye movement:
Liberals focus their attention on ‘gaze cues’ much differently than
conservatives do. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 2, 2011, from


Very Interesting…

Liberals and Atheists Smarter? Intelligent People Have Values Novel in Human Evolutionary History, Study Finds

ScienceDaily (Feb. 24, 2010) — More intelligent people are statistically significantly more likely to exhibit social values and religious and political preferences that are novel to the human species in evolutionary history.  Specifically, liberalism and atheism, and for men (but not women), preference for sexual exclusivity correlate with higher intelligence, a new study finds.

The study, published in the March 2010 issue of the peer-reviewed scientific journal Social Psychology Quarterly, advances a new theory to explain why people form particular preferences and values.  The theory suggests that more intelligent people are more likely than less intelligent people to adopt evolutionarily novel preferences and values, but intelligence does not correlate with preferences and values that are old enough to have been shaped by evolution over millions of years.”

“Evolutionarily novel” preferences and values are those that humans are not biologically designed to have and our ancestors probably did not possess.  In contrast, those that our ancestors had for millions of years are “evolutionarily familiar.”

“General intelligence, the ability to think and reason, endowed our ancestors with advantages in solving evolutionarily novel problems for which they did not have innate solutions,” says Satoshi Kanazawa, an evolutionary psychologist at the London School of Economics and Political Science.  “As a result, more intelligent people are more likely to recognize and understand such novel entities and situations than less intelligent people, and some of these entities and situations are preferences, values, and lifestyles.”

An earlier study by Kanazawa found that more intelligent individuals were more nocturnal, waking up and staying up later than less intelligent individuals.  Because our ancestors lacked artificial light, they tended to wake up shortly before dawn and go to sleep shortly after dusk.  Being nocturnal is evolutionarily novel.

In the current study, Kanazawa argues that humans are evolutionarily designed to be conservative, caring mostly about their family and friends, and being liberal, caring about an indefinite number of genetically unrelated strangers they never meet or interact with, is evolutionarily novel.  So more intelligent children may be more likely to grow up to be liberals.

Data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) support Kanazawa’s hypothesis.  Young adults who subjectively identify themselves as “very liberal” have an average IQ of 106 during adolescence while those who identify themselves as “very conservative” have an average IQ of 95 during adolescence.

Similarly, religion is a byproduct of humans’ tendency to perceive agency and intention as causes of events, to see “the hands of God” at work behind otherwise natural phenomena.  “Humans are evolutionarily designed to be paranoid, and they believe in God because they are paranoid,” says Kanazawa.  This innate bias toward paranoia served humans well when self-preservation and protection of their families and clans depended on extreme vigilance to all potential dangers.  “So, more intelligent children are more likely to grow up to go against their natural evolutionary tendency to believe in God, and they become atheists.”

Young adults who identify themselves as “not at all religious” have an average IQ of 103 during adolescence, while those who identify themselves as “very religious” have an average IQ of 97 during adolescence.

In addition, humans have always been mildly polygynous in evolutionary history.  Men in polygynous marriages were not expected to be sexually exclusive to one mate, whereas men in monogamous marriages were.  In sharp contrast, whether they are in a monogamous or polygynous marriage, women were always expected to be sexually exclusive to one mate.  So being sexually exclusive is evolutionarily novel for men, but not for women.  And the theory predicts that more intelligent men are more likely to value sexual exclusivity than less intelligent men, but general intelligence makes no difference for women’s value on sexual exclusivity.  Kanazawa’s analysis of Add Health data supports these sex-specific predictions as well.

One intriguing but theoretically predicted finding of the study is that more intelligent people are no more or no less likely to value such evolutionarily familiar entities as marriage, family, children, and friends.