Are the stereotypes about liberals and conservatives true?


Although skeptics continue to doubt that most people are “ideological,” evidence suggests that meaningful left-right differences do exist and that they may be rooted in basic personality dispositions, that is, relatively stable individual differences in psychological needs, motives, and orientations toward the world. Seventy-five years of theory and research on personality and political orientation has produced a long list of dispositions, traits, and behaviors. Applying a theory of ideology as motivated social cognition and a “Big Five” framework, we find that two traits, Openness to New Experiences and Conscientiousness, parsimoniously capture many of the ways in which individual differences underlying political orientation have been conceptualized. In three studies we investigate the relationship between personality and political orientation using multiple domains and measurement techniques, including: self-reported personality assessment; nonverbal behavior in the context of social interaction; and personal possessions and the characteristics of living and working spaces. We obtained consistent and converging evidence that personality differences between liberals and conservatives are robust, replicable, and behaviorally significant, especially with respect to social (vs. economic) dimensions of ideology. In general, liberals are more open-minded, creative, curious, and novelty seeking, whereas conservatives are more orderly, conventional, and better organized.

Source: “The Secret Lives of Liberals and Conservatives: Personality Profiles, Interaction Styles, and the Things They Leave Behind” from Political Psychology, Vol. 29, No. 6, 2008

And suppressing the stereotype might not be a great idea:

Attempts to suppress stereotypes have often been found to result in an increased accessibility of these stereotypes. According to thought suppression literature together with research on prime-to-behavior effects, we hypothesized that suppression of stereotype can lead people to subsequently behave in accordance with its content and that these effects are stronger after suppression (rebound) than after a classical priming condition (i.e., no-suppression condition). Experiment 1 showed that suppression of the stereotype of sportsmen (associated with poor math performance) but not of Italian men (not related to math performance) led participants to subsequently perform worse on a calculus task in comparison to non-suppressors. These effects were replicated in a second experiment with another stereotype (elderly) and another behavior that does not require self-regulation (walking speed): Suppressors walked slower than non-suppressors. These findings are considered in the context of mental control and social stereotyping.

Source: “Behavioral rebound following stereotype suppression” from European Journal of Social Psychology, Volume 40, Issue 5, pages 774–782, August 2010

Good political documentaries are here, here, and here.

The most entertaining political book I’ve ever read is this one. If you want to learn more about the state of politics today, I recommend checking out this book. For a humorous look at countries around the world I recommend this book. A great satire about politics in the modern age is here.

Not that your vote matters.

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