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This Machine Can Tell Whether You're Liberal or Conservative — And Conservatives Turn Out to be Scaredy Cats Who Live Life On the Defensive

Eye-tracking device University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Research suggests that, far from being the "tough guys" they imagine themselves to be, conservatives are in fact "scaredy cats" who see the world as threatening and adopt "defensive and aversive ideologies" to deal with their perception of a dangerous world.


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"...We know that liberals and conservatives are really deeply different on a variety of things," Hibbing explains on the latest episode of the Inquiring Minds podcast. "It runs from their tastes, to their cognitive patterns—how they think about things, what they pay attention to—to their physical reactions. We can measure their sympathetic nervous systems, which is the fight-or-flight system. And liberals and conservatives tend to respond very differently."

This is not fringe science: One of Hibbing's pioneering papers on the physiology of ideology was published in none other than the top-tier journal Science in 2008. It found that political partisans on the left and the right differ significantly in their bodily responses to threatening stimuli...

It all adds up, according to Hibbing, to what he calls a "negativity bias" on the right. Conservatives, Hibbing's research suggests, go through the world more attentive to negative, threatening, and disgusting stimuli—and then they adopt tough, defensive, and aversive ideologies to match that perceived reality.

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