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Our Irrational Political Convictions

Though people like to believe their convictions are purely rational, a growing body of research links political differences to deep-seated physiological traits.

What’s the Latest Development?

Recent research demonstrates that physiological traits are deeply connected to our political convictions, despite our belief that we arrive rationally at our political views. Some physiological reactions, such as disgust, appeared more frequently and with a stronger intensity in individuals with conservative political beliefs than in those with liberal dispositions. Specifically, individuals who opposed gay marriage registered stronger reactions of disgust when shown a photo of a man eating earthworms.

What’s the Big Idea?

While the researchers speculate that people gravitate toward political positions which match their emotions, they say their study cannot identify a primary cause—feelings could also be shaped by political convictions. But the larger point, the study says, “is that certain political orientations at some unspecified point become housed in our biology, with meaningful political consequences.” Acknowledging the role of biology could encourage more tolerance among those with different political leanings. 


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