What decides as to whether we’ll advocate, in the course of our lifetime, the leftist or rightist option? Will we become liberals or conservatives? Who or what is responsible for our orientation? Is it the environment, childhood traumas or as was recently published, our genes? Those are questions that have occupied psychologists’ minds for decades.
John Jost from New York University, alleged seven years ago, based on information collected during the course of 50 years of research, that we accept certain political ideologies, “as we do all other convictions and belief systems, because they meet our needs, those needs that don’t belong in the conscious, rather the subconscious part of the mind.”
“The majority of research has shown that conservatives are for the most part people who get scared easily and experience the world as a dangerous place. It is partly implied”, Jost points out.
Then there’s the layman’s assumption that conservatives are somewhat “emotionally damaged people” with fewer friends, as opposed to open-minded people who are usually associated with liberal belief systems. However, results of a research conducted by Jacob Vigil from the University of New Mexico were recently published and claim the opposite.
Vigil claims that conservatives are those individuals, who at least in childhood and adolescence, are more prone to forming larger groups of friends and acquaintances. This is where the problems pop up. Namely, precisely because they’re exposed to larger groups of people, there’s a bigger chance of those same people hurting them, thus once bitten twice shy they become averse to anything “new”. Liberals are, however, those prone to smaller and more compact groups of people, thus they get a sense of security due to which they are more open towards new experiences. He tested his thesis on 838 students from his University. Turns out that those students who deem themselves democrats have 9.46 more friends on average, while those who consider themselves conservative, i.e. republican have 12.81 friends. It should be duly noted that the majority of other researches don’t concur with Vigil’s results.
Christopher Weber from Louisiana State University claimed that people with emotional difficulties will most probably steer towards political conservatism. Last but not least, there is Berkeley-based Jack Block’s intriguing research. Back in 2005 he compared personality traits of pre-school children and compared them to the political orientation of those same children 20 years later. It showed that “confidant, energetic and dominant children” grew up to be liberals, while the children “who were bullied and easily offended” turned out to be conservatives.
Until scientists concur on the matter, we can always rely on Woody Allen: “A brain anomaly, perhaps genetic, is what makes some people right-wing in their outlook.”