Think conservatism is based on fear? Here's some science that says you might be right.
On a semi-random online research safari, I found an MIT prof who points toward a study published last Septmeber by several profs (including Douglas Oxley of UNL, Kevin Smith and John Alford of Rice, and others) who found that conservatives may be physiologically wired for fear, or at least jumpiness. A random sample of folks in Lincoln, Nebraska (maybe they got my in-laws!) found that stronger reactions to scary pictures and sudden noises correlated with "support for military spending, warrantless searches, the death penalty, the Patriot Act, obedience, patriotism, the Iraq War, school prayer and Biblical truth, and opposition to pacifism, immigration, gun control, foreign aid, compromise, premarital sex, gay marriage, abortion rights and pornography."
In their online supporting materials, the profs are careful to note they are making no normative judgment, not saying that being jumpy or conservative is good or bad. And if I'm putting a team together, I figure it's a good thing to have some folks who are sensitive to certain signals of danger.
But this is an interesting bit of psychology to understand what may motivate folks of a certain political persuasion. Perhaps it also explains my working hypothesis that conservatives need more reinforcement of their beliefs (via talk radio, blogs, etc.) than liberals. Think of it in terms of my three-year-old: when she's scared, I need to tell her things are o.k. When she's not scared, she doesn't need to hear my reassurances as much. Might the same be true of my neighbors who are predisposed toward jumpiness... and Rush Limbaugh?
So, I wonder what happens if I sneak up behind Arlen Specter and say "Boo"?
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