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    Republican Or Democrat? Your Political Leanings May Be A Result Of Your Physiology
    By News Staff | September 18th 2008 03:00 AM | 11 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments

    How you react physically to stimuli can have a great deal of impact on how you perceive the world and therefore how you vote, according to a recent study by researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL).

    For example, people who react more strongly to bumps in the night, spiders on a human body or the sight of a shell-shocked victim are more likely to support public policies that emphasize protecting society over preserving individual privacy. The research results appear in the Sept. 19 issue of Science magazine.

    The study tested 46 people who identified themselves as having strong political opinions. Researchers showed subjects threatening visual images--pictures of a spider on a person's eyeball, a dazed person with a bloody face and an open wound with maggots in it--and monitored their skin for electrical conductivity, which indicates emotion, arousal and attention. In another physiological measure, the scientists surprised subjects with a sudden, jarring noise and measured how hard they blinked in response to being startled.

    "Those with the strongest eye or skin reactions to unexpected noises or threatening pictures such as a spider on a person's eyeball tended to endorse political positions that were interpreted as protective of social groups," said John Hibbing, professor of political science at UNL.

    Hibbing defined those "protective policies" as more defense spending, more government resources directed at fighting terrorism and tighter controls on immigration. "People in this group are more willing to sacrifice a little of their privacy to protect the social unit," Hibbing said. "On the other hand, the subjects who reacted less strongly to the stimuli were more likely to favor policies that protect privacy and encourage gun control."

    The first group believes the greatest threat to them and their communities comes from other people; they want to arm themselves and their government to defend against those threats. The latter group sees less threat from people and more threat from technology and inanimate objects such as guns that can kill or harm innocent people. They want policies in place to protect their individual privacy and safety: They oppose the death penalty and favor strong gun control. The study controlled for subjects' gender, age and income.

    NSF Program Officer Brian Humes said the Political Science Program at NSF sees this work as an important project that begins to link the sources of political preferences to biological mechanisms. "It also does so in a nuanced sense by stressing both the importance of environment and genetics," Humes said. "This linkage is one that could easily transform the manner in which political scientists and social scientists see the origins of preferences."

    According to Hibbing, these research results may help explain why various political groupings often have trouble talking to each other about protective policies. "Maybe liberals and conservatives have difficulty understanding the views of the other side in part because they experience threats differently," he said. "Perhaps by recognizing these differences, tolerance of diverse political opinions could be facilitated."

    In spite of these results, Hibbing stressed that a genetic predisposition to disturbing sounds and images is only one factor in determining an individual's political beliefs. Other factors such as environment and life experiences obviously play a part. "We're just talking about tendencies, it's far from determinative, but the fact that we can measure a difference at all is surprising and intriguing enough to warrant more study."


    Comments

    Odd, I fear nothing with my collection of firearms.
    Spiders are quite tasty after you gut and cook them.
    Loud noises are rather common on the firing line.
    Where did you get the the sample republicans from?
    A Phobia Clinic?

    Hank
    You gutted a spider and ate it?
    Did you find this beast in the caves under Mt. Doom?
    Well your political leanings had to come from *somehwere*.

    This is a horrible article and I would hardly call it scientific considering the limited use of parameters for the study. They have stuffed people into one of two groups without any consideration that its not accurate in the least bit.

    "Hibbing stressed that a genetic predisposition to disturbing sounds and images is only one factor in determining an individual's political beliefs."

    From all the studies I've done, these types of responses are not genetic and can be changed. When one gets at the root causes of them, which turn out to be permanent recordings in the person's subconscious mind acquired by episodes of traumatic events. With the proper kind of therapy, they can be eliminated.

    The type of things that happen, to give an example, are: startle reflex is lessened, getting sick at the sight of visual stimulation eliminated, phobias disappear , shyness disappears, and the list goes on and on to include all aberrations. Even mental illness will disappear.

    All these subconscious events take their toll on the immune system. As these events are eliminated, the persons health improves and they more likely to fight off sickness.

    this is such bollox. i'm the scaredest, most easily startled person alive, a total sociophobe, and i want smaller defense spending and greater gun controls, and my privacy protected according to the simple logic 1. that defense spending is actually attack spending, 2, why provoke an aggressive and stupid adversary into engaging in an arms race? and 3. it's idiots that put these dangerous technologies to nefarious use and to whom the term 'civil liberty' is as a kite-flyer to the taliban
    - i'm not more comfortable with technology- I'M MORE SCARED OF IDIOTS

    Doesn't sound very scientific. How was the model set up? Is it a linear relationship? What were the variables specifically? What were the confidence intervals?

    I'm an example of life experiences overcoming genetic predispositions...or so this study would suggest. I'm generally liberal in regards to defense and crime -- such things have cultural and sociological roots, and should be dealt with rationally, not with fear and vengeance -- but I grew up shooting and hunting, and am a concealed weapons permit holder. So I'm very skeptical of gun control. Most people's attitudes towards guns come courtesy of the media/big-city zeitgeist: guns in the media are almost always used for violence and killing, and very few folks in big urban centers grow up knowing any responsible, middle-class gun owners. So despite my supposed predisposition to fear technologies that threaten my individual safety, my familiarity with firearms says otherwise.

    Think about this: if you grew up in some alien society with fast, fail-safe public transportation available to take you anywhere at any time, wouldn't you find the idea of a society in which any average person over age 16 is allowed, with minimal training, to pilot their own vehicle at high speeds down narrow streets and highways, passing mere feet from oncoming vehicles hundreds of times a day, to be terrifying? But we're so familiar with cars and road safety rules that we take them for granted. Most people don't have that kind of familiarity with guns, but a lot of people do. Unlike fear-mongering NRA wingnuts, I could live with gun-owner licensing if I had to, just as I accept having to have a driver's license. But don't take away my right as an upstanding citizen to engage in my favorite hobby, and to defend my home and family if necessary.

    Hibbing defined those "protective policies" as more defense spending, more government resources directed at fighting terrorism and tighter controls on immigration. "People in this group are more willing to sacrifice a little of their privacy to protect the social unit," Hibbing said. "On the other hand, the subjects who reacted less strongly to the stimuli were more likely to favor policies that protect privacy and encourage gun control."

    Huh. And here I thought I supported defense spending because 1) it's Constitutional, and 2) makes more sense our federal gov't focus resources on a country's defense rather than 310 million+ individuals having to do it.

    I also thought I supported the 2nd amendment because, to me, not only protects the individual physically, but protects the individual's right to bear arms (which, again, is Constitutional). :-) I guess I'm just "scared" and didn't realize it. Thanks for setting me straight!

    Well, I guess 'blockquote' doesn't work in this thread. Sorry, the first paragraph is supposed to be seperate from my actual reply to it.

    Hank
    But telling us is how we know there is a hiccup - so thanks.  It's fixed now!