Vote Your Biology

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Biology may have a say in who gets your vote this November. A new study published in <i>
<a title=”Science” href=”http://sciencenow.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/2008/918/2″ target=”_blank”>Science</a>
</i> found a correlation between physiological responses to threats and people’s partisan leanings. Test subjects with firm conservative political views displayed stronger physical reactions to unexpected loud noises and threatening images than those with liberal persuasions. While researchers didn’t want the study to be interpreted too broadly, <a title=”Wired reports” href=”http://blog.wired.com/wiredscience/2008/09/fearmongering-h.html” target=”_blank”>
<i>Wired</i> reports</a>, “the results suggest that fear leads to political conservatism.”</p>
<p>This isn’t the first time researchers have tried to crack the political biological code. A <a title=”2005 study” href=”http://www.berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2006/03/block.pdf” target=”_blank”>2005 study</a> by Berkeley psychologist Jack Block looked at the personality traits of a group of toddlers and checked back in with them as politically opinionated adults. Block’s conclusions were certainly colorful:</p>
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<i>…the relatively Liberal young men, when in nursery school two decades earlier, impressed nursery school teachers as boys who were: resourceful and initializing, autonomous, proud of their blossoming accomplishments, confident and self-involving. The relatively Conservative young men, when young boys, were viewed in nursery school as: visibly deviant, feeling unworthy and therefore ready to feel guilty, easily offended, anxious when confronted by uncertainties, distrustful of others, ruminative, and rigidifying when under stress.</i>
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<p>A 2003 study by New York University psychologist John Jost reached similar conclusions. <a title=”According to Seed” href=”http://seedmagazine.com/news/2006/04/predicting_politics.php” target=”_blank”>According to <i>Seed</i>
</a>, “Jost said his study found that an adult displaying heightened needs to manage uncertainty and threat was associated with an attraction to conservative ideas, while openness to new experiences and cognitive complexity correlated with liberal ideas.”</p>
<p>Not surprisingly, the findings of these studies have invited ample criticism. Selwyn Duke, writing for the <a title=”conservative <I style=”mso-bidi-font-style: normal”>American Thinker</I> magazine” href=”http://www.americanthinker.com/2006/03/do_bratty_kids_turn_into_conse.html” target=”_blank”>conservative <i>American Thinker</i> magazine</a>, called the Block study “psycho-babble,” and came to the conclusion that “the social sciences today mainly serve to provide a specious scientific basis for liberalism.”</p>
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