Liberals, conservatives, and the biology of political differences

Politics and Eating Worms

Miley Cyrus’ performance was 'disgusting'. Immigration is a 'threat'. These descriptors of basic emotional states are commonly tossed around in popular discussion of hot button social and political topics. Research on the physiology of politics suggests that this connection between emotion and politics runs much deeper than just colorful metaphor. Read More

I'm anathema to your study. How do you explain "outliers"?

I hate "gross" things and get pretty uncomfortable with strange surroundings or "trying something new." I am also pretty socially isolated and live at home, with family, in a rural community with few signs of civilization for miles. I have never even met (or encountered online) a person of non-white race, non-Christian religion (or no religion -- myself doesn't count) or non-heterosexual orientation in my entire life. Yet I consider myself politically liberal and have no problems with gay marriage, legalization of marijuana (or other drugs) for medical AND personal use, unrestricted access to abortion AND medical suicide, or people doing whatever XYZ thing they want to do in the bedroom as long as it doesn't harm anyone else or is unequivocally unacceptable in civilized society (pedophilia, rape, incest, etc.)

Interestingly enough, I myself have never done any of those things (including sex or even dating) and have no interest to either! So according to this study, because I've never myself been in a situation where I can exercise my beliefs, because my parents and entire family are borderline racists, and because I've never been exposed personally (as in face-to-face meetings) to anything but that, I should be to the right of Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, David Duke, and probably even Adolf Hitler. Yet I'm probably to the left of Sanders, Warren, maybe even Howard Stern? How did that happen? Ask anyone in my family and they'll say I fell on my head too many times or got stuck in the birth canal (or got "possessed" by an alien from Mars). How do you explain "outliers" who don't fit the pattern of a particular study?

I read about your work on

I read about your work on and it fits well with my understanding of the issue. I think there is also economic aspect where political views are shaped by perceived financial self interest.
I am interested in whether genetic selection by the contraceptive pill is leading to an increase in the number of conservatives and causing a mass extinction event of liberals and intellectuals. Particularly in the the US where bright women are expected to put their careers before child birth.
Selection can operate very quickly, you would hardly recognize that the farm animals of 200 years ago are related to the farm animals of today.
I am sure that 2 generations of selection pressure from the contraceptive pill has had a measurable effect on the US gene pool. Your work could be a way of tracking that over time.
Given that the contraceptive pill is an ultra toxin from an evolutionary point of view one can only assume that the human species will evolve to avoid it, perhaps by having extreme and bizarre religious views.

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John R. Hibbing, Ph.D. is the Foundation Regents Professor of Political Science and Psychology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


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