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Political Beliefs

November 4, 2008

A person’s physical reaction to threats can predict their political beliefs.


The body politic…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

A person’s political beliefs are shaped by many social and psychological factors. But now, a study has shown that an individual’s physiology might have an influence as well. John Hibbing is a professor of political science at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He and his colleagues took 46 individuals with strong political opinions and measured their physical reaction to threatening images and startling noises.

JOHN HIBBING (University of Nebraska-Lincoln): The thing that we found is that by knowing how sensitive people were to these threats, whether they be auditory threats or visual threats, that we could make predictions about their political beliefs.

HIRSHON: Hibbing says the people with the strongest physical reactions tended to endorse policies protective of social groups, such as controlling immigration or fighting terrorism. He says understanding the visceral response people have to outside threats could help shed light on the diversity of political opinion. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the science society.