New study suggests conservatives are no more fearful or threat-sensitive than liberals

New research casts doubt on the theory that politically conservative people are generally more sensitive to negative and threatening information than liberals. While previous studies have indicated that conservatives have stronger responses to negative stimuli, the new research provides evidence that whether conservatives are more or less sensitive to threats is dependent on the context.

The findings appear in the British Journal of Psychology.

“For several decades, the dominant narrative has been that political conservatives are generally more sensitive to negative information (i.e. more fearful or threat-sensitive) than liberals. Conservatives are also perceived to be less open-minded, less exploratory and more cautious. As a consequence, conservatives tend to form more negative attitudes than liberals,” said study author Michael Edem Fiagbenu, a doctoral researcher at Friedrich Schiller University of Jena in Germany.

“However, most of the past research, explicitly or implicitly, used mostly physically threatening stimuli (e.g., terrorism, crime or food) to test the relationship between political views and sensitivity to negative information. We were therefore keen on verifying these past findings.

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