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Tendency to fear is strong political influence
Date:2/5/2013

depending on how they self-reported their political attitudes.

The research indicates a strong correlation between social fear and anti-immigration, pro-segregation attitudes. While those individuals with higher levels of social fear exhibited the strongest negative out-group attitudes, even the lowest amount of social phobia was related to substantially less positive out-group attitudes.

"It's not that conservative people are more fearful, it's that fearful people are more conservative. People who are scared of novelty, uncertainty, people they don't know, and things they don't understand, are more supportive of policies that provide them with a sense of surety and security," McDermott said.

The researchers make clear, however, that genetics plays only part of the role in influencing political preferences. Education, they found, had an equally large influence on out-group attitudes, with more highly educated people displaying more supportive attitudes toward out-groups and education having a substantial mediating influence on the correlation between parental fear and child out-group attitudes.

"In this way, the definition of unfamiliar may shift across time and location based on experience and education, and a genetically informed fear disposition is hardly permanent or fixed," the researchers wrote.

McDermott said that while more research is needed to determine how various genetic, biological, and developmental pathways influence fear and what other factors might influence attitudes in concert with these forces, there are still several takeaways to the study, not least of which is how political campaigns might be manipulated to affect some people more than others.

The study also highlights the role emotion plays in the political process.

"We can roll our eyes and get really frustrated at Congress for being paralyzed, but we're applying a rational perspective to it because we're detached. But we have t
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Contact: Courtney Coelho
courtney_coelho@brown.edu
401-863-7287
Brown University
Source:Eurekalert

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