In a new study sure to send right wing conspiracy nutters running to secure their protective tinfoil hats, Yale scientists have figured out how to turn conservatives into liberals. A decade’s worth of science has shown that a key factor in conservative views are a result of how much fear they feel. I’m not sure whether to laugh or genuinely feel bad for them, but, that quandary aside, this new study is the first time anyone has figured out how to actually change those views.
The main takeaway is when conservatives are asked to imagine they are safe before answering questions, their political views become liberal. In the past, studies have turned liberals more conservative by making them afraid but never have turned conservatives more liberal. Does this mean listening to a steady stream of Fox News telling people that gay sharia law is coming for their guns has propped up the GOP?
The roots of Conservative fear may be innate. Scanning studies show the amygdala aka the fear center in the brain is larger in conservatives and early in life the fear factor dictates future beliefs. A University of California study showed that the more fear a 4 year old had the more conservative their attitudes were 20 years later.
So with such biological differences, doesn’t this new study coming out in the European Journal of Social Psychology offer a sparkle of hope? Participants were asked to close their eyes and imagine a genie had granted them a superpower of being completely physically safe and invulnerable to harm, a control group imagined being able to fly. On the issues of gay rights, abortion, feminism and immigration, as well as social change in general those self identified Republicans who imagined being safe became significantly more liberal and more similar to the Democrats. On the issue of social change in general their attitudes were indistinguishable from liberals.
Liberal FDR’s saying “nothing to fear but fear itself “ makes a lot of sense in light of these studies, and so does Trump’s magnification of terrorism and immigration fears. It’s a common conservative trope to tap into our deepest fears by calling immigrants germs and bacteria, and referring to our country as a body. In fact another study by this same Yale group showed that fear of the flu increased anti immigrant attitudes, and a simple squirt of Purell was enough to make people chill on the immigrant bashing.
Should we just install Purell dispensers at polling locations?
By Being Liberal contributor: Sarah Ficca