So can desensitizing people to violence and depravity through media influence their future political choices?
Our position on the political spectrum — right, left or centrist — could be down to a deep-seated psychological bias in the way people think about the world.
That’s according to new research published in the journal Behavioral and Brain Sciences, which tested reactions to viewing negative stimuli, like people eating worms or maggot-infested wounds (Hibbing et al., 2014).
The study found that the more conservative people’s politics was, the more intense their reaction to these pictures.
The variation between people was quite striking: some people did not seem to mind the pictures that much, while others reacted strongly, with much higher levels of skin conductance, showing they were sweating more.
This finding, combined with other research from around the world, suggests our so-called ‘negativity bias’ — an automatic orientation towards negative aspects of our environments — may be at the heart of our place on the political spectrum.
The authors explain:
“Across research methods, samples and countries, conservatives have been found to be quicker to focus on the negative, to spend longer looking at the negative, and to be more distracted by the negative.” (Hibbing et al., 2014).
A higher negativity bias may lead some people — conservatives — to lean towards creating order and promoting stability.
A lower negatively bias [sic] may lead others — liberals — to prefer innovation and progress.