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Physical attractiveness is an important social factor in our daily interactions. Scholars in social psychology provide evidence that attractiveness stereotypes and the “halo effect” are prominent in affecting the traits we attribute to others. However, the interest in attractiveness has not directly filtered down to questions of political behavior beyond candidates and elites. Utilizing measures of attractiveness across multiple surveys, we examine the relationship between attractiveness and political beliefs. Controlling for socioeconomic status, we find that more attractive individuals are more likely to report higher levels of political efficacy, identify as conservative, and identify as Republican. These findings suggest an additional mechanism for political socialization that has further implications for understanding how the body intertwines with the social nature of politics.
This article examines how disease salience influences attitudes toward two types of humanitarian aid: sending foreign aid and housing refugees. Some have argued that disease salience increases levels of out-group prejudice through what is referred to as the behavioral immune system (BIS), and this increase in out-group prejudice works to shape policy attitudes. However, an alternative mechanism that may explain the effects of disease salience is contamination fear, which would suggest there is no group bias in the effects of disease threat. Existing work largely interprets opposition to policies that assist out-groups as evidence of out-group prejudice. We suggest it is necessary to separate measures of out-group animosity from opinions toward specific policies to determine whether increased out-group prejudice rather than fear of contamination is the mechanism by which disease salience impacts policy attitudes. Across two experiments, disease salience is shown to significantly decrease support for humanitarian aid, but only in the form of refugee support. Furthermore, there is converging evidence to suggest that any influence of disease salience on aid attitudes is not caused by a corresponding increase in xenophobia.We suggest that the mechanism by which disease threat influences policy attitudes is a general fear of contamination rather than xenophobia. These findings go against an important hypothesized mechanism of the BIS and have critical implications for the relationship between disease salience and attitudes toward transnational policies involving humanitarian aid.
Recent research has revealed the complex origins of political identification and the possible effects of this identification on social and political behavior. This article reports the results of a structural equation analysis of national survey data that attempts to replicate the finding that an individual's negativity bias predicts conservative ideology. The analysis employs the Motivational Activation Measure (MAM) as an index of an individual's positivity offset and negativity bias. In addition, information-seeking behavior is assessed in relation to traditional and interactive media sources of political information. Results show that although MAM does not consistently predict political identification, it can be used to predict extremeness of political views. Specifically, high negativity bias was associated with extreme conservatism, whereas low negativity bias was associated with extreme liberalism. In addition, political identification was found to moderate the relationship between motivational traits and information-seeking behavior.
Intuitive thinking would argue that political or ideological orientation does not correlate with nonpolitical decisions, and certainly not with nonideological cognitive tasks. However, that is what happens in some cases. Previous neuropolitics studies have found that liberals are more adept at dealing with novel information than conservatives. This finding suggests that conservatives and liberals possess different cognitive skills. For the purposes of this article, two studies were executed to test whether this difference remained in alternative environmental settings. To this end, two novel cognitive tasks were designed in which one type of ideology or another was privileged according to the cognitive environment created by the tasks. Experimental findings indicate that liberals committed fewer errors than conservatives in one kind of cognitive environment, while conservatives scored higher in another.
Partisan identification is a fundamental force in individual and mass political behavior around the world. Informed by scholarship on human sociality, coalitional psychology, and group behavior, this research argues that partisan identification, like many other group-based behaviors, is influenced by forces of evolution. If correct, then party identifiers should exhibit adaptive behaviors when making group-related political decisions. The authors test this assertion with citizen assessments of the relative physical formidability of competing leaders, an important adaptive factor in leader evaluations. Using original and novel data collected during the contextually different 2008 and 2012 U.S. presidential elections, as well as two distinct measures obtained during both elections, this article presents evidence that partisans overestimate the physical stature of the presidential candidate of their own party compared with the stature of the candidate of the opposition party. These findings suggest that the power of party identification on political behavior may be attributable to the fact that modern political parties address problems similar to the problems groups faced in human ancestral times.
Emotional appeals have always been an important instrument in the mobilization of political support in modern societies. As found in several experimental studies from the United States, the emotions displayed by leading politicians in their televised public appearances have an impact on the political attitudes and behaviors of the public. Positive emotions such as joy or happiness, pride, and amusement elicit a more positive assessment of politicians, whereas showing negative emotions such as anger or outrage often diminishes the public's support. This transfer of emotions from sender to recipient has been described as “emotional contagion.” However, under specific circumstances, emotions expressed by politicians can result in counter-empathic reactions among recipients. To examine the role of emotions between political leaders and the public in an institutional and cultural setting outside the United States, this article presents experimental findings on the impact of emotions expressed by two leading German politicians on the German public. The study used emotional displays by Chancellor Angela Merkel and former parliamentary leader of the Left Party, Gregor Gysi, observing how their assessments by the German public changed in response to these displays. Consistent with existing research, we discovered positive effects on the evaluation of both politicians when they displayed positive emotions. However, the impact of negative emotions is different for Merkel and Gysi and can be described as contagion in the former and counter-contagion in the latter case. Furthermore, we found that individual recognition of the expressed emotions modified the effect they had on the evaluation of some leadership characteristics.
When people speak, they gesture. However, is the audience watching a speaker who is sensitive to this link?We translated the body movements of politicians into stick-figure animations and separated the visual from the audio channel. We then asked participants to match a selection of five audio tracks (including the correct one) with the stick-figure animations. The participants made correct decisions in 65% of all cases (chance level of 20%). Matching voices with animations was less difficult when politicians showed expansive movements and spoke with a loud voice. Thus, people are sensitive to the link between motion cues and vocal cues, and this link appears to become even more apparent when a speaker shows expressive behaviors. Future work will have to refine and validate the methods applied and investigate how mismatches between communication channels affect the impressions that people form of politicians.
Neuropolitics is the intersection of neuroscience and political science, and it has the interdisciplinary goal of transforming both disciplines. This article reviews the past 20 years of work in the field, identifying its roots, some overarching themes—reactions to political attitudinal questions and candidates faces, identification of political ideology based on brain structure or reactivity to nonpolitical stimuli, and racial attitudes—and obstacles to its progress. I then explore the methodological and analytical advances that point the way forward for the future of neuropolitics. Although the field has been slow to develop compared with neurolaw and neuroeconomics, innovations look ripe for dramatically improving our ability to model political behaviors and attitudes in individuals and predict political choices in mass publics. The coming advancements, however, pose risks to our current norms of democratic deliberation, and academics need to anticipate and mitigate these risks.