Context, engagement, and the (multiple) functions of negativity bias

Christopher M. Federico, Christopher D. Johnston, Howard G. Lavine
2014 Behavioral and Brain Sciences  
Disputes between those holding differing political views are ubiquitous and deep-seated, and they often follow common, recognizable lines. The supporters of tradition and stability, sometimes referred to as conservatives, do battle with the supporters of innovation and reform, sometimes referred to as liberals. Understanding the correlates of those distinct political orientations is probably a prerequisite for managing political disputes, which are a source of social conflict that can lead to
more » ... ustration and even bloodshed. A rapidly growing body of empirical evidence documents a multitude of ways in which liberals and conservatives differ from each other in purviews of life with little direct connection to politics, from tastes in art to desire for closure and from disgust sensitivity to the tendency to pursue new information, but the central theme of the differences is a matter of debate. In this article, we argue that one organizing element of the many differences between liberals and conservatives is the nature of their physiological and psychological responses to features of the environment that are negative. Compared with liberals, conservatives tend to register greater physiological responses to such stimuli and also to devote more psychological resources to them. Operating from this point of departure, we suggest approaches for refining understanding of the broad relationship between political views and response to the negative. We conclude with a discussion of normative implications, stressing that identifying differences across ideological groups is not tantamount to declaring one ideology superior to another. Abstract: Negativity bias may underlie the development of political ideologies, but liberals and conservatives are likely to respond to threats similarly. We review evidence from research on intolerance, motivated reasoning, and basic psychological threats that suggest liberals and conservatives are more similar than different when confronting threatening groups, situations, and information. Abstract: We argue that the political effects of negativity bias are narrower than Hibbing et al. suggest. Negativity bias reliably predicts social, but not economic, conservatism, and its political effects often vary across levels of political engagement. Thus the role of negativity bias in broad ideological conflict depends on the strategic packaging of economic and social attitudes by political elites.
doi:10.1017/s0140525x13002550 pmid:24970433 fatcat:r2enbqf5t5fzpnnc2zq6hwusle