Lazy Thinking Leads to Conservatism

Conservatives and liberals don’t seem to agree about much, and they might not agree about recent studies linking conservatism to low intelligence and “low-effort” thinking.

A study published in the journal “Psychological Science” found that children who score low on intelligence tests gravitate toward socially conservative political views in adulthood. This is thought to be because conservative ideologies stress “structure and order” that allows one to understand a complicated world through social conformity.

Now there’s the new study, published in the journal, “Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin,” that links conservative ideologies to “low-effort” thinking.

“People endorse conservative ideology more when they have to give a first or fast response.” So says University of Arkansas psychologist Dr. Scott Eidelman, the study’s main author.

Does that mean, or suggest, that conservatives are lazy thinkers?

“Not quite,” Dr. Eidelman says. “Our research shows that low-effort thought promotes political conservatism, not that political conservatives use low-effort thinking.” In other words, conservative thought is the product of a lack of critical thinking skills, not the other way around.

For the study, a team of psychologists, led by Dr. Eidelman, asked people about their political viewpoints in a bar and in a laboratory setting.

Bar patrons were asked about social issues before blowing into a breathalyzer. As it turned out, the political viewpoints of patrons with high blood alcohol levels were more likely to be conservative than were those of patrons whose blood alcohol levels were low.

But it wasn’t just the alcohol talking. When the researchers conducted similar interviews in the lab, they found that people who were asked to evaluate political ideas quickly or while distracted were more likely to express conservative viewpoints, as well.

“Keeping people from thinking too much…or just asking them to deliberate or consider information in a cursory manner can impact people’s political attitudes, and in a way that consistently promotes political conservatism,” Dr. Eidelman says.


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