Conservatives and fear response — no surprise here


by David Safier

A Brown University study concludes that people with a genetic disposition to social fear are more likely to be anti-immigration and pro-segregation and are generally more conservative.

“It’s not that conservative people are more fearful, it’s that fearful people are more conservative. People who are scared of novelty, uncertainty, people they don’t know, and things they don’t understand, are more supportive of policies that provide them with a sense of surety and security,” [researcher Rose] McDermott said.

This conclusion isn't new. Other studies have indicated that conservatives have stronger fear responses and are more easily disgusted by unfamiliar sights and smells than people who have more progressive political views. These traits make conservatives feel more comfortable with a strong "daddy party" that promises to protect them and less comfortable with people who are different from them.

The study also concluded that people's experiences and education can lessen the influence of the genetic tendency.

“[T]he definition of unfamiliar may shift across time and location based on experience and education, and a genetically informed fear disposition is hardly permanent or fixed,” the researchers wrote.

The conclusions are tentative, of course, as they are in all studies, but they help explain phenomena like, say, Fox News, Wayne LaPierre, Dick Cheney . . .


  1. Larger fear center? Can one then explain why Conservatives are more likely to join the military and support national defense?