New research has found that conservatives are much better than liberals at performing tasks that require a great deal of persistence, as well as attention regulation. Gender, race and socioeconomic status do not have any effect on this general rule.
The findings, published earlier this week, on Monday (June 22, 2015), in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences are not without timing, as the 2016 elections are right around the corner, and everyone loves a good debate, especially a controversial one.
Josh Clarkson, lead author and assistant professor at the University of Cincinnati, gave a statement saying that “This study is an attempt to take a contemporary approach to the classic picture of how liberals and conservatives explain behavior and the consequences of those explanations for self-control”.
He went on to explain that the hypothesis the project started with was that political ideology seems to affect one’s work ethic, and that you need to believe that you are entirely responsible for your own actions, as well as for the outcome of said actions in order to be better at engaging self-control.
Conservatives find themselves in this description more than liberals do, and those who fully embrace it are very likely to agree that a strong mind can always overcome a body’s desire, and that people can get past any obstacle if they really want to.
For their project, professor Clarkson and his team conducted a set of three (3) studies which ended up including more than 300 participants.
They subjected them to the Stroop test, known for asking people to look at a list of color themed words (red, blue, purple, orange, green), with the catch being that each word is printed in a different color that the one the letters describe. For instance the word “orange” is printed in purple ink.
What participant had to do was read the letters while ignoring the color of the ink. This proved to be challenging as professor Clarkson informs that when a person sees the word “red” printed in blue ink, they want to ignore what the letters are saying and simply call out “blue”. But participants had to suppress this impulse in order to prove that they had strong self-control.
While both conservatives and liberals were able to read the words as requested, the researchers noticed that conservatives were generally able to do faster than liberals.
There was one test, however, where liberals performed better than conservatives. It was during an experiment that had participants read a fake research articles that concluded believing in free will is considered an obstacle in achieving personal goals.
The article reasoned that those who hold themselves fully responsible for their own actions, suffer from anxiety, frustration and guilt, and that such negative feelings hinder one’s self-control.
Participants had to read the article right before taking a Stroop test, and the researchers noticed that liberals had better results than conservatives this time around. The working theory was that the art let doubt slip into the minds of conservatives.
The theory was confirmed when another group had to read another article that said the opposite, it stated that believing in free will improves your self-control, and conservatives went back to having better results than liberals.
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