Researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln are reporting the results of new study that show liberals and conservatives respond very differently to visual cues. As ScienceDaily reports:
In a new study, UNL researchers measured both liberals' and conservatives' reaction to "gaze cues"—a person's tendency to shift attention in a direction consistent with another person's eye movements, even if it's irrelevant to their current task—and found big differences between the two groups.
Liberals responded strongly to the prompts, consistently moving their attention in the direction suggested to them by a face on a computer screen. Conservatives, on the other hand, did not.
Why? Researchers suggested that conservatives' value on personal autonomy might make them less likely to be influenced by others, and therefore less responsive to the visual prompts.
"We thought that political temperament may moderate the magnitude of gaze-cuing effects, but we did not expect conservatives to be completely immune to these cues," said Michael Dodd, a UNL assistant professor of psychology and the lead author of the study….
The study involved 72 people who sat in front of a white computer screen and were told to fixate on a small black cross in its center. The cross then disappeared and was replaced by a drawing of a face, but with eyes missing their pupils. Then, pupils appeared in the eyes, looking either left or right. Finally, a small, round target would appear either on the left or right side of the face drawing.
Dodd said the participants were told that the gaze cues in the study did not predict where the target would appear, so there was no reason for participants to attend to them. "But the nature of social interaction tends to make it very difficult to ignore the cues, even when they're meaningless," he said.
As soon as they saw the target, participants would tap the space bar on their keyboard, giving researchers information on their susceptibility to the "gaze cues."
Surely it would be an over-interpretation of the results to conclude that liberals are easily led. Go here for more information on the study.