Interesting studies. Whenever I argue with a conservative, I always end up saying in frustration, “But it’s not that simple!” It appears that for some people, their inability to reason out complex ideas is what makes them conservatives, and not their hatred of the human race (although there may be some overlap there)! What do you think?
Good news for conservatives as a compilation of four recent social psychology studies demonstrate that rather than necessarily being pathological, political conservatism is promoted when people rely on low-effort thinking.
In the four studies conducted by Scott Eidelman, Christian S. Crandall, Jeffrey A. Goodman, and John C. Blanchar published by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Inc, they concluded, “(P)olitical conservatism is promoted when people rely on low-effort thinking. When effortful, deliberate responding is disrupted or disengaged, thought processes become quick and efficient; these conditions promote conservative ideology… low-effort thought might promote political conservatism because its concepts are easier to process, and processing fluency increases attitude endorsement.”
In other words, complex thinking makes their heads hurt, so they don’t do it!
Ever wonder why conservatives can’t seem to understand that people are not always to blame for the circumstances they find themselves in? While personal responsibility sounds like it makes perfect sense initially, when you walk people through the various life circumstances that can render people temporarily dependent upon government help, it becomes clear that things are not so simple. These studies demonstrate the impact of correctional/effortful explanations on political ideology, “This analysis also suggests that some forms of political ideology may result from intentional and effortful correction. For example, Wänke and Wyer (1996) found that liberals scored higher than conservatives on the Attributional Complexity Scale (Fletcher, Danilovics, Fernandez, Peterson, & Reeder, 1986), an indicator that the former generate more complex and detailed (if not more effortful) explanations for the behavior of others.”
Which would explain why conservatives only seem to understand painful situations when they happen to them, or to someone close to them.
We think that compassion and empathy are a fundamental part of liberal values, and we note at times that it takes being in that specific situation for conservatives to grasp why, for example, liberals support universal healthcare for all. There are many studies that address that take on things, but this study is specifically addressing whether or not having low-effort thinking will produce conservative thinking initially, and they showed that it does.
That would fall under blaming the person versus the situation. In some instances, it takes higher level effort thinking (correctional thinking) to consider the situational explanation. An example is considering why someone might be on government assistance. Conservative thinking will blame the person, liberal thinking will correct that initial impulse with a situation-based explanation. “Skitka and her colleagues (Skitka et al., 2002; Study 4) analyzed interviews conducted for the 1987 National Election Studies and found that liberals were more than twice as likely as conservatives to correct an initial “person” attribution with a “situation” explanation in response to a question about government assistance. These correlational findings suggest that some instances of ideology may result from correction processes, overriding and adjusting initial conservative responses. Our experimental studies provide evidence of causal direction.”
Whether that low-effort thinking comes from being busy, overwhelmed, or inebriated, the study shows that under conditions of what we could call cognitive impairment or limited time resulting in low-effort thinking, people are more conservative politically.
As for those centrists (or, come election time, undecided voters), your suspicions appear to be correct. “People with strong political views—left or right—show more cognitive ability than broadly defined centrists.” (Kemmelmeier, 2008)