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Humans evolved in the context of intense intergroup competition, and groups comprised of loyal members more often succeeded than those that were not. Therefore, selective pressures have consistently sculpted human minds to be "tribal," and group loyalty and concomitant cognitive biases likely exist in all groups. Modern politics is one of the most salient forms of modern coalitional conflict and elicits substantial cognitive biases. Given the common evolutionary history of liberals and conservatives, there is little reason to expect pro-tribe biases to be higher on one side of the political spectrum than the other. We call this the evolutionarily plausible null hypothesis and recent research has supported it. In a recent meta-analysis, liberals and conservatives showed similar levels of partisan bias, and a number of pro-tribe cognitive tendencies often ascribed to conservatives (e.g., intolerance toward dissimilar others) have been found in similar degrees in liberals. We conclude that tribal bias is a natural and nearly ineradicable feature of human cognition, and that no group—not even one’s own—is immune.
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Tribalism is Human Nature
**In press; Current Directions in Psychological Science; as of June 10, 2019**
Cory J. Clark
Durham University
Brittany S. Liu
Kalamazoo College
Bo M. Winegard
Marietta College
Peter H. Ditto
University of California, Irvine
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Abstract
Humans evolved in the context of intense intergroup competition, and groups comprised of loyal
members more often succeeded than those that were not. Therefore, selective pressures have
consistently sculpted human minds to be "tribal," and group loyalty and concomitant cognitive
biases likely exist in all groups. Modern politics is one of the most salient forms of modern
coalitional conflict and elicits substantial cognitive biases. Given the common evolutionary
history of liberals and conservatives, there is little reason to expect pro-tribe biases to be higher
on one side of the political spectrum than the other. We call this the evolutionarily plausible null
hypothesis and recent research has supported it. In a recent meta-analysis, liberals and
conservatives showed similar levels of partisan bias, and a number of pro-tribe cognitive
tendencies often ascribed to conservatives (e.g., intolerance toward dissimilar others) have been
found in similar degrees in liberals. We conclude that tribal bias is a natural and nearly
ineradicable feature of human cognition, and that no group—not even one’s own—is immune.
Keywords: politics, bias, symmetry, tribal loyalty, intergroup conflict
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Tribalism is Human Nature
The human mind was forged by the crucible of coalitional conflict (Geary, 2005). For
many thousands of years, human tribes have competed against each other. Coalitions that were
more cooperative and cohesive not only survived but also appropriated land and resources from
other coalitions and therefore reproduced more prolifically, thus passing their genes (and their
loyalty traits) to later generations (Tooby & Cosmides, 2010). Because coalitional coordination
and commitment were crucial to group success, tribes punished and ostracized defectors and
rewarded loyal members with status and resources (as they continue to do today). Thus, displays
of loyalty and commitment to other members of the tribe also enhanced individual-level fitness
(by increasing status and resources and minimizing risks of ostracization). Over time, this would
select for traits that signal and enhance coalitional commitment (Berreby, 2005) such as ingroup
favoritism (Tajfel & Turner, 1979). Tribalism, therefore, is natural.
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Tribal Bias
Although tribal loyalties inspire many noble behaviors, they can impel humans to
sacrifice sound reasoning and judgmental accuracy for group belonging and commitment
(Kahan, Peters, Dawson, & Slavic, 2017). In other words, tribal loyalties can lead to tribal
biases. For example, people selectively approach information that supports their tribe’s interests
and avoid information that has potential to harm their tribe (by watching particular news
networks, or by forming “echo chambers” in their social environments; Stroud, 2010). And
people evaluate information they are exposed to in a biased manner by being uncritically
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By tribe, we simply mean a human social group sharing a common interest, and by tribalism,
we mean tendencies to be loyal to and favorable toward one’s own tribe (and less favorable
toward other tribes). By human nature or natural, we mean evolved human propensities that
develop in most humans.
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accepting of information that supports their tribe’s agenda and more skeptical of information that
opposes it (Ditto et al., 2018). These kinds of cognitive biases are problematic because (1)
post-enlightenment societies prize reason and rationality and no longer explicitly tolerate
obvious displays of ingroup favoritism, and (2) modern governments require the coordination of
multiple groups (e.g., political groups) to function. Biases decrease the likelihood of consensus
as groups fail to agree even on the facts in a particular debate.
There are at least two reasons tribalism distorts beliefs. First, beliefs display and signal
loyalty to group goals. Asserted opinions at least partially function as behavioral intention
indicators and therefore as coalitional membership indicators (Pietraszewski, Curry, Petersen,
Cosmides, Tooby, 2015). When one asserts “Abortion is immoral,” one indicates willingness to
coordinate with others to regulate abortion. Coalitions that generally oppose abortion (e.g., the
modern GOP) react negatively toward putative members who assert skepticism about pro-life
principles (Ditto & Mastronarde, 2009) because this indicates an unwillingness to cooperate on
that goal. If beliefs are held fervently, compel strong emotional displays, or are costly to hold,
they might function as honest (and thus trustworthy) loyalty signals (Kurzban & Christner,
2011). Perhaps perversely, dogmatism and resilience to contrary evidence likely enhance the
persuasiveness of the signal, because they show that one is strongly dedicated to the group’s
ideology in spite of potential consequences (e.g., being wrong about a difficult to answer
question).
Second, beliefs are precursors to potential arguments that support the interests of the
group, which coalitions are often formed to pursue and protect (e.g. wealthy people who want
low tax rates). In modern societies, violence is verboten, so tribes prevail not by conquering
other tribes, but by persuading other people—often, by making arguments. Sincere beliefs
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generally lead to better and more zealous arguments than cynical hypocrisy (von Hippel &
Trivers, 2011). Therefore, people are motivated to favor and believe information that promotes
their group’s interests and to resist information that opposes their group’s interests because it
makes them more persuasive proponents of their group’s cause (Kahan, Jenkins-Smith, &
Braman, 2011).
Political Bias
These two reasons also likely explain why politics appears to be one of the most fertile
grounds for bias (Van Bavel & Pereira, 2018). Political contests are highly consequential
because they determine how society will allocate coveted resources such as wealth, power, and
prestige. Winners gain control of cultural narratives and the mechanisms of government and can
use them to benefit their coalition, often at the expense of losers. Given these high stakes,
motivations to signal group loyalty and to defend the positions of the group are likely
particularly powerful in politics.
Within the political domain, individuals appear most biased about those issues most
important to the group, which often include moral commitments (Ditto, Pizarro, & Tannenbaum,
2009). As noted above, moral commitments signal that one is willing to conform to the rules of
the coalition. Therefore, groups are particularly prone to giving status to those who conform to
and vocalize support for moral norms and to deducting status from those who rebel and vocalize
dissent against those norms (Descioli & Kurzban, 2013). Thus, we can expect tribal biases to be
especially large for important moral commitments (Tetlock, 2002). For example, if opposing
abortion is a central goal for the political right, conservatives will be particularly biased about
facts surrounding abortion. If enhancing the status of women in society is a central moral goal of
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the political left, liberals might be particularly biased about facts surrounding the gender wage
gap.
However, humans also care about truth and accuracy (for obvious evolutionary reasons),
and so biases are most likely to emerge for issues where the truth is ambiguous (Munro, Weih, &
Tsai, 2010). Many if not most political (and moral) disagreements are about ambiguous issues.
Experts disagree about when a fetus or child can experience conscious pain and about the many
contributors to the gender wage gap (and even the size of it). Even if experts could agree on the
facts, political positions often reflect opinions about what ought to be the case (often subjective
beliefs) based on beliefs about what is the case (ideally objective facts). For example, if the
within-profession wage gap is largely due to women’s choices to work fewer hours, should they
be paid the same as men? Policy choices often involve painful and complicated tradeoffs (e.g.,
interfering with free market autonomy to reduce income inequality, investing in new and more
costly energy technology to minimize climate change).
When the truth is ambiguous, tribal biases are more powerful because argument is more
important than when the truth is clear. Groups do not debate whether trees exist because the
answer is virtually undeniable. They do, however, debate whether fetuses deserve various legal
protections or whether women are paid less than men for equal work, because there are
intelligent arguments on both sides of these issues and there is no one obvious correct answer.
There is an unfortunate tribal logic here. One might imagine that ambiguity would compel
humility and confessions of uncertainty, but when ambiguity occurs in the context of coalitional
conflict, it may actually increase epistemic arrogance and bias. This is perfectly sensible,
however, if we remember that humans are coalitional animals, not dispassionate reasoners. They
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were not “designed” to be humble; rather, they were “designed” to conform and to protect the
status of their tribe (Kahan et al., 2017).
Our guiding assumption, then, is that tribal bias is a nearly ineradicable element of human
nature and that it causes predictable cognitive biases (those that benefit the self and the group).
Specifically, people will be biased in favor of their tribe, particularly for issues important to the
tribe (often moral issues) and particularly when ambiguity is high and therefore the importance
of argument and persuasion is high. Given that modern liberals and conservatives share
evolutionary histories that favor loyalty signals and tribal biases, it is a priori likely that the
psychological propensities for bias would be similar on the political left and right. We call this
the evolutionarily plausible null hypothesis and recent research has supported it.
Everyone’s a Little Bit Biased…
Social sciences for a long time focused especially on the biases of conservatives, with
some scholars arguing that conservatives are more biased than liberals (e.g., Jost, Glaser,
Kruglanski, & Sulloway, 2003).
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But in recent years, researchers have pushed back against this
narrative, contending that the overwhelming preponderance of liberals in the social sciences may
have skewed research about political ideologies and the people who hold them. Liberals likely
see their own biases as truths (Pronin, Lin, & Ross, 2002) and see conservative beliefs as
peculiar and wrong; therefore, they seek to explain the “conservative mind” and its perplexing
biases (Duarte et al., 2015; Eitan et al., 2019).
This insight inspired Ditto and colleagues (2018) to conduct a meta-analysis to test these
competing hypotheses. Across 51 experiments that tested the tendency for liberals and
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Likely all political tribes display group loyalty biases, but the majority of this work has been
conducted in the U.S., so we focus on U.S. politics here. Future work should examine these
patterns in other political systems.
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conservatives to evaluate identical information more favorably when it supports their own
political commitments than when it opposes them (for example, a death penalty supporter
evaluating scientific methods as more valid when the results of those methods support rather than
oppose the deterrent efficacy of the death penalty), there was strong support for the symmetry
hypothesis: liberals and conservatives were both biased, and to virtually equal degrees. Because
the included studies were performed under tightly controlled laboratory conditions, these results
cannot tell us how liberal and conservative biases might vary over time and context, but they do
suggest that liberals and conservatives share the same basic psychology that leads to bias—and
to similar degrees. This finding is consistent with the evolutionarily plausible null hypothesis:
tribal bias is natural, and thus all political tribes should be similarly susceptible to it.
…Even liberals
Whereas earlier scholars often emphasized that conservatives were higher in proclivities
that ought to predict stronger biases (than liberals) such as authoritarianism and dissonance
avoidance, a new wave of research in social psychology suggests that many of these proclivities
exist in equal levels in conservatives and liberals. As can be seen in Table 1, these include
authoritarianism, discrimination, dissonance avoidance, prejudice, selective exposure, and
resistance to science. For example, although researchers previously thought conservatives were
more intolerant of dissimilar others, such results may have been due to confounds between the
target groups investigated by liberal researchers (e.g., African Americans) and the political
ideology of the target groups (e.g., African Americans tend to be politically liberal). More recent
work suggests that people exhibit higher intolerance toward groups perceived as more dissimilar
to their own group, and to similar degrees for liberals and conservatives (Brandt, Reyna,
Chambers, Crawford, & Wetherell, 2014).
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Table 1. Recent work demonstrating more symmetry between liberals and conservatives than
previously believed.
Domain
Claim
Reference
Authoritarianism
Left-wing authoritarianism exists, and
predicts similar outcomes as right-wing
authoritarianism
Conway, Houck, Gornick, &
Repke, 2018
Discrimination
Liberals and conservatives similarly
endorse more discrimination against
groups that violate their values than
groups that do not
Wetherell, Brandt, & Reyna,
2013
Dissonance
avoidance
Liberals and conservatives similarly
avoid writing counter-attitudinal essays
Collins, Crawford, & Brandt,
2017
Prejudice
Liberals and conservatives are similarly
intolerant toward ideologically
dissimilar and threatening groups
Brandt et al., 2014
Resistance to
science
Liberals and conservatives have similar
negative reactions to dissonant science
communication
Liberals and conservatives similarly
deny scientific interpretations of results
that conflict with their attitudes
Nisbett, Cooper, & Garrett,
2015
Washburn & Skitka, 2018
Selective exposure
Liberals and conservatives are similarly
averse to learning the views of
ideological opponents
Extreme conservatives demonstrate the
most selective exposure, but moderate
conservatives demonstrate the least
Frimer, Skitka, & Motyl,
2017
Rodriguez, Moskowitz,
Salem, & Ditto, 2017
This does not mean that conservatives and liberals are similar in all ways or that one
group will never be vastly more biased or incorrect than the other—they will (Federico & Malka,
2018; Ditto et al., 2019). Groups, as we have argued, are most biased about issues that are
morally important and ambiguous. The general psychological propensities for bias appear similar
on the political left and right, but there are predictable domain-specific asymmetries in bias.
To consider a few examples, conservatives appear more motivated to reject
anthropogenic climate change than liberals, likely because it seems to support government
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regulation and more centralization and hurts the fossil fuel industry, an important part of the
Republican base in the United States (Lewandowsky & Oberauer, 2016). Conservatives may also
exaggerate the amount of choice people exercise over their sexuality because homosexuality is
considered immoral by a substantial proportion of the religious believers in the Republican
coalition (Haider-Markel & Joslyn, 2008), and contending that it is a free decision rather than an
innate inclination is more compelling for moral condemnation (Clark, Baumeister, & Ditto,
2017). On the other hand, a growing body of work suggests that liberals in general are more
biased than conservatives about traditionally conceived disadvantaged groups (e.g. women,
Blacks; see Table 2), likely because an important moral value of the political left is opposition to
inequality (Jost, Nosek, & Gosling, 2008).
Table 2. Recent work documenting a domain-specific bias asymmetry about disadvantaged
groups such that liberals are more biased than conservatives
Finding
All political orientations demonstrate a pro-black bias, but higher
liberalism was associated with a larger pro-black bias
Liberals were more willing to make a utilitarian sacrifice of a White
man’s life than of a Black man’s life, whereas race had no influence on
conservatives’ judgments
Whereas liberals are more inclined to amplify the successes of
disadvantaged groups (i.e., Blacks, women) than advantaged groups
(i.e., Whites, men), conservatives treat the successes of both groups
more similarly
White liberals present less self-competence to Black than White
interaction partners, whereas White conservatives treat the groups more
similarly
Liberals are biased against the notion that there could be biological
differences between demographic groups when those differences appear
to favor advantaged groups, whereas conservatives display less of a bias
A study from a political bias meta-analysis with the closest relevance to
disadvantaged groups (affirmative action and same-sex marriage) found
one of the largest effect sizes for liberal bias (Crawford, Jussim, Cain, &
Cohen, 2013)
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Note that if one group currently has more or stronger concerns (because of historical and
time variant factors such as rapidly changing demographics or having recently lost a presidential
election), or if one group has more moral convictions in general, one might predict more bias in
that group (during that time period, or in general). However, our best current estimate is that
domain-specific asymmetries between liberals and conservatives appear to produce general
symmetries in pro-tribe biases among liberals and conservatives when averaged across multiple
domains (and over at least a brief period of time). Until newer or better information contradicts
these recent findings, it seems reasonable to posit that liberals and conservatives are roughly
symmetrical in their pro-tribe cognitive tendencies.
Conclusion
Humans are tribal creatures. They were not designed to reason dispassionately about the
world; rather, they were designed to reason in ways that promote the interests of their coalition
(and hence, themselves). It would therefore be surprising if a particular group of individuals did
not display such tendencies, and recent work suggests, at least in the U.S. political sphere, that
both liberals and conservatives are substantially biased—and to similar degrees. Historically, and
perhaps even in modern society, these tribal biases are quite useful for group cohesion but
perhaps also for other moral purposes (e.g., liberal bias in favor of disadvantaged groups might
help increase equality). Also, it is worth noting that a bias toward viewing one’s own tribe in a
favorable light is not necessarily irrational. If one’s goal is to be admired among one’s own tribe,
fervidly supporting their agenda and promoting their goals, even if that means having or
promoting erroneous beliefs, is often a reasonable strategy (Kahan et al., 2017). The incentives
for holding an accurate opinion about global climate change, for example, may not be worth the
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social rejection and loss of status that could accompany challenging the views of one’s political
ingroup.
However, these biases decrease the likelihood of consensus across political divides. Thus,
developing effective strategies for disincentivizing political tribalism and promoting the much
less natural but more salutary tendencies toward civil political discourse and reasonable
compromise are crucial priorities for future research. A useful theoretical starting point is that
tribalism and concomitant biases are part of human nature, and that no group, not even one’s
own, is immune.
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Recommended Readings
1. Ditto et al., 2018 (see References): A meta-analysis of partisan bias studies (which found
liberals and conservatives showed an equivalent tendency to evaluate politically congenial
information more favorably than politically uncongenial information), including a discussion
of how to reconcile conflicting literature on the question of symmetry in partisan bias.
2. Eitan et al., 2019 (see References): An article demonstrating the extent to which political
social psychology research can be affected by liberal viewpoints and values.
3. Van Bavel and Pereira, 2018 (see References): A comprehensive and topical overview on
ways in which partisan identity can affect individuals’ cognition, judgments, and decision-
making.
4. Kahan, Peters, Dawson, and Slavic, 2017 (see References): An article for understanding how
motivated reasoning in politics serves to maintain individuals’ standing in important ingroups
(e.g., based on political identity).
5. Federico and Malka, 2018 (see References): Example of a review article that challenges the
notion that conservative ideology is invariably linked with certain psychological dispositions
and argues instead that the association is often dependent on various factors, such as issue,
context, and group loyalty.
... Differentiated discourse easily collapses into simplistic opinions based on beliefs. Clark et al (2019) claim that an increase in ambiguity as found in moral issues does not lead to an acceptance of uncertainty but on the contrary increases 'epistemic arrogance and bias … since [humans] were "designed" to conform and protect the status of their tribe' (p.588). Beyond nations' formal borders, ideologic differences and rationality lie ancient binary human instincts of friend or foe, in or out, me or you. ...
... The city community generally also approves of project work, whereas the project neighbours perceive them rather critically. This local NIMBYism can be seen as a symptom of neoliberal planning practises where society is fragmented into individual citizens who are mostly concerned about possible financial impacts on their property investments extensively described in chapters 3 and 4 (Lasch, 1979;Caldwell, 1997;Sager, 2011;Harvey, 2013;Clark et al, 2019). ...
... The transition to an open and diverse society necessarily creates conflict and debate as diverse stakeholders claim agency, negotiating terms of a more equitable, more inclusive and diverse society (El-Mafaalani, 2018). Identity politics (Fukuyama, 2018) polarise even German debate, which indicates that Germany approaches a crossroads of either narrowing its national identity down to German tribalism (4.4; Clark et al, 2019) or extending membership to the significant portion of its population without 'German blood ' (4.4; 5.4; 5.5). In the latter case inclusive (not assimilative) policies must be established, accompanied by appropriately funded implementations on all federal levels (Gaitanides 2008;Hinze, 2013;Nuissl et al, 2018;Foroutan, 2018;Thym, 2018). ...
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This thesis identifies and understands how some cities have greater success in helping immigrants and ethnic communities become part of the urban community, while others have less success. Its objective is to propose a people-centred neighbourhood planning approach to assist immigrants and ethnic groups to better become part of the urban community. This thesis describes and interprets the complex response of neoliberal society to immigrants and ethnic minorities. It uses the experience of selected German cities as a case study. The thesis draws on critical theory and uses a mixed methods approach to examine local projects that include migrants and immigrants in urban planning. It takes a social constructionist perspective to explore polyrational urban perspectives. The research includes a range of relevant insights from recent approaches in planning theory towards more flexibility, diversity and inclusion. It refers to Foucault's understanding of power relations and governmentality as well as Gunderson and Hollings' social-ecological systems concept as part of resilience theory. The research describes the social implications of urban segregation of ethnic groups due to hegemonic neoliberal planning regimes in general and specifically as applied in Germany. It highlights the influence of German national identity on planning policies and the conflict of claiming rights and freedoms for Germans while denying them to non-Germans. The intensifying German integration debate indicates a society in transition from a folk nation to a diverse society. Findings include the observation the case study projects' struggle between the social ambition of local initiatives and the structural neglect of national planning policies and funding, knowing that strengthening local engagement is needed to promote successful urban diversity in a diversifying world. In response to this, a multilevel planning model is developed and tested against the case study projects. It consists of a nomocratic national level, a teleocratic municipal level and a newly introduced people-centred neighbourhood level. This level is finally sketched up in an attempt to develop a local adaptive and people-centred planning approach to better answer the polyrational realities of increasingly diverse neighbourhoods.
... Groups that cooperated and unified were often more successful and victorious than groups consisting of uncommitted members (Berreby, 2005). Therefore, humans evolved to be tribal, and tribalism is natural to all people (Clark et al., 2019). ...
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Everybody has to eat. In humans, meal eating is typically a social event, and there is a generally positive word, commensality, to describe this fact. Commensality seems to be a situation which promotes bonding. Many people spend one third of their waking hours at work. Lunch is the meal that happens in the middle of most people’s workday and could be an opportunity to create a form of commensality. Bonding enhances well-being. Therefore, it is reasonable to suppose that commensality will improve well-being, including at the workplace. A study was done to see if Americans perceive a commensal situation at work to demonstrate bonding and well-being, in contrast to a similar situation without food.
... Second, motivated reasoning, a ubiquitous psychological process by which individuals accept (reject) information congruent (incongruent) with their previously held beliefs and dispositions (Lodge & Taber, 2013), oftentimes leads individuals to adopt accusatory perceptions (Zell et al., 2021), including conspiracy theories about political out-groups (Miller et al., 2016). Given that elite cues and motivated reasoning appear to similarly affect both Republicans/conservatives and Democrats/liberals (Bolsen et al., 2014;Clark et al., 2019;Ditto et al., 2019;Guay & Johnston, 2021), beliefs in conspiracy theories born of these processes signal little about an innate connection between such beliefs and partisanship/ideology. 1 Conspiracy theories, like other ideas, can also attract different adherents as political and cultural circumstances shift over time. For instance, belief in conspiracy theories about election fraud are tightly tethered to the electoral fortunes of one's preferred party and that party's messaging (Edelson et al., 2017;Pennycook & Rand, 2021). ...
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A sizable literature tracing back to Richard Hofstadter's The Paranoid Style (1964) argues that Republicans and conservatives are more likely to believe conspiracy theories than Democrats and liberals. However, the evidence for this proposition is mixed. Since conspiracy theory beliefs are associated with dangerous orientations and behaviors, it is imperative that social scientists better understand the connection between conspiracy theories and political orientations. Employing 20 surveys of Americans from 2012 to 2021 (total n = 37,776), as well as surveys of 20 additional countries spanning six continents (total n = 26,416), we undertake an expansive investigation of the asymmetry thesis. First, we examine the relationship between beliefs in 52 conspiracy theories and both partisanship and ideology in the U.S.; this analysis is buttressed by an examination of beliefs in 11 conspiracy theories across 20 more countries. In our second test, we hold constant the content of the conspiracy theories investigated-manipulating only the partisanship of the theorized villains-to decipher whether those on the left or right are more likely to accuse political out-groups of conspiring. Finally, we inspect correlations between political orientations and the general predisposition to believe in conspiracy theories over the span of a decade. In no instance do we observe systematic evidence of a political asymmetry. Instead, the strength and direction of the relationship between political orientations and conspiricism is dependent on the characteristics of the specific conspiracy beliefs employed by researchers and the socio-political context in which those ideas are considered. Supplementary information: The online version contains supplementary material available at 10.1007/s11109-022-09812-3.
... The tendency to engage in motivated reasoning can change drastically depending on many of the factors discussed in this paper, but cannot be completely avoided. As suggested by Clark et al. (2019), tribalism, or the inclination to assume and defend the views of our own groups, is inherent in human nature and can be seen operating today in the political polarization experienced by many countries. ...
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The COVID-19 pandemic revealed that many countries have failed to provide the general population with the cognitive tools to thoroughly understand and cope with a global health crisis. While scientists and leaders worldwide have struggled to discover ways to contain the spread of the virus, this difficult task has become overwhelming due to the limited ability of many citizens to grasp the urgency of the situation. Although in today's digitized world we have endless access to data and more ways to represent information and statistics than ever before, numerous incidents have demonstrated that the frequent misapprehension of data can cause confusion rather than clarity. This opinion paper examines how issues such as the misunderstanding of large quantities, fractions, probabilities, and mathematical modeling may be affecting the way people view the current pandemic. Finally, we also discuss how numeracy can act as a protective factor against motivated reasoning, which often affects how we consume information related to the pandemic. ARTICLE HISTORY
... Consistent with this reasoning, previous research has found that perceptions of group status threat, prejudice toward powerful groups, and perceptions of intergroup threat are all positively associated with the endorsement of conspiracy beliefs [39][40][41][42]. In line with classic social identity theorising [38], in particular when the outgroup is perceived as stigmatising J o u r n a l P r e -p r o o f the ingroup of conspiracy believers [43], such enhanced intergroup hostility goes hand in hand with enhanced ingroup loyalty, cohesion and identification [44]-all contributing to a more positive ingroup identity. ...
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Can perceptions of economic inequalities trigger conspiratorial thinking? We provide evidence that high economic inequality may enhance conspiratorial thinking because, as a form of collective-level crisis, it undermines the social fabric of society and engenders anomie. We focus on the mechanism through which inequality should affect conspiratorial thinking by outlining how inequality enhances perceptions of anomie that, in turn, increase conspiratorial thinking. We end our contribution with the observation that it is by focusing on the socio-structural contexts that trigger conspiracy beliefs that we can more fully understand them. Specifically, conspiracy beliefs are not merely a product of individual irrationality, but are grounded in, and reflective of, the times that collectives live in.
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In order to promote a sound basis for considering the role of nuclear in climate change, this review spans the technical topics of social and political debate surrounding nuclear energy with a focus on the objective science of these issues including nuclear waste, accidents and overall risk. Novel aspects include the emergence of nuclear energy as being potentially renewable and the antithesis of Fukushima being an argument for the unacceptable risks associated with the use of nuclear energy. The purpose of this review is to present the facts about nuclear energy divorced from political, social or comparable bias. The results argue nuclear as effectively the most attractive option from almost every possible perspective in which common social discourse would have these painted as unfavourable if not horrific.
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A large body of research points to differences in the communal orientation of people from a lower and higher socio-economic status (SES) background. However, direct evidence for differences in communal attitudes remains scant. In this pre-registered report, we test the hypothesis that SES impacts the incentive value of cues associated with bonding and social relations, thereby fostering differences in implicit and explicit communal attitudes. We further speculate that for people at the low end of the SES spectrum, the prevalence of discrimination, exclusion, and conflict means that relationships may have less of an incentive value. Thus, we hypothesise that the association between SES and communal attitudes follows a curvilinear trajectory and peaks at medium levels of SES. Testing these predictions in a dataset derived from the Attitudes, Identities, and Individual Differences (AIID) Study (Hussey, Hughes, & Nosek, 2018), we found no evidence supporting a linear or a curvilinear association between SES and communal attitudes. Instead, implicit and explicit communal attitudes did not vary across the SES spectrum. We discuss the implications of these findings and avenues for future research.
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Tribalism is frequently cited as a feature of today's Western societies, having negative connotations of divisiveness, hatred of the 'other' and a favouring of people who are 'like us'. And yet the idea of belonging to a tribe, of finding identity within a tribe, is also seen as a positive and even a necessary feature of modern life. Churches often seek to define their own identity, their values and ethos, and so cultivate a sense of belonging amongst their members, promoting these things as biblically based and necessary. In the light of tribalistic attitudes, questions must arise as to whether these ideas are biblically justifiable and desirable, and if there is a relationship between a sense of belonging to 'us' and a tribalistic antagonism towards 'them'. The study commences by reviewing the literature to define the scope of interest, and to describe the underlying causes of tribalism. Tribalism is seen as a largely subconscious problem which arises due to various psychological and social pressures. Belonging, identity, fear and epistemological concerns are discussed, and the concept of the neo-tribe is used as a helpful way of describing features of today's tribes. Having formed an understanding of tribalism and summarised the key features then we review the Christian church and select examples of how the church has been impacted by tribalism. The final part of the work provides a focussed biblical overview, to relate scriptural wisdom to the underlying psychological and social issues, and the study concludes by developing a set of three biblical sermons that specifically address the issues that face a Christian, to help them see and deal with the problems that may motivate a tribalistic attitude.
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This thesis aims to consider some of the differences between mindfulness as a Buddhist practice and mindfulness-based programs. The primary difference considered is the individualistic perspectives taken by mindfulness-based programs. If modern mindfulness-based techniques are meant as a treatment for depression, and depression is in part caused by isolation then these programs must also consider mindfulness as a project, which does not accentuate the self as distinct from others. Personal salvation from deficits of the mind is a regular theme of modern mindfulness. This initial goal-oriented, self-interested perspective is potentially threatening to a depressed person who secludes her- or himself in a private world of the “fix it” self-project. With interdependent origination (緣起) as a tenet and the sangha (僧) as one of the three jewels (三寶), Buddhism emphasizes community where salvation is defined as the liberation of all beings from suffering. Therefore, this thesis suggests that mindfulness practices initiated from a self-help perspective are troubled to the extent that they isolate the practitioner. Therefore, a Buddhist interpretation of modern mindfulness, especially regarding individualism and isolation as a cause of depression, is desirable.
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Most Whites, particularly sociopolitical liberals, now endorse racial equality. Archival and experimental research reveals a subtle but persistent ironic consequence: White liberals self-present less competence to minorities than to other Whites-that is, they patronize minorities stereotyped as lower status and less competent. In an initial archival demonstration of the competence downshift, Study 1 examined the content of White Republican and Democratic presidential candidates' campaign speeches. Although Republican candidates did not significantly shift language based on audience racial composition, Democratic candidates used less competence-related language to minority audiences than to White audiences. Across 5 experiments (total N = 2,157), White participants responded to a Black or White hypothetical (Studies 2, 3, 4, S1) or ostensibly real (Study 5) interaction partner. Three indicators of self-presentation converged: competence-signaling of vocabulary selected for an assignment, competence-related traits selected for an introduction, and competence-related content of brief, open-ended introductions. Conservatism indicators included self-reported political affiliation (liberal-conservative), Right-Wing Authoritarianism (values-based conservatism), and Social Dominance Orientation (hierarchy-based conservatism). Internal meta-analyses revealed that liberals-but not conservatives-presented less competence to Black interaction partners than to White ones. The simple effect was small but significant across studies, and most reliable for the self-reported measure of conservatism. This possibly unintentional but ultimately patronizing competence-downshift suggests that well-intentioned liberal Whites may draw on low-status/competence stereotypes to affiliate with minorities. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved).
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Recent years have witnessed an increased public outcry in certain quarters about a perceived lack of attention given to successful members of disadvantaged groups relative to equally meritorious members of advantaged groups, exemplified by social media campaigns centered around hashtags, such as #OscarsSoWhite and #WomenAlsoKnowStuff. Focusing on political ideology, we investigate here whether individuals differentially amplify successful targets depending on whether these targets belong to disadvantaged or advantaged groups, behavior that could help alleviate or entrench group-based disparities. Study 1 examines over 500,000 tweets from over 160,000 Twitter users about 46 unambiguously successful targets varying in race (white, black) and gender (male, female): American gold medalists from the 2016 Olympics. Leveraging advances in computational social science, we identify tweeters’ political ideology, race, and gender. Tweets from political liberals were much more likely than those from conservatives to be about successful black (vs. white) and female (vs. male) gold medalists (and especially black females), controlling for tweeters’ own race and gender, and even when tweeters themselves were white or male (i.e., advantaged group members). Studies 2 and 3 provided experimental evidence that liberals are more likely than conservatives to differentially amplify successful members of disadvantaged (vs. advantaged) groups and suggested that this is driven by liberals’ heightened concern with social equality. Addressing theorizing about ideological asymmetries, we observed that political liberals are more responsible than conservatives for differential amplification. Our results highlight ideology’s polarizing power to shape even whose accomplishments we promote, and extend theorizing about behavioral manifestations of egalitarian motives.
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Baron and Jost (this issue) present three critiques of our meta-analysis demonstrating similar levels of partisan bias in liberals and conservatives: 1) that the studies we examined were biased toward finding symmetrical bias among liberals and conservatives, 2) that the studies we examined do not measure partisan bias but rather rational Bayesian updating, and 3) that social psychology is not biased in favor of liberals but biased instead toward creating false equivalencies. We respond in turn that: 1) the included studies covered a wide variety of issues at the core of contemporary political conflict and fairly compared bias by establishing conditions under which both liberals and conservatives would have similar motivations and opportunity to demonstrate bias, 2) we carefully selected studies that were least vulnerable to Bayesian counterexplanation and most scientists and laypeople consider these studies demonstrations of bias, and 3) there is reason to be vigilant about liberal bias in social psychology, but this does not preclude concern about other possible biases, all of which threaten good science. We close with recommendations for future research and urge researchers to move beyond broad generalizations of political differences that are insensitive to time and context.
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The present investigation provides the first systematic empirical tests for the role of politics in academic research. In a large sample of scientific abstracts from the field of social psychology, we find both evaluative differences, such that conservatives are described more negatively than liberals, and explanatory differences, such that conservatism is more likely to be the focus of explanation than liberalism. In light of the ongoing debate about politicized science, a forecasting survey permitted scientists to state a priori empirical predictions about the results, and then change their beliefs in light of the evidence. Participating scientists accurately predicted the direction of both the evaluative and explanatory differences, but at the same time significantly overestimated both effect sizes. Scientists also updated their broader beliefs about political bias in response to the empirical results, providing a model for addressing divisive scientific controversies across fields.
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Both liberals and conservatives accuse their political opponents of partisan bias, but is there empirical evidence that one side of the political aisle is indeed more biased than the other? To address this question, we meta-analyzed the results of 51 experimental studies, involving over 18,000 participants, that examined one form of partisan bias—the tendency to evaluate otherwise identical information more favorably when it supports one’s political beliefs or allegiances than when it challenges those beliefs or allegiances. Two hypotheses based on previous literature were tested: an asymmetry hypothesis (predicting greater partisan bias in conservatives than in liberals) and a symmetry hypothesis (predicting equal levels of partisan bias in liberals and conservatives). Mean overall partisan bias was robust (r = .245), and there was strong support for the symmetry hypothesis: Liberals (r = .235) and conservatives (r = .255) showed no difference in mean levels of bias across studies. Moderator analyses reveal this pattern to be consistent across a number of different methodological variations and political topics. Implications of the current findings for the ongoing ideological symmetry debate and the role of partisan bias in scientific discourse and political conflict are discussed.
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Recent scholarship has challenged the long-held assumption in the social sciences that Conservatives are more biased than Liberals, yet little work deliberately explores domains of liberal bias. Here, we demonstrate that Liberals are particularly prone to bias about victims’ groups (e.g. Blacks, women) and identify a set of beliefs that consistently predict this bias, termed Equalitarianism. Equalitarianism, we believe, stems from an aversion to inequality and a desire to protect relatively low status groups, and includes three interrelated beliefs: (1) demographic groups do not differ biologically; (2) prejudice is ubiquitous and explains existing group disparities; (3) society can, and should, make all groups equal in society. This leads to bias against information that portrays a perceived privileged group more favorably than a perceived victims’ group. Eight studies (n=3,274) support this theory. Liberalism was associated with perceiving certain groups as victims (Studies 1a-1b). In Studies 2-7 and meta-analyses, Liberals evaluated the same study as less credible when the results concluded that a privileged group (men and Whites) had a more desirable quality relative to a victims’ group (women and Blacks) than vice versa. Ruling out alternative explanations of Bayesian (or other normative) reasoning, significant order effects in within-subjects designs in Studies 6 and 7 suggest that Liberals believe they should not evaluate identical information differently depending on which group is portrayed more favorably, yet do so. In all studies, higher equalitarianism mediated the relationship between more liberal ideology and lower credibility ratings when privileged groups were said to score higher on a socially valuable trait. Although not predicted a priori, meta-analyses also revealed Moderates to be the most balanced in their judgments. These findings indicate nothing about whether this bias is morally justifiable, only that it exists.
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Although past research suggests authoritarianism may be a uniquely right-wing phenomenon, the present two studies tested the hypothesis that authoritarianism exists in both right-wing and left-wing contexts in essentially equal degrees. Across two studies, university (n = 475) and Mechanical Turk (n = 298) participants completed either the RWA (right-wing authoritarianism) scale or a newly developed (and parallel) LWA (left-wing authoritarianism) scale. Participants further completed measurements of ideology and three domain-specific scales: prejudice, dogmatism, and attitude strength. Findings from both studies lend support to an authoritarianism symmetry hypothesis: Significant positive correlations emerged between LWA and measurements of liberalism, prejudice, dogmatism, and attitude strength. These results largely paralleled those correlating RWA with identical conservative-focused measurements, and an overall effect-size measurement showed LWA was similarly related to those constructs (compared to RWA) in both Study 1 and Study 2. Taken together, these studies provide evidence that LWA may be a viable construct in ordinary U.S. samples.
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The preference for media that confirms prior attitudes and beliefs is problematic in democratic societies based on dialogue and joint deliberation. Over the last decades, partisan selective exposure (PSE) is argued to have increased along with other indices of polarization. We address the question of the increase in PSE, and possible differences by party, ideology and ideological extremity. Using data from the Pew Research Survey, we analyzed self-reported media consumption in 8 nationally representative surveys from the period 2000–2012 (n = 23,381). We relied on previous research on ideological classification of media outlets to conduct confirmatory factor analyses establishing the existence of 2 different variables, conservative and liberal media consumption. We predicted latent variables of media consumption using Item Response Theory models and analyzed the trajectories running latent growth curve models. An unconditional growth model revealed a general and sustained increase in PSE across ideological groups over time. Republicans showed a greater increase over time than did Democrats, after controlling for demographics. Introducing ideological extremity in the model revealed no differences in the trajectories of PSE between liberals and extreme liberals, whereas subjects identified as “very conservative” show a much steeper increase in PSE than any other group, whereas conservatives showed the lowest growth over time. We discuss theoretical implications for ongoing debates about political polarization and ideological asymmetry.
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Democracies assume accurate knowledge by the populace, but the human attraction to fake and untrustworthy news poses a serious problem for healthy democratic functioning. We articulate why and how identification with political parties – known as partisanship – can bias information processing in the human brain. There is extensive evidence that people engage in motivated political reasoning, but recent research suggests that partisanship can alter memory, implicit evaluation, and even perceptual judgments. We propose an identity-based model of belief for understanding the influence of partisanship on these cognitive processes. This framework helps to explain why people place party loyalty over policy, and even over truth. Finally, we discuss strategies for de-biasing information processing to help to create a shared reality across partisan divides.
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Research on the dispositional origins of political preferences is flourishing, and the primary conclusion drawn from this work is that stronger needs for security and certainty attract people to a broad-based politically conservative ideology. Though this literature covers much ground, most integrative assessments of it have paid insufficient attention to the presence and implications of contingencies in the relationship between dispositional attributes and political attitudes. In this article, we review research showing that relationships between needs for security and certainty and political preferences vary considerably—sometimes to the point of directional shifts—on the basis of (1) issue domain and (2) contextual factors governing the content and volume of political discourse individuals are exposed to. On the basis of this evidence, we argue that relationships between dispositional attributes and political preferences vary in the extent to which they reflect an organic functional resonance between dispositions and preferences or identity-expressive motivation to adopt a political attitude merely because it is discursively packaged with other need-congruent attitudes. We contend that such a distinction is critical to gaining a realistic understanding of the origins and nature of ideological belief systems, and we consequently recommend an increased focus on issue-based and contextual variation in relationships between dispositions and political preferences.