Are we all liberals at heart?

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Recent research provides evidence that one important difference between liberals and conservatives is their basic moral intuitions. These studies suggest that while liberals and conservatives respond equally to considerations of harm/care and fairness (what Graham & Haidt call the “individualizing” foundations), conservatives also respond strongly to considerations of in-group, authority, and purity (the “binding” foundations) while liberals do not. Our study examined two alternative hypotheses for this difference—the first being that liberals cognitively override, and the alternative being that conservatives cognitively enhance, their binding foundation intuitions. Using self-regulation depletion and cognitive load tasks to compromise people’s ability to monitor and regulate their automatic moral responses, we found support for the latter hypothesis—when cognitive resources were depleted/distracted, conservatives became more like liberals (de-prioritizing the binding foundations), rather than the other way around. This provides support for the view that conservatism is a form of motivated social cognition.

Source: “The Role of Cognitive Resources in Determining Our Moral Intuitions: Are We All Liberals at Heart?” from Journal of Experimental Social Psychology

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