'Conservative' conspiracy theories

Karen Douglas https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Karen-Douglas-2 (University of Kent), a researcher into the social psychology (a.k.a. collective control) of conspiracy theories, is quoted in bloomberg.com:

Research suggests that “people are attracted to these narratives when one or more psychological needs are threatened,” including the need to have clarity and certainty, the need to feel safe and in control, and the need to feel positive about groups you belong to ….

With climate change and its consequences, “people are facing a scenario that threatens these needs, and conspiracy theories offer a convenient alternative that might seem to address the threats,” she says. “If climate scientists are fabricating data and the whole thing is a hoax, then there is no threat to worry about and nobody has to take responsibility or make any changes ….”

I recently saw discussion of research showing that conservatives control categories with higher gain than progressives do. This is consistent with characteristics that are definitive of a conservative mentality, such as a demand that categories be well-defined without ‘gray areas’, anxiety with uncategorized novelty, and disgust for some category violations.

Neuroanatomical differences are also consistent with this. Conservatives have a larger amygdala and smaller anterior cingulate gyrus (which is involved in resolving conflict). The paleomammalian brain (importantly the amygdala and hippocampus) makes a ‘snap judgement’ as to risks and opportunities and communicates through the brainstem to ready the body accordingly. It’s assessment, associated memories, and associated corporeal sensations, are included with environmental input as the cortex constructs higher-level perceptions. It intermediates between the somatic branch (left side of figure) and the behavioral branch (right side of figure).

Research with twins found that “genetics plays an important role in shaping political attitudes and ideologies but a more modest role in forming party identification” (Alford, Funk, & Hibbing 2005).

This may dovetail interestingly with Brian’s research into machismo and militarism.

ALFORD, J., FUNK, C., & HIBBING, J. (2005). Are Political Orientations Genetically Transmitted? American Political Science Review, 99(2), 153-167. doi:10.1017/S0003055405051579

Hibbing, John R., Kevin B. Smith, & John R. Alford. (2013). Predisposed: Liberals, Conservatives, and the Biology of Political Differences. New York: Routledge.

Pedersen, W. S., Muftuler, L. T., & Larson, C. L. (2018). Conservatism and the neural circuitry of threat: economic conservatism predicts greater amygdala-BNST connectivity during periods of threat vs safety. Social cognitive and affective neuroscience, 13(1), 43–51. Conservatism and the neural circuitry of threat: economic conservatism predicts greater amygdala–BNST connectivity during periods of threat vs safety | Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience | Oxford Academic