Anyone who regularly reads my blog entries will know my interest in the psychology of political thinking. If you have an interest in psychology, you must be concerned one with one key question which is: why do people believe in the things that they do?
The study of political thinking brings this into extreme focus. It is also helpful from a clinical perspective. To explore these issues you must be able to put your own political bias to one side to understand the thoughts and reactions of others whom you may not agree with even on very heart felt subjects. So this is a great exercise in developing empathy. As I often point out, empathy is not agreement. Empathy is understanding.
Sometime ago I posted the suggestion of Jonathan Haidt's that religious thinking had its root in the evolution of disgust. As human beings we switched diet from herbivore to omnivorous. this opened up a wider range of calories to our distant ancestors but made food choices more difficult. Those who could discern the edible from the inedible prospered, hence the evolution of disgust. Religious thinking emanates fro this sensibility. All religions are preoccupied with the concepts of purification, cleansing and laying down morality that makes certain foods or behaviors taboo and those which are virtuous.
Recent research shows that this holds true of political thought as well. In a fascinating study, researchers found that they could predict peoples voting preferences with 95 per cent accuracy, based on their reactions to disgusting images. To read an great article in the Atlantic, click here.