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Who is Happier? Conservatives or Liberals?

July 19, 2018

Regular readers of this blog will be familiar with my perennial interest in the psychology of political thinking.  Certainly, in these ever more turbulent political times, the ability to suspend one's own opinion to understand the psychological drivers of others political views requires a supreme act of empathy. Therefore I think that reading the psychology of political thinking is immensely helpful in working the and expanding the empathy centers in the brain, which is so vital in daily practice.   And, who knows, it may even assist people to find common ground in a political spectrum too.

 

I was therefore interested in the following study of happiness and personal meaning.  Whilst this research suggests that conservatives have a more profound sense of peace in life than liberals, it also made me wonder whether something more radical occurs in political view points.  Are our political views merely a projection of own deep psychological states?  Where be people feel that they have achieved their life milestones, the world is a stable place that must remain ordered.  For those struggling to find their place in the world, the world must change and adapt.  Read the research and consider this for yourself and others, whom you both profoundly agree and disagree with.

 

A new USC Dornsife-led psychology study shows that conservatives, more so than liberals, report feeling that their lives are meaningful or have purpose.

"Finding meaning in life is related to the sense or feeling that things are the way they should be, and that there is a sense of order," said David Newman, a doctoral candidate at USC Dornsife's Mind and Society Center. "If life feels chaotic, then that would likely dampen your sense that life is meaningful."

 

The results, published on June 15 in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, were based on five studies examining how strongly conservatives and liberals feel that their lives have purpose.

 

The scientists analyzed results from two nationally-representative samples and three additional samples in which well-being was assessed in various forms. Altogether, these studies encompassed thousands of participants from 16 countries and spanned four decades.

 

Participants usually ranked their political ideology on a scale from one to seven, ranging from "extremely conservative" to "extremely liberal." They also rated how much they agreed or disagreed with statements such as "my life has a real purpose" and "I understand my life's meaning."

 

The psychologists were aware that religious belief may be a factor and adjusted the results to account for it. Even then, the association between political leanings and sense of purpose held strong.  The results suggest "that there is some unique aspect of political conservatism that provides people with meaning and purpose in life," the scientists wrote.

What does your lean mean?

 

Newman cautioned against making conclusions about anyone's state of mind and overall well-being based solely on their political leanings.  "It doesn't mean that every conservative finds a lot of meaning in their life and that every liberal is depressed," Newman said.  Other factors may influence whether someone feels that his or her life is meaningful. "These factors range from various personal characteristics such as how religious someone is to situational influences such as one's current mood," Newman said.

 

Story Source:

 

Materials provided by University of Southern California. 

 

David B. Newman, Norbert Schwarz, Jesse Graham, Arthur A. Stone. Conservatives Report Greater Meaning in Life Than Liberals. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 2018; 194855061876824 DOI: 10.1177/1948550618768241

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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