Partisans on the left as well as the right see social, economic and political questions as less complicated than do more moderate citizens.
That’s the finding of a team of scholars from Germany and the Netherlands that tested earlier theories about how people at the political “extremes” see issues differently and why they perceive issues as they do.
A number of assumptions, based on earlier research, were also examined. Ideologues are thought to be “more intolerant and more inclined to believe their attitudes to be superior than are moderates,” for example. One popular notion — at least in the media and the academic world — is that people with conservative opinions tend to be more “rigid” in their views than are liberals, who “engage in more nuanced thinking.”
But the latest research, published in Social Psychological and Personality Science, finds no evidence that liberals are less rigid or more given to “nuanced thinking.” The research in fact found little differences between ideologues of the right and the left. Both demonstrate thinking that is “dogmatic.” Both are susceptible to “overly simplistic conspiracy theories.”
The new research also debunks a previous explanation — that people on the extreme right and left possess “greater political knowledge.” Being highly politicized, it might follow that they pay closer attention to political news. But that’s not the case.
The research in fact found little differences between ideologues of the right and the left. Both demonstrate thinking that is “dogmatic.” Both are susceptible to “overly simplistic conspiracy theories.”
Say this for extremists: They save time.
More moderate citizens, impressed by the complexity of political issues, seem to spend more brainpower weighing alternatives. Those on the far right and far left “draw inferences more quickly.”
Whether these are the correct inferences is, of course, another matter.