No big surprise. Via.
Using a large sample of related individuals, including twins, siblings, and parents and children, [Rose McDermott, professor of political science, and colleagues at Brown University] first assessed individuals for their propensity for fear using standardized clinically administered interviews. Looking at subjects who were related to one another, the researchers were able to identify influences such as environment and personal experience and found that some individuals also possessed a genetic propensity for a higher level of baseline fear. Such individuals are more prepared to experience fear in general at lower levels of threat or provocation.
Next, the researchers surveyed the sample for their attitudes toward out-groups — immigrants in this case — as well as toward segregation. Participants were also ranked on a liberal-conservative partisanship scale depending on how they self-reported their political attitudes.
The research indicates a strong correlation between social fear and anti-immigration, pro-segregation attitudes. While those individuals with higher levels of social fear exhibited the strongest negative out-group attitudes, even the lowest amount of social phobia was related to substantially less positive out-group attitudes.
The take-home quote.
“It’s not that conservative people are more fearful, it’s that fearful people are more conservative.”
Have we heard this before? Why yes we have.
In the 1960s Jack Block and his wife and fellow professor Jeanne Block (now deceased) began tracking more than 100 nursery school kids as part of a general study of personality. The kids’ personalities were rated at the time by teachers and assistants who had known them for months.
…A few decades later, Block followed up with more surveys, looking again at personality, and this time at politics, too. The whiny kids tended to grow up conservative, and turned into rigid young adults who hewed closely to traditional gender roles and were uncomfortable with ambiguity.
The confident kids turned out liberal and were still hanging loose, turning into bright, non-conforming adults with wide interests. The girls were still outgoing, but the young men tended to turn a little introspective.
The theory that fear, and racial fear in particular, explains the special American brand of wingnut crazy was popularized by noted social psychologist Michael Moore.