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Your eye movements reveal your political voting habits

Illustration for article titled Your eye movements reveal your political voting habits

Liberals and conservatives have different ways of looking at other people - literally. Scientists say that conservatives tend to ignore what other people look at, while liberals always follow other people's gazes to see what they're seeing.


In a recent study, psychologists from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln studied how liberals and conservatives respond to "gaze cues," which refer to "a person's tendency to shift attention in a direction consistent with another person's eye movements." In a release about the report, the University of Nebraska explains:

Liberals responded strongly to the prompts, consistently moving their attention in the direction suggested to them by a face on a computer screen. Conservatives, on the other hand, did not.

Why? Researchers suggested that conservatives' value on personal autonomy might make them less likely to be influenced by others, and therefore less responsive to the visual prompts.

"We thought that political temperament may moderate the magnitude of gaze-cuing effects, but we did not expect conservatives to be completely immune to these cues," said Michael Dodd, a UNL assistant professor of psychology and the lead author of the study.

Liberals may have followed the "gaze cues," meanwhile, because they tend to be more responsive to others, the study suggests.

"This study basically provides one more piece of evidence that liberals and conservatives perceive the world, and process information taken in from that world, in different ways," said Kevin Smith, UNL professor of political science and one of the study's authors.

"Understanding exactly why people have such different political perspectives and where those differences come from may help us better understand the roots of a lot of political conflict."


They further suggest that there may actually be a biological basis for how you vote. One is left wondering how, exactly, there might be evolutionary pressures to produce Tea Party members or Obama acolytes. In other news, nobody has yet found an explanation for Canada's Lemon Party.

Read the full scientific paper via the University of Nebraska [PDF]

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Of course, the fact that "conservative" and "liberals" are term with fluid meaning that change from country, to country, from region to region, from era to era, from people to people, completly invalid any conlusions. How can you say something is linked to a something when one of the thing has no real, absolute meaning?