Psychology of politics: why do we take politics so personal?

Investigators

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Politics can lead to heated debates, social media rants, and even end friendships.

Why do we get so passionate about our polticial views?

“We are just so polarized as a society,” said Ashley Milspaw.

Milspaw is a psychologist. She says psychology plays a “huge role” in politics and is part of the reason many of us feel the desire to pick a poltical party.

“We are pack animals so a lot of time we will get our identity and some esteem by identifying with a group,” said Milspaw.

Milspaw says there is also a reason people tend to seek out certain news outlets, stories, and social media posts for poltical news and views.

“We like to see and confirm things that validate our preexisting world views and beliefs,” said Milspaw. “We want our unconcious biases say confirmed because that makes us feel safer.”

According to a 2018 study published in Social Psychology Quarterly, ‘Republicans Value Agency, Democrats Value Communion‘, social judgments can affect how political groups differ in their worldviews, biases, and attitudes. The study, out of Stockholm University, surveyed 300 people and found republicans and democrats tend to put greater value on different personality traits.

Republicans favoring qualities more related to reaching goals like being ambitious, hardworking, and focused. Democrats tend to favor traits that led to social relationships like being broad-minded, empathetic, and kind.

“I think that goes back into the group think we were talking about. If I am identifying with a particular group then I am going to be influenced by that thinking and then you are going to be more likely to articulate and advocate for say being more hardworking,” said Milspaw.

When it comes to poltical attack ads, Millspaw says the messages are geared to trigger our emotions.

“It is subtle hypnotism and they hire psychologist to play on your unconcious,” said Milspaw. “If you have a political ad that touches on something you are angry about people identify with that.”

So how do we keep emotions from overriding our critical thinking?

“I think self-awareness is key and then trying to challenge those basic assumptions. Ask questions instead of immediately seeing another person as a threat. We are humans. We are so complex,” said Milspaw.

The abc27 Investigators put together a non-scientific survey based on the ‘Republicans Value Agency, Democrats Value Communion’ study. Tune in tomorrow night at 6 to see the results.

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