Is There an Association between Emotional Abilities and Right-Wing Attitudes?

Okay, maybe you see this as: “Really, you needed a study to prove THIS?”

Alright. I get it. But it is always good to have our beliefs and attitudes backed up by evidence.

That is exactly what some scholars in Belgium set out to do. In a recent study published in the journal Emotion, these researchers took a look at whether there are psychological attributes that go along with political ideology.

That is, these researchers wanted to know if the psychological characteristics are different for those who espouse left-wing versus right-wing political viewpoints.

In two studies, the researchers assessed the emotional abilities and political ideology of 983 Belgian undergraduate students. The second study also examined the participants’ cognitive ability. Emotional ability was measured with three tests: The Situational Test of Emotional Understanding, the Situational Test of Emotion Management, and the Geneva Emotion Recognition Test.

The researchers found that individuals with weaker emotional abilities — particularly emotional understanding and management — tended to score higher on a measure of right-wing authoritarianism and social dominance orientation. Right-wing authoritarianism is a personality trait that describes the tendency to submit to political authority and be hostile towards other groups. Social dominance orientation is a measure of a person’s preference for inequality among social groups.

Alain Van Hiel, a professor at the University of Ghent in Belgium, told PsyPost that, “The results of this study were univocal. People who endorse authority and strong leaders and who do not mind inequality — the two basic dimensions underlying right-wing political ideology — show lower levels of emotional abilities.”

Van Hiel went on to say that those with lower emotional and cognitive abilities were also more likely to agree with blatantly prejudiced statements, such as “The White race is superior to all other races.”

But Van Hiel warned against applying his study’s findings too broadly. That is, emotionally intelligent people can support prejudiced and right-wing views and people with lower emotional abilities sometimes support left-wing ideologies.

His findings echo previous research showing that people with low Emotional Intelligence were more likely to hold right-wing and racist views because they had less empathy and less ability to “assume the perspective of others.”

To read the full article, go to here.

Written by Jim Windell, MA

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