Friday, December 31, 2010

Mind: Political Leanings Revealed by the Eyes

72 undergraduate students sat at a computer screen displaying a drawing of a face. The volunteers were instructed to keep their eyes on the face, but were told that the face was irrelevant.

Initially, the face had no pupils, but shortly after the experiment began, pupils appeared and started moving left or right. Just after that, a target image showed up on either the left or right side of the screen, unrelated to the angle of the pupils. The volunteers' job was to press the spacebar key the instant they saw the target image appear.

Despite being told to ignore the face, the participants were generally 10 to 15 milliseconds faster at responding to the target if the pupils appeared to be looking at the spot where the target image would appear. That's a standard result and not so surprising, Dodd said. But when the researchers divided the students by their political beliefs, they found that liberals responded 20 milliseconds more quickly to gaze cues than did conservatives, who didn't show any indication that the face's gaze affected them.

There are several possible explanations for the result, Dodd said. One possibility is that liberals are more empathetic and thus more responsive to others. Another theory is that conservatives are better at following instructions and were thus more likely to listen when the researchers said to ignore the face.

Dodd and his colleagues believe that a more likely explanation is that conservatives value personal autonomy more than liberals, making them less likely to be influenced by others.

For more, see Political Leanings Revealed by the Eyes by Stephanie Pappas, December 27, 2010 at Live Science.

No comments: