Are We Addicted to Political Outrage?
We live in a world mediated by the news and social media in which opposing sides of the political spectrum are inspired to pathologise and hate one another with increasing vigor, yet a new study states that such enemies may actually have more in common than they do in opposition to one another.
People who identify more intensely with a political tribe or firm ideology share an underlying psychological trait: low levels of cognitive flexibility, according to a new study.
This “mental rigidity” makes it harder for people to change their ways of thinking or adapt to new environments, say researchers.
Importantly, mental rigidity was found in those with the most fervent beliefs and affiliations on both the left and right of the political divide.
This has been explored by Recovering Man in the form of modern media pathologizing enemies and inspiring you to hate, which breeds an addiction to finding new sources of information re-establishing supposed moral superiority and confirmation bias.
The solution put forth, as in the video below, is to forgive, thereby breaking the chain of anger and opening up a path to pursuing truth first:
The study of over 700 US citizens, conducted by scientists from the University of Cambridge, is the largest – and first for over 20 years – to investigate whether the more politically “extreme” have a certain “type of mind” through the use of objective psychological testing.
The findings suggest that the basic mental processes governing our ability to switch between different concepts and tasks are linked to the intensity with which we attach ourselves to political doctrines – regardless of the ideology.
Dr Leor Zmigrod, a Cambridge Gates Scholar and lead author of the study, said: “While political animosity often appears to be driven by emotion, we find that the way people unconsciously process neutral stimuli seems to play an important role in how they process ideological arguments.”
The research is the latest in a series of studies from Zmigrod and her Cambridge colleagues, Dr Jason Rentfrow and Professor Trevor Robbins, on the relationship between ideology and cognitive flexibility.