New report finds Conservatives demonstrate more self control than Liberals

New report finds Conservatives demonstrate more self control than Liberals
Credit: Freedigitalphotos.net

Findings from three separate studies link a person's political ideology and their self-control performance, with conservatives demonstrating greater self-control than liberals. The research led by Joshua John Clarkson, a University of Cincinnati assistant professor of marketing, is published in this week's early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Two studies in the report involved tasks that were conducted among undergraduates at two Midwestern universities over the past year. The third study involved 135 people across the U.S. taking part in a survey through Amazon Mechanical Turk service. In each study, Clarkson says participants who identified as politically conservative consistently showed greater attention regulation and task persistence—hallmark indicators of self-control—and that these effects were independent of participants' gender, race, age, education or income.

Study 1

At one Midwestern university, 147 undergraduates completed a modified Stroop task. Sitting in front of a computer screen, they were presented with a word that represented a color (red, blue, green, yellow), with the words presented on an incongruent background. For example, the word 'yellow' would appear on a blue background. The researchers examined how quickly participants would respond with the word, controlling for correctness. "We found that those who identified as conservative were as correct as liberals, but they were performing the tasks faster. This finding suggests that conservatives might be better able to fixate their attention on a task," says Clarkson.

Study 2

At a separate Midwestern university, 176 undergraduates performed the same Stroop task. Again, researchers found that as political conservatism increased, there was a faster response time as well as an increase in the belief of freewill. "Both conservatives and liberals reported that they wanted to perform well, but again, conservatives were responding faster, and this faster response stemmed from their stronger belief in freewill. That is, conservatives' belief in their responsibility for their outcome contributed to their faster responding," says Clarkson.

Study 3

Using Amazon Mechanical Turk, 135 Americans participated in several seven-letter anagram self-control tasks. For each anagram, they were asked—under a set of rules (e.g., words had to have at least three letters)—to create as many English words as they could with the letters. Importantly, participants were told they could decide when they wanted to end the task. The researchers found that the conservatives spent more time on the task than the liberals.

However, the findings showed that conservatives outperformed liberals only when participants believed freewill has a beneficial impact on self-control. When participants believed freewill could undermine self-control, liberals outperformed conservatives.

"This finding is especially interesting because research to this point has focused only on the positive outcomes of believing in freewill," says Clarkson. "However, one could imagine a host of situations where knowing you are responsible for your actions could lead to frustration, anxiety and other negative emotions that could impair self-control. In these contexts, these findings would suggest will demonstrate greater self-control."

Clarkson explains how the research offers clear insight into the psyche of consumers. "When marketers consider self-control, we tend to think of sticking to a diet or exercise regimen, not wandering off your grocery list or avoiding impulsive purchases. All of these behaviors exhibit elements of attention regulation and persistence. Ultimately, however, it all comes down to believing whether or not you can control your own behavior, and what we're finding is that conservatives are more likely to believe they can control their own behavior."

Results of the study were reported in PNAS under the title, "The consequences of political ideology."


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More information: The self-control consequences of political ideology, by Joshua John Clarkson et al. www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1503530112
Citation: New report finds Conservatives demonstrate more self control than Liberals (2015, June 22) retrieved 24 August 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2015-06-liberals.html
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Jun 22, 2015
This study is deeply flawed because it fits a linear curve to data that are not linear. As a linear trend the results are statistically valid, but it paints a false picture to do so. Moderate conservatives have more self control than moderate liberals. But extreme conservative and liberals both have less self control, with the least on the far right. Moderate conservatives have a *lot* more, and there are a lot more of them, so the linear fit is still statistically significant.

Practical test. Go to a political meeting and watch who, if anyone, shouts down a speaker. It will not be the moderates. Mon dieu, go to a political function where there's a TEA contingent and find me ONE example of them demonstrating *any* level of self control. This study effectively lumps those nutters in the same group with Colin Powell.

Very.poor.science.

Jun 22, 2015
The very word conservative signifies self control, reservation. As a centrist (so not affiliated with either party nor inclined to promote either), I can attest to liberals practicing less self control than conservatives from personal experience. This is anecdotal of course so it may not encompass the true scope of the question (which is exactly the purpose of the study! hint: NiteSky). The purpose of the study was to remove personal bias from the equation. Result: Conservatives have more self control.

If anyone feels the study is flawed they are free to collect their own evidence and present a rebuttal.

Jun 22, 2015
Why is a US govt agency involved with this?

Jun 22, 2015
Self control in this context is really repression. Is it really an attribute to sit quietly while an injustice is taking place, like so many conservatives did during unjust "police actions" like Vietnam, or farther back when civil rights marchers were being clubbed and attacked by police dogs? The self control of the conservative masks his deep seated rage of childhood humiliation in his paternalistic nuclear family.
Forgive my lack of self control- I must be a liberal.

Jun 22, 2015
This "study" is a joke. It makes a blanket statement about "conservatives" and "liberals" then goes on to say that well uh in different circumstances the other side has more self control. Junk science. I could go on for pages but I won't subject you good people

Jun 22, 2015
New report finds Conservatives demonstrate more self control than Liberals

Hence, the need for the "social safety net". They need it due to their inability to control themselves. They vote from selfishness but claim compassion. It's typical selfish liberal agenda that yours is mine.

Jun 22, 2015
The study seeks to establish what is generally considered a truism -- that conservatives exhibit more self control than liberals. But then the study becomes concerned with the perception (or lack thereof) of free will.

Free will should be obvious to any but the most challenged mentally, but there is a continuing argument today about free will or the lack thereof. If you can't see it, I guess you can't see it. But diverting a study about self control into an argument about free will is at least deceptive. It also invalidates the study because of the preoccupation with free will arguments.

Jun 22, 2015
stupid crap ;;liberal and conservative are the same oligarchy , liberals were against the vietnam war because it was 'bad for america' not because it was immoral.

Jun 22, 2015
Lol snoosebaum, are you like 13?
I'm not making fun of you, but there's a lot more to the history of our political institutions than that.

Jun 22, 2015
Not surprising, but it's not like republicans have had a good president in since Eisenhower.

Cantdrive,
Maybe I believe welfare is actually good for the economy? It's not out of pitty, it's because it's a total drain on society to have millions of homeless people.

Jun 22, 2015
...almost from birth, the lifelong regimen of anal sphincter self control, confers on conservatives a level of 'closed up @sshole' mastery rarely surpassed by more liberal and progressive thinking peoples.

Jun 22, 2015
Dubya Sr and Dubya Jr sure had a lot of self control. They only bombed the middle east a few times. Imagine if they had been liberals.

Jun 23, 2015
If I look at the methodology, I don't see how this says anything meaningful about self-control. Study 3 seems to come closest, but if you look at the section on the second study, you see a line like "Both conservatives and liberals reported that they wanted to perform well, but again, conservatives were responding faster, and this faster response stemmed from their stronger belief in freewill. That is, conservatives' belief in their responsibility for their outcome contributed to their faster responding,"

Talk about non-sequitur reasoning! It's this kind of sloppy reasoning that makes me so sad about social science...

Jun 23, 2015
stupid crap ;;liberal and conservative are the same oligarchy , liberals were against the vietnam war because it was 'bad for america' not because it was immoral.

Were you actually there? I was: Naval Air, '67 to '70.

The overwhelming knee-jerk sentiment of the protesters was that all war was immoral, in between getting stoned and screwing each other silly. It was the conservatives who worried about things like "the good of the country," while getting rich via the "military industrial complex." Not much has changed there.

I'm talking about rank-and-file citizens, of course. As for the politicians, it was Democrat Kennedy who dumped us into Nam, Democrat Johnson who kept us there and the Republican Nixon who got us out. All a bunch of f-ing hypocrites. Not much change there, either.

Jun 23, 2015
This comment has been removed by a moderator.

Jun 23, 2015
Just look at the AGW crowd on this site. that will provide another study re: liberal self-control.

Jun 24, 2015
I agree is near-nonsense. Attention traits are not conclusive of what is generally thought of as 'self control'. Why don't they instead study things like the % wanting AND able to quit smoking in both groups, or stick to a diet, etc. There are so many ways to attempt to quantify this, but this seems a poor choice of those ways.

Jun 24, 2015
This comment has been removed by a moderator.

Jun 24, 2015
That's why 'liberals' promote socialism. They are projecting their incapacity for self control onto society and promote state coercion for external control.

Jun 24, 2015
Did everyone see how "controlled" the conservatives were when their two draft-dodging leaders started screaming "WMD!"?? They went completely berserk.

When are they going to PAY for those Republican Wars of Mass Killing and Corporate Profit?

Jun 24, 2015
"liberals were against the vietnam war because it was 'bad for america' not because it was immoral."
---------------------------------

This liberal enlisted and volunteered for that war, then turned against it while still in it.

It was about morality.

What did YOU do?

Jun 24, 2015
Remember all, while there is a difference between the ideologies of liberalism and conservatism, there is no difference between Amerikan Repugnicans and Dumbocrats. They're all corporatists one in the same.

Jun 25, 2015
Re lol , more complex eh ? So how is working out for you all? And the other 2 , went over to fight the dominos? How did that turn out? Disgusting

Jun 27, 2015
Is that why DNC stuff look like low end local band posters and RNC is like, full of all kinds of words?

Jun 27, 2015
I agree that the similarities in our 2 parties (so narrow, kids get 100million breakfast cereals and we only get 2 candidates for president? WTF) outweigh the differences. Like corporate nepotism and corruption.

Anyways I would wager that the mental stress a conservative has while watching the liberal shun self control is worse for a person than the actual self control factor. Conservatives tend to get butt hurt over everything,

Jun 28, 2015


I'm talking about rank-and-file citizens, of course. As for the politicians, it was Democrat Kennedy who dumped us into Nam, Democrat Johnson who kept us there and the Republican Nixon who got us out. All a bunch of f-ing hypocrites. Not much change there, either.


This is factually incorrect. You won't see me defending Kennedy's actions, but he continued, nearly unchanged, the covert operations launched by Eisenhower. Johnson unquestionably bears the blunt of the blame, but enjoyed overwhelming bipartisan support for his Vietnam policy, and Nixon did indeed eventually end the war, but he also needlessly lengthened it by almost four years and HE engaged in illegal and POINTLESS operations in Cambodia and Laos on an unprecendented scale while engaged in needlessly drawn out peace negotiations. Nixon did Churchill's statement on America justice: doing the right thing when all alternatives were expended.

Jun 28, 2015
I want to go on a rant here about liberals but since I am a staunch conservative I will exercise self control.

Jun 28, 2015
I agree with cantdrive85 here. As for "Steve 200mph Cruiz" who believes government welfare is good " because it's a total drain on society to have millions of homeless people" how is it a drain on others that some people don't have a home? Providing someone a home, doesn't make them productive, it makes them a drain in having to provide them a home.

Regarding conservatives vs. liberals, simple research shows that conservatives understand liberals, while liberals don't understand conservatives (a clear deficit of liberals). The research simply asks people to answer a set of questions as themselves, as conservatives would answer and as liberals would answer.
http://reason.com...is-way/2

Jun 28, 2015
Everybody understands selfishness and greed. It is the basis of conservatism.

That, and a penchant for extreme violence.

"Bring 'em on!".

Jun 28, 2015
Sometimes the study is not the study. Probably a paper or two worth writing off the commentary in this and similar threads.

Jun 29, 2015
I'm guessing this was posted mainly so that the conservative fanatics who frequent this site would finally have something that they wouldn't get all frustrated about. 'Cause let's face it, science has been very hard on conservative prejudices these past, oh, centuries.

To think that they are now clinging fanatically to a single dodgy article based on that one discipline of social 'science' that they've traditionally attacked for being the source of "moral relativism", "permissiveness" and whatnot...

Jun 29, 2015
More self control? Aren't these the pathetic goobers who got SO SCARED when Bush screamed "WMD!", they sent our sons and daughters to become the killers of entire families??

How did that work out?

Did they PAY for it yet?

Jun 30, 2015
Aren't these the pathetic goobers who got SO SCARED when Bush screamed "WMD!", they sent our sons and daughters to become the killers of entire families?


Q.E.D.

Jun 30, 2015
conservative prejudices these past, oh, centuries.

Data has shown the utter failure of socialism for the past 200+ years yet 'liberals' refuse to accept their prejudice.

Jun 30, 2015
Eric Rudolf and David Sweat have shown us the wages of selfishness.

Jul 01, 2015
conservative prejudices these past, oh, centuries.

Data has shown the utter failure of socialism for the past 200+ years yet 'liberals' refuse to accept their prejudice.


Wishful thinking is not fact. You are living in a far-right ideological fantasy that has very little to do with reality. You employ a shifty and unscientific definition of socialism and deny cold, hard facts while trying to force others to accept ideological ravings as facts.

You consider all state intervention in the "free market" socialism. Did you know that without extremely intensive state intervention, the extensive railway network that allowed the US to rise to the status of a world power economically and, as a result, politically, in the late 19th century would not have existed? And that's just one of hundreds of examples of what you would call socialism helping further society in general, and even helping further capitalist enterprise.

Jul 01, 2015
Wishful thinking is not fact.

The socialist French Revolutin failed.

shifty and unscientific definition of socialism

Socialism: state control of private property.

would not have existed

BS
"just as many roads and canals were privately financed in the early nineteenth century, a market entrepreneur built his own transcontinental railroad. James J. Hill built the Great Northern Railroad "without any government aid, even the right of way, through hundreds of miles of public lands, being paid for in cash," as Hill himself stated.[2]"
"In building his transcontinental railroad, from 1886 to 1893, Hill applied the same strategy that he had in building the St. Paul, Minneapolis, and Manitoba: careful building of the road combined with the economic cultivation of the nearby communities. He always built for durability and efficiency, not scenery, as was sometimes the case with the government-subsidized railroads. "
https://mises.org/

Jul 01, 2015
"Hill's Great Northern was, consequently, the "best constructed and most profitable of all the world's major railroads," as Michael P. Malone points out.[15] The Great Northern's efficiency and profitability were legendary, whereas the government-subsidized railroads, managed by a group of political entrepreneurs who focused more on acquiring subsidies than on building sound railroads, were inefficiently built and operated. Jay Cooke was not the only one whose government-subsidized railroad ended up in bankruptcy. In fact, Hill's Great Northern was the only transcontinental railroad that never went bankrupt."
"The Interstate Commerce Commission soon created a bureaucratic monstrosity that attempted to micromanage all aspects of the railroad business, hampering its efficiency even further. "
https://mises.org...r-barons

The state hates competition.

How well does the socialist AMTRAK perform?

Jul 01, 2015
I think somebody made Ryggy pay taxes.

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