Are humans liberal or conservative by nature?
Scientists have started to provide provocative answers by looking at the roots of morality. Influential psychologist Jonathan Haidt surveyed the world’s cultures and suggested that virtually everyone is born with an innate propensity for five broad moral instincts: fairness, not harming others, loyalty to one’s group, respecting authority and purity.
And in psychological experiments, conservatives value all five of the instincts, yet liberals tend to put far more weight on the first two — fairness and not doing harm — while discounting the other three.
It is easy to see how those play out in our political life. For conservatives, loyalty to a group easily translates into a suspicion of outsiders and, therefore, say, a discomfort with immigration. If respecting authority is a central moral value, then burning a flag is deeply offensive. Liberals want to talk about what is fair, and whether anyone is being hurt, while conservatives respond that liberals are missing the point.
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