Politics, Civility, and Ideology – Insights from Psychological Science

We are political animals and it all starts in our brains. Psychological science gives us unique insights into an election year’s intensity and questions of political incivility, political ideology, political attitudes and brain structure, our genes and our political orientation, and emotional influences on decision making will be explored by leaders in the field at the Association for Psychological Science annual convention. These and many more panels, lectures, workshops and symposia will be featured throughout the convention in Chicago, held May 24-27, 2012.


Incivility and partisan gridlock are not unique to our time, but they have gotten worse since the early 1990s. In this talk, Jonathan Haidt, author of The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion will show how recent findings in moral psychology, combined with a dash of political science, can help us understand what has happened in the United States that renders the national government increasingly unable to act in an efficient and effective way.

Jonathan Haidt, Professor of Social Psychology, University of Virginia — Haidt@virginia.Edu

Saturday May 26, 12:30 PM – 1:20 PM



Five experts in neuroscience and psychological science will meet to discuss new findings about the way our brains and minds deal with political ideology.  John Jost from New York University will discuss his own research on the genetic origins, manifestations and social consequences of ideology.  He will also moderate the session.

John T Jost, Professor of Psychology, New York University.  John.jost@nyu.edu

Saturday, May 26, 2012 1:30PM-2:50


  • More than ideology divides liberals and conservatives. In fact, substantial differences exist quite literally in the way that they think and the way that their brains are structured. Geraint Rees will discuss the findings from his MRI studies of liberal and conservative brains. Geraint Rees, Deputy Head of the University College London Faculty of Brain Sciences —  g.rees@ucl.ac.uk
  • What alchemy of influences is at play in determining whether someone’s political orientation veers to the left or to the right?  Opinions and beliefs are one thing, but as it turns out, genetics and environmental forces can play an even more significant role in shaping those opinions and beliefs. Christian Kandler will present the findings of his research on the genetic material of mothers and fathers and how their personality traits affect their children’s political leanings.  Christian Kandler, Research Associate, Bielefeld University, Germany — Christian.kandler@unibilelefeld.de
  • A number of factors—namely an individual’s values and beliefs, the characteristics of their social environments, their ability and willingness to use political information—all interact to shape perceptions of the political world, the politicians, the issues, the values.  Christopher Frederico from the University of Minnesota will discuss how the great disparity in status among various social and ethnic groups expresses itself in how they each behave politically. Sometimes in very counterintuitive ways.   Christopher Frederico, Associate Professor of Psychology and Political Science University of Minnesota —  frederico@unm.edu
  • In some ways, given all the scientific evidence supporting the phenomenon, it is surprising that there is a debate at all about whether or not global warming is occurring.  But as we have seen, many conservatives dismiss climate change as a mere liberal fantasy. Why has this debate become so polarized? Using insights from sociological and political science scholarship Oklahoma State University professor Riley Dunlap, will examine the political ideology and global warming and the dismissal of climate change by conservative Americans. Riley E Dunlap, Regents Professor of Sociology, Oklahoma State University — riley.dunlap@okstate.edu


News media may register to attend the conference for free at http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/convention/aps-23rd-annual-convention-2011-press-information.

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