With the final deadline for proxy voting now passed, all that remains in the general election cycle is for the population of the United Kingdom to cast their ballots on May the 7th. Each member of our society with voting eligibility will attempt to rationally determine the foremost candidate whom they believe will best represent them at the central government in the houses of Westminster. To many among the electorate, particularly students, their political allegiances, or at the very least, their political stances on particular issues represent their values and morals, essential to being considered a rounded, three-dimensional human-being. Recent studies however have suggested that political orientation may have a less rational genetic basis.
Studies have demonstrated that humans subconsciously pay more attention to negative events than positive ones.
Within the educated population in particular, most believe that their views are based on learned experience, empathy and rational deliberation of events with not just oneself but also in discussion with others. Nobody wants to believe that they can be easily kenneled into a simple bracket determined by chance. It must be first considered that rather like the fallacy associated with sexual orientation or intelligence, there is no one gene that can ever code for an individual characteristic. Instead what occurs are variations in an array of genetic machinery which manifest in unpredictable ways. The environment of the genetic vehicle adds further layers of uncertainty to the research.
Many studies have demonstrated that humans subconsciously pay more attention to negative events than positive ones. The studies provide a potential explanation as to why support for more extreme parties increases after large-scale crises such as war or economic instability. Logically, this would follow from the fact that negative scenarios are usually more problematic in survival terms. It has also been found that the stronger a person’s negativity bias, the more likely they are to be suspicious of unfamiliar people or activities, leaning towards long standing traditions or security. Clearly, this demonstrates a more right-wing standpoint and could account somewhat for the difference in voting habits, at least in the black and white left vs right spectrum. Conversely, in a 2008 study which subjected test patients to sudden loud noises, the conclusions were that those less perturbed physically by them were more likely to support liberal immigration policies and pacifism. In combination with ‘negativity bias’ studies, there is reasonably strong evidence to suggest that genetics plays a role in political allegiance.
If all of our beliefs cannot truly be considered objective then this surely crosses over to doubting our political assurances.
Perhaps more pertinently, in 1960 a clear discrepancy occurred between the radio and television audience of the presidential debate between JFK and Richard Nixon. Those listening to radio judged Nixon the winner, whereas the television audience declared Kennedy the victor. Again, whilst we like to think of ourselves as being attentive to and carefully considering the arguments presented, humans inevitably respond to facial displays and nonverbal behaviour and may associate certain candidates with more warm, positive emotions. Edward Milliband’s struggle to achieve parity with the perhaps more polished incumbent Prime Minister David Cameron in the eyes of the majority of voters is another clear example. Subconscious psychological triggers may in fact undermine our best rational intentions.
In the April 1st edition of New Scientist, they went as far as to discuss whether beliefs could truly be considered rational. Fatigued or distracted individuals have been found to be more persuadable. Who could argue the vast majority of university students are not at least one of these two things? Furthermore, Sam Harris’ neurological experiments have demonstrated that belief in any given statement is easier than doubting it. If all of our beliefs cannot truly be considered objective then this surely crosses over to doubting our political assurances.
The political spectrum itself cannot be truly linked with genetics, as genetics is not a human construction.
It is almost impossible at this point to produce an entirely concrete case. It is definitely not the case that just because loud noises startle a particular person somewhat it assigns them conclusively as an immigrant bashing, war-hungry Eurosceptic. Furthermore, the political spectrum itself cannot be truly linked with genetics, as genetics is not a human construction. Genes know nothing of politics. Additional blurred lines include the fact that being more convinced by a statist idea of government does not necessarily make one more or less left or right wring than those with libertarian/anarchist principals, which could equally vary genetically. At the very least, the tenuous links between our biology and our politics should provide all of us with a message that we should be more sympathetic of people with radically opposing political ideals to our own. It’s not necessarily all their fault.
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