Washington, September 25 : A study from Northwestern University has revealed how people inclined to 'Conservative' and 'Liberal' political ideologies differ in terms of fear.
While political conservatives operate out of a fear of chaos and absence of order, according to the study, political liberals operate out of a fear of emptiness.
"Social scientists long have assumed that liberals are more rational and less fearful than conservatives, but we find that both groups view the world as a dangerous place. It's just that their fears emerge differently," says Dan McAdams, a professor of human development and psychology who has co-authored the study, published in the Journal of Research in Personality.
During the course of study, McAdams and his colleague Michelle Albaugh asked 128 socially active churchgoers what if there were no God.
"Social scientists -- who are generally liberals -- have for decades done research to figure out what makes conservatives tick," says McAdams.
While previously conducted studies have already shown that conservatives fear unchecked human impulses that challenge the status quo, the latest Northwestern study has revealed an underlying, but different, fear that drives liberals as well.
"Political conservatives envision a world without God in which baser human impulses go unchecked, social institutions (marriage, government, family) fall apart and chaos ensues," says McAdams.
He adds that liberals, on the other hand, envision a world without God as barren, lifeless, devoid of colour and reasons to live.
"Liberals see their faith as something that fills them up and, without it, they conjure up metaphors of emptiness, depletion and scarcity. While conservatives worry about societal collapse, liberals worry about a world without deep feelings and intense experiences," he says.
McAdams believes that the new findings may help understand why conservatives prefer more authoritarian leaders while liberals do not.
"What's clear is that it is their political and not religious orientation that underlies the different psychologies of political conservatives and liberals," says McAdams.
After all, all of the adults he and Northwestern researcher Albaugh studied were members of churches, and their data suggested that most were socially involved, altruistic people.
Funded by the Foley Family Foundation in Milwaukee, the study included 128 highly religious and politically active Americans who attend church regularly.
Though nationally conservatives are more likely to attend church than liberals, the study was set up to sample equally from religious conservatives and religious liberals.
The team also observed gender differences, but said they did not interfere with the relationship between political orientation and narrative themes.