Conservatives are more susceptible to violation of social norms than leftists, study finds

New research published in PLOS A found evidence that a person’s sensitivity to breaking social rules is related to their political orientation.

Social norms are underlying rules that guide our social behavior. These guidelines dictate what is appropriate and what is not in a given situation, and those who violate them face negative reviews. Although social norms are widely applied and followed, there are individual differences in sensitivity to these rules.

The study’s authors, Élise Désilets and her colleagues, wanted to explore a particular factor that may be associated with a person’s reaction to social norms: political orientation. The authors stress that political ideology is a framework that guides social structure, dictating its position on values ​​such as loyalty within the group and maintaining the status quo. This association with social structure suggests that political beliefs may be related to beliefs about social norms.

In the first study of its kind, Désilets and his team recruited a sample of nearly 200 French-Canadian adults with an average age of 24 years. varied convenience (eg, a person dancing on a subway platform, a person dancing in an art museum). Participants were asked to rate the level of relevance of each scenario.

The subjects’ political opinions were also assessed according to two distinct dimensions: socio-economic issues and identity issues. The socio-economic axis included economic issues such as taxes and the role of business, and the identity axes included social issues such as poverty.

The researchers found that those with a right-wing political orientation viewed more items as highly inappropriate than those with left-wing beliefs, suggesting that right-handed people were more susceptible to violating social norms. This result is in line with researchers’ expectations. As the authors say, conservatives tend to have a “more rigid cognitive style” and may feel a greater need for structure and order, leading them to turn to stricter codes of behavior.

Désilets and his team note that their findings also match previous research linking right-wing beliefs to greater sensitivity to “negative stimuli, such as angry faces, negative words, or pictures.” Their results extend this research, suggesting that this sensitivity includes complex stimuli such as real-life scenarios involving social behaviors.

The results are also consistent with Moral Foundations Theory, which postulates that right-wing supporters place more emphasis on the values ​​of Ingroup / Loyalty, Authority / Respect, and Purity / Holiness than leftists. It goes without saying that investing in these values ​​should imply a stricter respect for social norms.

It should be noted that a more in-depth analysis revealed that the identity dimension of political orientation was linked to the sensitivity to the violation of norms, while the socioeconomic dimension was not. The authors say this suggests that social rules are “more related to issues of identity and loyalty within the group than to socio-economic issues.”

As the authors point out, the study sample was predominantly French-Canadian and it is not clear whether or not these results would translate into other cultures. The authors suggest that a future area of ​​interest would be to study whether the violation of certain social norms is more strongly linked to political orientation than the violation of others.

The study “Sensitivity to the violation of social norms is linked to political orientation” was written by Élise Désilets, Benoit Brisson and Sébastien Hétu.

About Marjorie C. Hudson

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