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The Psychophysiology of Political Ideology: Replications, Reanalyses, and Recommendations

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This article presents a large-scale, empirical evaluation of the psychophysiological correlates of political ideology and, in particular, the claim that conservatives react with higher levels of electrodermal activity to threatening stimuli than liberals. We (1) conduct two large replications of this claim, using locally representative samples of Danes and Americans; (2) re-analyze all published studies and evaluate their reliability and validity; and (3) test several features to enhance the validity of psychophysiological measures and offer a number of recommendations. Overall, we find little empirical support for the claim. This is caused by significant reliability and validity problems related to measuring threat-sensitivity using electrodermal activity. When assesed reliably, electrodermal activity in the replications and published studies captures individual differences in the physiological changes associated with attention shifts, which are unrelated to ideology. In contrast to psychophysiological reactions, self-reported emotional reactions to threatening stimuli are reliably associated with ideology.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Politics
Pages (from-to)50-66
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022

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