Inability to Tolerate Uncertainty Links “Red” and “Blue” Brains

From a post on headlined “Intolerance of Uncertainty Links ‘Red’ and ‘Blue’ Brains”:

Since the 1950s, political scientists have theorized that political polarization—increased numbers of “political partisans” who view the world with an ideological bias—is associated with an inability to tolerate uncertainty and a need to hold predictable beliefs about the world….

“This is the first research we know of that has linked intolerance to uncertainty to political polarization on both sides of the aisle,” says study coauthor Oriel FeldmanHall, an assistant professor of cognitive, linguistic, and psychological sciences at Brown University. “So whether a person in 2016 was a strongly committed Trump supporter or a strongly committed Clinton supporter, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that an aversion to uncertainty only exacerbates how similarly two conservative brains or two liberal brains respond when consuming political content.”

Jeroen van Baar, study coauthor and a former postdoctoral researcher at Brown, says the findings are important because they show that factors other than political beliefs themselves can influence individuals’ ideological biases.

“We found that polarized perception—ideologically warped perceptions of the same reality—was strongest in people with the lowest tolerance for uncertainty in general,” says van Baar, who is now a research associate at Trimbos, the Netherlands Institute of Mental Health and Addiction. “This shows that some of the animosity and misunderstanding we see in society is not due to irreconcilable differences in political beliefs, but instead depends on surprising—and potentially solvable—factors such as the uncertainty people experience in daily life.”

The study appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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