Liberals Think More Analytically (More 'Weird') than Conservatives

60 Pages Posted: 18 Jul 2012 Last revised: 7 Jan 2015

Thomas Talhelm

University of Virginia - Psychology

Jonathan Haidt

New York University (NYU) - Leonard N. Stern School of Business

Shigehiro Oishi

University of Virginia - Psychology

Xuemin Zhang

Beijing Normal University (BNU)

Felicity Miao

University of Virginia - Psychology

Shimin Chen

South China Normal University

Date Written: July 17, 2012

Abstract

Henrich and colleagues (2010) summarized cultural differences in psychology and argued that people from one particular culture are outliers: people from societies that are Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic (WEIRD). In this study, we show that liberals think WEIRDer than conservatives. In five studies with more than 3,000 participants, we found that liberals think more analytically (an element of WEIRD thought) than moderates and conservatives — even in China. We found that social liberals had more analytic perception in the framed-line task (Kitayama, Duffy, Kawamura, & Larsen, 2003) and categorized objects more analytically on the triad task, which asks participants to categorize a group of objects based on either abstract categories or intuitive relation (Ji, Zhang, & Nisbett, 2004). Social politics predicted thought style much better than economic and overall political identity. Studies 4 and 5 showed that briefly training people to think analytically made them form a more liberal opinion on welfare, whereas training them to think holistically made them form a more conservative opinion.

Keywords: politics, cognitive style, analytic, holistic, liberal, culture, categorization

Suggested Citation

Talhelm, Thomas and Haidt, Jonathan and Oishi, Shigehiro and Zhang, Xuemin and Miao, Felicity and Chen, Shimin, Liberals Think More Analytically (More 'Weird') than Conservatives (July 17, 2012). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2111700 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2111700

Thomas Talhelm (Contact Author)

University of Virginia - Psychology ( email )

United States

Jonathan Haidt

New York University (NYU) - Leonard N. Stern School of Business ( email )

NYU-Stern School of Business
44 West 4th Street
New York, NY NY 10012
United States

Shigehiro Oishi

University of Virginia - Psychology ( email )

United States

Xuemin Zhang

Beijing Normal University (BNU) ( email )

19 Xinjiekou Outer St
Haidian District
Beijing, Guangdong 100875
China

Felicity Miao

University of Virginia - Psychology ( email )

United States

Shimin Chen

South China Normal University ( email )

483 Wushan Str.
Tianhe District
Guangzhou, 510631, Guangdong 510642
China

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