Shortfalls in emotional understanding and emotion management are linked to right-wing views and prejudiced attitudes, according to a new study out of Belgium.
Over the course of two experiments, researchers at the University of Ghent found that “individuals with weaker emotional abilities — particularly emotional understanding and management — tended to score higher on a measure of right-wing authoritarianism and social dominance orientation,” PsyPost reported.
“I have a lifelong interest in political psychology and in political ideology in particular. The observation that left-wing and right-wing adherents tend to differ on so many psychological characteristics is amazing,” University of Ghent professor and study author Alain Van Hiel said.
“Many scholars have investigated the cognitive basis of ideology in general, and right-wing ideological attitudes in particular. In the present study, we wanted to investigate if a similar relationship would exist for emotional abilities.”
The study, “The Relationship Between Emotional Abilities and Right-Wing and Prejudiced Attitudes“, was published in the journal Emotion.
Van Heil said the study left no doubt that there is a correlation between the tendency toward right-wing ideology and emotional intelligence: “The results of this study were univocal. People who endorse authority and strong leaders and who do not mind inequality — the two basic dimensions underlying right-wing political ideology — show lower levels of emotional abilities.”
But he said caution is due when it comes to causality versus correlation, noting that “One cannot discredit any ideology on the basis of such results as those presently obtained,” and that Cognitively and emotionally smart people can make wrong decisions as well.”
Van Heil added: “The results have been obtained in one particular context. Would similar results be obtained in other contexts besides in a Western country with a long-standing stable democracy? Whether these tendencies are universal, or limited to particular contexts, is very intriguing.”