Turning liberals into conservatives is actually pretty simple – you just make people feel scared and unsafe, and their opinions tend to swing right.
Hence why populists such as Donald Trump make so many speeches about real and imagined fears – to make people feel unsafe.
But can you do it the other way round – and turn a conservative into a liberal?
Actually, you can, according to a new book by John Bargh, Before You Know It: The Unconscious Reasons We Do What We Do.
The trick is to make conservatives feel more safe, Bargh writes.
Bargh reports on an experiment where volunteers were encouraged to imagine they had superpowers, so that bullets bounced off them and a ‘a fall from a cliff wouldn’t hurt at all’.
Bargh said that volunteers who had conservative views would adopt more liberal stances on social issues after taking part in the experiment.
Bargh told Business Insider, ‘The fundamental drive for physical safety is a powerful legacy of our evolutionary past.
‘It exerts a pervasive influence on the mind as it navigates and responds to modern life, often in surprising ways — like who you vote for.’
The study was carried out by researchers at New York University, and is discussed in a new book by Professor John Bargh, a psychology expert at Yale, titled ‘Before You Know It: The Unconscious Reasons We Do What We Do.’
In their study, published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, the researchers, led by Dr Jaime Napier, wrote: ‘Results suggest that socially (but not economically) conservative attitudes are driven, at least in part, by needs for safety and security.’
Professor Bargh suggests that the findings are an example of how we are still living with the ‘hard-won lessons’ of evolution.
He wrote: ‘The fundamental drive for physical safety is a powerful legacy of our evolutionary past.
‘It exerts a pervasive influence on the mind as it navigates and responds to modern life, often in surprising ways – like who you vote for.’