Monday, February 14, 2022

People See Political Opponents as More Stupid Than Evil

Hartman, Rachel, Neil Hester, and Kurt Gray. 2022. “People See Political Opponents as More Stupid Than Evil.” PsyArXiv. February 14.

Abstract: Affective polarization is a rising threat to political discourse and democracy. Public figures have expressed that “conservatives think liberals are stupid, and liberals think conservatives are evil." However, four studies (N=1,660)—including a representative sample—reveal evidence that both sides view political opponents as more unintelligent than immoral. Perceiving the other side as “more stupid than evil” occurs both in general judgments (studies 1, 3, and 4) and regarding specific issues (Study 2). Study 4 also examines “meta-perceptions” of how Democrats and Republicans disparage one another, revealing that people correctly perceive that both Democrats and Republicans see each other as more unintelligent than immoral, although they exaggerate the extent of this negativity. These studies clarify the way everyday partisans view each other, an important step in designing effective interventions to reduce political animosity.

Many people follow a species-relativist principle, that individuals of all species should favor their own conspecifics; even extraterrestrials should prioritize their own over humans

Caviola, Lucius, Stefan Schubert, Guy Kahane, and Nadira S. Faber. 2022. “Humans First: Why People Value Animals Less Than Humans.” PsyArXiv. February 14.

Abstract: People routinely give humans moral priority over other animals. Is such moral anthropocentrism based in perceived differences in mental capacity between humans and non-humans or merely because humans favor other members of their own species? We investigated this question in six studies (N = 2,217). We found that most participants prioritized humans over animals even when the animals were described as having equal or more advanced mental capacities than the humans. This applied to both mental capacity at the level of specific individuals (Studies 1a-b) and at the level typical for the respective species (Study 2). The key driver behind moral anthropocentrism was thus mere species-membership (speciesism). However, all else equal, participants still gave more moral weight to individuals with higher mental capacities (individual mental capacity principle), suggesting that the belief that humans have higher mental capacities than animals is part of the reason that they give humans moral priority. Notably, participants found mental capacity more important for animals than for humans—a tendency which can itself be regarded speciesist. We also explored possible sub-factors driving speciesism. We found that many participants judged that all individuals (not only humans) should prioritize members of their own species over members of other species (species-relativism; Studies 3a-b). However, some participants also exhibited a tendency to see humans as having superior value in an absolute sense (pro-human species-absolutism, Studies 3-4). Overall, our work demonstrates that speciesism plays a central role in explaining moral anthropocentrism and may be itself divided in multiple sub-factors.