Political Extremism: Cambridge U Study Shows Psychological Profile of Extremists
Psychologists are now asking what turns the civil discord common in partisan politics into extremist behavior. Researchers from the University of Cambridge say certain personalities are more likely to lead to extremism, regardless of their political leanings.
Their study, profiling the extremist personality, finds these individuals to be “impulsive” and likely to seek out thrills and risks. They also tend to be very cautious, but are mentally slower with poor memory skills. The findings could help identify people most prone to radicalization.
Let’s break that down, bit by bit.
1. Impulsive. Yep, think of the rednecks you know or have come into contact with. Long-term thinking is not their strong suit. Something pisses them off, they scream and start hitting it with a hammer. Guinea Pigs have better planning skills.
2. Seeking out thrills. Old joke come up here - what are a redneck’s last words? “Hey y’all! Watch this!”
3. Tend to cautious. As in, “scared of anything new or different.” Best summarized by that creepy feeling you get when you stop in a small town in the south for gas, and you feel all the eyes on you and hear someone mutter, “Well, lookee what we got here … “
4. Mentally slower. Not stupid per se, although that certainly is a corresponding factor. No, just someone who is slow on the uptake. Doesn’t process new information well. They’ve got their core belief system that was installed long ago, and anything new is rejected.
5. Poor memory skills. Ask a redneck who supported the Iraq war. Or who pushed to deregulate banks, and after the 2008-9 collapse, who worked hard to roll back the minimal regulations that Barney Frank was able to push through. Or whether Trump ever mocked a Gold Star family. Rinse. Repeat.
What does this ultimately mean?
Religiosity was implicated in heightened agreeableness and risk perception.
Extreme pro-group attitudes, including violence endorsement against outgroups, were linked to poorer working memory, slower perceptual strategies, and tendencies towards impulsivity and sensation-seeking—reflecting overlaps with the psychological profiles of conservatism and dogmatism. Cognitive and personality signatures were also generated for ideologies such as authoritarianism, system justification, social dominance orientation, patriotism and receptivity to evidence or alternative viewpoints