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Political preferences and threat perception: opportunities for neuroimaging and developmental research


People have preferences for how their social environment is organized and governed. One influential explanation of variation in these preferences focuses on individual differences in sensitivity to threats. Recent research demonstrates that this relationship is a function not only of the degree of sensitivity (greater or lesser), but also of the danger in question (i.e. immigration or climate change) and the kind of potential harm it poses (i.e. physical pain or contamination). Since many political issues are not unambiguously of one kind, the structure of an individual's reactions to perceived political threats is also uncertain. We argue that future research should (i) use functional neuroimaging to test these structures and (ii) investigate the role of social learning in their transmission.

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