The Emotional Roots of Political Polarization


New research argues feelings of disillusionment prompt people to take more extreme positions.

A Hillary Clinton supporter clashes with a Donald Trump supporter outside the White House on November 9th, 2016, in Washington, D.C.

A Hillary Clinton supporter clashes with a Donald Trump supporter outside the White House on November 9th, 2016, in Washington, D.C.

Are you feeling disillusioned? Have your politics gotten a little more radical of late?

The two questions may, in fact, be closely related. That’s the conclusion of new research, which links increased political polarization with the painful experience of having one’s cherished assumptions shattered.

“Disillusioning experiences motivate a search for meaning,” write University of Limerick psychologists Paul Maher and Eric Igou. “People respond by seeking reassurance in political ideologies.”

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