Dr. Hibbing

Professor talks genetics, political views

Dr. Hibbing

Hibbing talks to students in Dinna’s Place. •By Elizabeth McKnight

On Thursday Feb. 27, Dr. John R. Hibbing, a professor of political science and psychology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, came to Dina’s Place to speak to students and faculty about our genetics and how they affect our political views.

Hibbing has appeared on “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart and co-authored his first book “Predisposed: Liberals, Conservatives, and the Biology of Political Differences.”

Hibbing was a Guggenheim Fellow, a Senior Fulbright Fellow, a NATO Fellow in Science and has recently been elected to the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

“The things that are deemed influential are not actually influential,” Hibbing said.

He explained that the things that actually influence our political views are not things we can control.

For his argument, Hibbing presented much data that supported his argument. He started with the statement that correlation between views of parents and kids are not as close as people might think.

Hibbing then went deeper into his speech by talking about how “early development and early events affect political views,” and we, as humans, obviously cannot change the facts of our early development and the events we face.

Hibbing said that our cognitive, physiological, neurological and psychological make-up determines how we view politics. He mentioned that, “Some neuroimaging has found that amygdalas in conservatives and liberals are slightly different.”

Hibbing spent the rest of his time talking about how conservatives and liberals differ in the way they live and the way they react to different scientific studies. Conservatives and liberals do not decide how they live by their political views, but rather the way they live gives away their political views.

Hibbing said that when it comes to scientific studies, conservatives and liberals tend to react differently to many types of imaging sequences. He said that it is simply just the way their brains are set up.

At the end of his presentation, Hibbing said simply that while many scientists have tried looking at actual DNA to find a correlation to political views, it seems to mainly just be the early stages of life that mold the cognitive, physiological, neurological and psychological ways that we view politics. Jesse Perl, a sophomore environmental studies and political science double major said he found the presentation to be very interesting. “Hibbing did not try to influence one side over the other. He simply gave us the data and told us it was up to us to make a decision. It made people more open to looking at such a controversial subject.”

Katarina Moyon, director of HMXP, political science professor and the co-director of the John. C. West Forum – the program that was responsible for bringing Hibbing to the university – said that she was happy to see so many students engaged in Hibbing’s subject.

“I think it is important that we all probe our perception of reality,” Moyon said. “When we understand how we perceive the world around us, we may also better understand our fellow man.”

Moyon added that there is much more research to be done in the field and she hopes that the event inspired some students to look at different careers in political psychology.

Jeffrey Sinn, a psychology professor at Winthrop, said that Hibbing’s research is very useful. One of Sinn’s areas of concentration is political theory combined with psychology, and  he was able to understand Hibbing’s presentation very well.

“He blends techniques used in different disciplines,” Sinn said. “He’s a political scientist, but he’s used physiological measures of stress. He’s been able to get really interesting data.”

“Most of us would like to think we’re more in control of our opinions than his findings suggest,” he added.

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