Are you in or out?

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People who vote for the same party or follow the same group regard each other as intelligent and hard-working, and see those who vote for different parties or belong to different groups as brainwashed and incompetent, according to research published in Political Psychology. Moreover, these attitudes exist no matter which side a person is on.

Study participants described people who had the same opinions as them, or ‘ingroup followers’, as lions, wolves, tigers or dolphins—while ‘outgroup followers’ were depicted as sheep, snakes, hyenas or lemmings. Critically, participants thought ingroup followers were best influenced by persuasion, and outgroup followers by coercion.

The authors of the study warn against assuming that “the followers of political outgroups are merely sheep who will only respond to coercion—not least because, from their perspective, the opposite is likely to be true”.

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