Psychologists have been intrigued for years by the question of what determines a person’s political identity, Lena Groeger writes in New York University’s ScienceLine. Numerous studies suggest that liberals and conservatives differ not only in their political and social views but also in their behavior and personality.

But are the studies skewed by the largely liberal politics of academics in the social sciences?

Groeger cites one study in which preschoolers who grew up to identify themselves as liberal were described by researchers as self-reliant, energetic, somewhat dominating and resilient. Those who later identified themselves as conservative were described as easily offended, indecisive, fearful, rigid, inhibited and vulnerable.

Psychologist Jacob Vigil of the University of New Mexico said the choice of terms suggest the researchers were “motivated to present liberals with more ideal descriptions as compared to conservatives.”

But NYU social psychologist John Jost disputes the charge, saying findings rooted in personal beliefs and attitudes are bound to create controversy.

“The job of the behavioral scientist is not to try to find something to say that couldn’t possibly be offensive,” said Jost. “Our job is to say what we think is true, and why.”

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