Encounters with ambiguity — particularly with death-salience — drive one towards nationalist and xenophobic attitudes.
That is the key finding of the experiments behind the weighty tome called “The handbook of experimental existential psychology,” which for years has been attempting to provide empirical support for the works of the late philosopher Ernest Becker (Denial of Death), which suppose that fear — and fear of dying — is what underlies hate politics.
By now, there are thousands of experiments replicating those core findings: When we are threatened, we do tend to increasingly favor our ingroups and hate outgroups.
Such attitudes line up nicely with conservative ideals. After all, nothing denies ambiguity like recourse to authority, whether that authority is divine right (the religious conservative component of the Republican party), the law (that wing of Republicans that hates gay marriage), white supremacy (the so-called “Southern Strategy” component), or the law-and-order corner (tough on crime/criminals, death-penalty advocating, war-on-drugs quarter).
So, let’s get right to it now. In 2011, a study published in Current Biology titled “Political Orientations Are Correlated with Brain Structure in Young Adults” found a larger amygdala in conservative college students than in non-conservative ones. The amygdala is where fear originates in the brain. Now a big amygdala only matters here if size relates to function.