Author Interviews, COVID -19 Coronavirus, Heart Disease, Vaccine Studies / 20.10.2020 Interview with: Douglas L. Kriner, PhD The Clinton Rossiter Professor in American Institutions Department of Government Cornell University What is the background for this study? Response: When a safe and effective vaccine for COVID-19 reaches the market, the world will not change overnight.  Rather, government and public health individuals will have to develop a comprehensive plan to distribute the vaccine and to convince potentially wary Americans to take it. Our study examined the influence of both specific vaccine characteristics and the politics surrounding it on public willingness to vaccinate.  Both matter in important ways.  For example, efficacy is unsurprisingly a major driver of public opinion; Americans are more willing to take a vaccine that is more efficacious. (more…)
Author Interviews, Neurology, Social Issues / 10.08.2020 Interview with: Darren Schreiber JD PhD Senior Lecturer Exeter What is the background for this study? Response: My co-authors and I saw an opportunity to match existing functional brain imaging data with publicly available voter registration data so that we could look for patterns that distinguish brain activity in nonpartisans from partisans.  While a number of studies have found differences in both brain structure and function between partisans on the left and right and there is a massive amount of scholarship in political science on partisans and polarization, no brain imaging work had focused on nonpartisans. Around 40% of Americans do not affiliate with a political party and one important campaign strategy has been to persuade these voters to support party candidates.  However many political scientists are skeptical about voters claims to be nonpartisans and will instead treat them as if they were merely covert partisans. (more…)
Aging, Author Interviews / 27.07.2019 Interview with: Jay Olshansky, Ph.D. Division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics School of Public Health University of Illinois Chicago Chicago, Illinois What is the background for this study? Response: In 2011 I published the first scientific evaluation of the observed longevity of all of the U.S. presidents. Since then, I've been contacted by the media every four years to comment on the ages of the presidential candidates. This is relevant because the number of older candidates is on the rise, and their ages are getting higher. A reporter from the Washington Examiner contacted me this time around to comment once again, and wanted to know whether I was planning on doing another analysis. When I looked at the list of candidates that were much older this time around, I thought it would be a good idea to see what science had to say about the health and longevity prospects of all of the candidates. This way we could at least offer a scientific explanation of whether age should be relevant at all when choosing a presidential candidate. (more…)
Author Interviews, Genetic Research, Social Issues, Weight Research / 08.03.2017 Interview with: Professor Don Haider-Markel Chair, Department of Political Science University of Kansas Lawrence, KS 66045 What is the background for this study? Response: We have studied causal attributions for conditions and problems in society for some time. We noticed that public debate over obesity had increased and new policy proposals were being proposed to address what was deemed as a growing public health problem. As the salience of the issue increased so too did partisan views on the topic. Based on these observations, we wanted to explore individual beliefs about the causes, or attributions for, obesity. Existing research and theory suggested that Republicans following a conservative philosophy would be more likely to attribute obesity to personal choices, such as eating habits and lack of exercise—in short, putting the locus of control on individuals. Meanwhile liberal leaning Democrats, with a known predisposition to suggest conditions or problems are outside of the control of the individual, would be more likely to attribute obesity to either genetic or other biological factors, or the broader context of widely available low-cost high-fat food sources. Additionally, we know that individuals tend to make attributions that are self-serving. In other words, people tend to make attributions that put themselves in a positive light. Thus, personal weight should factor into obesity attributions. Here we expected that overweight people would be more likely to make attributions that removed personal blame, such as pointing to a genetic cause. People closer to an ideal weight would, on the other hand, be more likely to attribute weight-level to personal choices. (more…)
Author Interviews / 12.06.2013 eInterview with: Michael Bang Petersen Associate Professor, PhD Department of Political Science Aarhus University, Denmark What are the main findings of the study? Answer: While many think of politics as a modern phenomenon, politics has – in a sense – been with our species always. Our ancestors have been group living animals for millions of years and it would be surprising if natural selection had not shaped our ancestors’ psychology to navigate core political situations including how to manage resource conflicts. In this article, we applied this insight to the study of attitudes towards economic redistribution and theorized about the kinds of factors that an evolved psychology of conflict navigation would consider important. Given that we evolved in small-scale groups and many conflicts would have to be settled face-to-face, one such factor – at least, for males – would be physical strength. Essentially, stronger males should be more likely to escalate conflicts and pursuit their self-interest. On modern political issues of economic redistribution, self-interest is determined by socio-economic status (SES). Individuals with high SES have an interest in decreasing redistribution, whereas individuals with low SES have an interest in increasing redistribution. On this basis, an adaptationist perspective on the psychology of redistribution attitudes predicts that for rich males upper-body strength should decrease support for redistribution. For poor males, in contrast, upper-body strength should increase support for redistribution. This is what we found in three highly different countries: the United States, Denmark and Argentina. Cross countries, physically strong males opted for the self-interested political position. (more…)