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The Boston Globe

Ideas

Uncommon Knowledge

Heartbreak is worse for conservatives

And other surprising insights from the social sciences

When the right gets left

Liberals are supposed to be the tenderhearted ones. But new research suggests that conservatives may actually be more easily heartbroken, both in their expectations and in reality. When people were asked to imagine how they would feel after getting a good or bad reaction from a romantic partner, conservatives imagined they’d feel worse than liberals after a bad reaction—with no difference between conservatives and liberals after a good reaction. Likewise, students who were more conservative expected to feel worse after getting a lower grade on a test than expected—and they actually did feel worse if they got a lower grade than expected. Again, there was no difference for beating expectations. This phenomenon may explain why “conservatives, when imagining the pros and cons of deviating from the tried and true, see the potential drawbacks as more emotionally damaging than they see the potential benefits as delightful.”

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