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Uncommon Knowledge

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And other surprising insights from the social sciences

Liberals: not special snowflakes

Liberals like to complain that conservative activists and commentators are better at speaking with one voice. Some have attributed this to conservatives having superior central organization, but a new study from psychologists at New York University suggests a more fundamental reason. Liberals underestimate how similar they are to other liberals, while conservatives overestimate how similar they are to other conservatives—a pattern that’s partially explained by liberals’ greater need to feel unique. The psychologists conclude that “liberals’ greater desire for uniqueness likely undermines their ability to capitalize on the consensus that actually exists within their ranks and hinders successful group mobilization, whereas moderates’ and conservatives’ weaker desire to feel unique (i.e., greater desire to conform) could work to their advantage by allowing them to perceive consensus that does not actually exist and, in turn, rally their base.”

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