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Politics of Suspicion: How Distrustful Activists Call for and then Block Reforms

Thursday, April 10, 2014 8:08 am EDT
"Ironically, victim-sensitive individuals' exaggerated concerns about justice can make them suspicious of virtually everything politicians do, even when politicians develop reforms that may actually promote social justice"

From Kiev to Caracas, Wall Street to Downing Street, distrust for politicians has become a global trend. New research in Political Psychology suggests that while this distrust can manifest in protests and demands for reform, the desired change can also be derailed by distrust in the people who are expected to carry them through.

The research focused on 'victim-sensitive' individuals, people who are more likely to be aware and speak out against injustices they have experienced, seen or even benefitted from. The research found that victim-sensitive individuals are more likely to have a suspicious mindset.

In a behavioral pattern of self-protection, victim-sensitive individuals activate a suspicious mindset, which makes them attribute malevolence to others when only slight cues of untrustworthiness are given.

"Ironically, victim-sensitive individuals' exaggerated concerns about justice can make them suspicious of virtually everything politicians do, even when politicians develop reforms that may actually promote social justice," said Dmitrij Agroskin from the University of Salzburg.

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