One response to this has been raised by José Duarte and his colleagues, who worry that political psychologists are an ideologically homogenous bunch—the number of prominent scholars in this area who self-identify as conservative could fit conformably into a Prius. When members of the preeminent Society for Social and Personality Psychology (SPSP) were polled, they not only characterized themselves as overwhelmingly liberal, but many also said that they would discriminate against conservative colleagues, for everything from awarding grants to faculty hiring.
So reading the theories of many political psychologists is like hearing about homosexuality from the research division of the Westboro Baptist Church, or about female psychology by a cadre of all-male scientists who are proud members of the men’s rights movement. You couldn’t be certain that their conclusions were mistaken, but you’d be right to worry about bias. People are not best situated to pass judgments on the mental health of their enemies.
Indeed, as Maria Konnikova has reviewed, the evidence that personality and psychological traits can lead a person to be conservative is weak. There are correlations—the conservatives-are-less-tolerant-of-ambiguity findings are pretty solid—but little support for cause and effect. If you want to reliably predict someone’s political views, you’re are a lot better off if you put aside the psychological tests altogether and looked at considerations that reflect people’s experiences and roles in society, such as ethnicity, sex, age, and income.
An initial assumption of rationality when it comes to people we disagree with—an assumption that they think just like we do, but have different goals, background beliefs, and priorities—is a better first start for a psychological theory, and is more moral as well, as it treats others with respect. This doesn’t preclude you from strongly disapproving of those you disagree with—you might even see them as a ”basket of deplorables”—but at least you’re treating them as legitimate agents, not pathologizing them.
My bet is that the relevant factor in variation in rationality, including moral reasoning, is not about different types of people, but different types of situations. If you want to see people at their stupidest, check out national politics, which is replete with us-vs.-them dynamics and virtue signaling, and where the cost of having silly views is harmless. Unless I’m a member of a tiny, powerful community, my beliefs about climate change or the arms deal with Iran will have no effect on the world, and so it’s not surprising that people don't work so hard to get those sorts of facts right.
It’s revelatory, then, that we do much better when the stakes are high, where being rational really matters. If I have the wrong theory of how to make scrambled eggs, they will come out too dry; if I have the wrong everyday morality, I will hurt those I love. So if you’re curious about people’s capacity for reasoning, don’t look at cases where being correct doesn’t matter and where it’s all about affiliation. Rather, look at how people cope in everyday life.