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Handedness and the neurocognitive foundations of public attitudes about international laws and norms

  • Michael C. Grillo (a1), Juris Pupcenoks (a2) and Keith B. Lyle (a3)

Whether Geneva Conventions (GC) rights should apply to terrorists is a contentious question that has received little attention in public opinion research. Both personality and contextual factors may be important. We queried participants’ support for applying the GC to alleged terrorists, but first we measured participants’ authoritarianism and presented them with a scenario concerning an alleged terrorist. We manipulated whether (1) the scenario contained examples of GC rights and (2) the alleged terrorist’s religious affiliation was Muslim or non-Muslim. Support for applying the GC to alleged terrorists was high and unaffected by providing examples of GC provisions, but it was negatively related to authoritarianism. Support was reduced by priming with a Muslim terrorist, but only among participants exhibiting a behavioral marker for limited interhemispheric interaction — consistent-handedness. Consistent-handers in our sample expressed greater authoritarianism, suggesting that limited interhemispheric interaction promotes greater authoritarianism, which decreases support for applying the GC to alleged terrorists.

Corresponding author
Correspondence: Michael C. Grillo, Schreiner University, 2100 Memorial Blvd., Kerrville, TX 78028. Email:
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