The obvious explanation is that men have literally never seen a woman in her 20s in the halls of Congress before. She’s attractive, telegenic and good at social media. She dances outside her Cannon House office. Conservative men are confused at being drawn to this bright rising star in the Democratic Party while loathing everything she stands for.

But that doesn’t fully explain the fervor with which conservatives hang on her every word, waiting for her to slip, and dig through her past for any feeble sign that she isn’t who she says she is. There’s an existential, panicked tinge to the behavior here ― what you might call “AOC Derangement Syndrome.” Indeed, some experts say conservative men are obsessed with Ocasio-Cortez because they’re threatened by her.

Conservatives tend to respond to fear more strongly than liberals do, according to Bobby Azarian, a neuroscientist whose expertise in anxiety has led him to examine political behaviors. His research has found that the brains of conservative people are likely to display the same attention biases as the brains of people with anxiety.