Conservatism - Psychology

Psychology

See also: Differences between conservative and liberal brain

Following the Second World War, psychologists conducted research into the different motives and tendencies that account for ideological differences between left and right. The early studies focused on conservatives, beginning with Theodor W. Adorno's The Authoritarian Personality (1950). This book has been heavily criticized on theoretical and methodological grounds, but some of its findings have been confirmed by further empirical research.

In 1973, British psychologist Glenn Wilson published an influential book providing evidence that a general factor underlying conservative beliefs is "fear of uncertainty". A meta-analysis of research literature by Jost, Glaser, Kruglanski, and Sulloway in 2003 found that many factors, such as intolerance of ambiguity and need for cognitive closure, contribute to the degree of one's political conservatism. A study by Kathleen Maclay stated these traits "might be associated with such generally valued characteristics as personal commitment and unwavering loyalty." The research also suggested that while most people are resistant to change, liberals are more tolerant of it.

According to psychologist Bob Altemeyer, individuals who are politically conservative tend to rank high in Right-Wing Authoritarianism on his RWA scale. This finding was echoed by Theodor Adorno. A study done on Israeli and Palestinian students in Israel found that RWA scores of right-wing party supporters were significantly higher than those of left-wing party supporters. However, a 2005 study by H. Michael Crowson and colleagues suggested a moderate gap between RWA and other conservative positions. "The results indicated that conservatism is not synonymous with RWA."

Psychologist Felicia Pratto and her colleagues have found evidence to support the idea that a high Social Dominance Orientation (SDO) is strongly correlated with conservative political views, and opposition to social engineering to promote equality, though Pratto's findings have been highly controversial. Pratto and her colleagues found that high SDO scores were highly correlated with measures of prejudice. They were refuted in this claim by David J. Schneider, who wrote that "correlations between prejudice and political conservative are reduced virtually to zero when controls for SDO are instituted". Kenneth Minogue criticized Pratto's work, saying "It is characteristic of the conservative temperament to value established identities, to praise habit and to respect prejudice, not because it is irrational, but because such things anchor the darting impulses of human beings in solidities of custom which we do not often begin to value until we are already losing them. Radicalism often generates youth movements, while conservatism is a condition found among the mature, who have discovered what it is in life they most value."

A 1996 study on the relationship between racism and conservatism found that the correlation was stronger among more educated individuals, though specifically anti-Black racism did not increase. They also found that the correlation between racism and conservatism could be entirely accounted for by their mutual relationship with social dominance orientation. The authors concluded that opposition to affirmative action, especially among more highly educated conservatives, was better explained by social dominance orientation than by principled conservatism.

A 2008 research report found that conservatives are happier than liberals, and that as income inequality increases, this difference in relative happiness increases, because conservatives (more than liberals) possess an ideological buffer against the negative hedonic effects of economic inequality.

Read more about this topic:  Conservatism

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