The politics of zero-sum thinking: The relationship between political ideology and the belief that life is a zero-sum game.
ABSTRACT: The tendency to see life as zero-sum exacerbates political conflicts. Six studies (N = 3223) examine the relationship between political ideology and zero-sum thinking: the belief that one party's gains can only be obtained at the expense of another party's losses. We find that both liberals and conservatives view life as zero-sum when it benefits them to do so. Whereas conservatives exhibit zero-sum thinking when the status quo is challenged, liberals do so when the status quo is being upheld. Consequently, conservatives view social inequalities-where the status quo is frequently challenged-as zero-sum, but liberals view economic inequalities-where the status quo has remained relatively unchallenged in past decades-as such. Overall, these findings suggest potentially important ideological differences in perceptions of conflict-differences that are likely to have implications for understanding political divides in the United States and the difficulty of reaching bipartisan legislation.
Project description:Conservatives and liberals have previously been shown to differ in the propensity to view socially-transmitted information about hazards as more plausible than that concerning benefits. Given differences between conservatives and liberals in threat sensitivity and dangerous-world beliefs, correlations between political orientation and negatively-biased credulity may thus reflect endogenous mindsets. Alternatively, such results may owe to the political hierarchy at the time of previous research, as the tendency to see dark forces at work is thought to be greater among those who are out of political power. Adjudicating between these accounts can inform how societies respond to the challenge of alarmist disinformation campaigns. We exploit the consequences of the 2016 U.S. elections to test these competing explanations of differences in negatively-biased credulity and conspiracism as a function of political orientation. Two studies of Americans reveal continued positive associations between conservatism, negatively-biased credulity, and conspiracism despite changes to the power structure in conservatives' favor.
Project description:Liberals and conservatives exhibit different cognitive styles and converging lines of evidence suggest that biology influences differences in their political attitudes and beliefs. In particular, a recent study of young adults suggests that liberals and conservatives have significantly different brain structure, with liberals showing increased gray matter volume in the anterior cingulate cortex, and conservatives showing increased gray matter volume in the in the amygdala. Here, we explore differences in brain function in liberals and conservatives by matching publicly-available voter records to 82 subjects who performed a risk-taking task during functional imaging. Although the risk-taking behavior of Democrats (liberals) and Republicans (conservatives) did not differ, their brain activity did. Democrats showed significantly greater activity in the left insula, while Republicans showed significantly greater activity in the right amygdala. In fact, a two parameter model of partisanship based on amygdala and insula activations yields a better fitting model of partisanship than a well-established model based on parental socialization of party identification long thought to be one of the core findings of political science. These results suggest that liberals and conservatives engage different cognitive processes when they think about risk, and they support recent evidence that conservatives show greater sensitivity to threatening stimuli.
Project description:Research suggests that liberals and conservatives use different moral foundations to reason about moral issues (moral divide hypothesis). An alternative prediction is that observed ideological differences in moral foundations are instead driven by ingroup-versus-outgroup categorizations of competing political groups (political group conflict hypothesis). In two preregistered experiments (total N = 958), using experimentally manipulated measures of moral foundations, we test strong versions of both hypotheses and find partial support for both. Supporting the moral divide hypothesis, conservatives endorsed the binding foundations more strongly than liberals even when a moderate target group was explicitly specified. Supporting the political group conflict hypothesis, both conservatives and liberals endorsed moral foundations more when moral acts targeted ingroup versus outgroup members. These results have implications for improving measures of moral values and judgments and point to ways to enhance the effectiveness of strategies aimed at building bridges between people from different political camps.
Project description:Given research revealing conservatives are more sensitive to disease threat, it is curious that U.S. conservatives were less concerned than liberals with the COVID-19 pandemic. Across four studies that spanned almost ten months throughout the pandemic, we evaluated three potential reasons why conservatives were less concerned: (1) Motivated Political reasons (conservatives held COVID-specific political beliefs that motivated them to reduce concern), (2) Experiential reasons (conservatives were less directly affected by the outbreak than liberals), and (3) Conservative Messaging reasons (differential exposure to/trust in partisan conservative messaging). All four studies consistently showed evidence that political (and not experiential or partisan messaging) reasons more strongly mediated conservatives' lack of concern for COVID-19. Additional analyses further suggested that while they did not serve as strong mediators, experiential factors provided a boundary condition for the conservatism➔perceived threat relationship. These data on over 3000 participants are consistent with a new model of the ideology-disease outbreak interface that can be applied to both the ongoing pandemic and future disease outbreaks.
Project description:Despite the scientific consensus, some people still remain skeptical about climate change. In fact, there is a growing partisan divide over the last decade within the United States in the support for climate policies. Given the same climate evidence, why do some people become concerned while others remain unconvinced? Here we propose a motivated attention framework where socio-political motivations shape visual attention to climate evidence, altering perceptions of the evidence and subsequent actions to mitigate climate change. To seek support for this framework, we conducted three experiments. Participants viewed a graph of annual global temperature change while they were eyetracked and estimated the average change. We found that political orientation may bias attention to climate change evidence, altering the perception of the same evidence (Experiment 1). We further examined how attentional biases influence subsequent actions to mitigate climate change. We found that liberals were more likely to sign a climate petition or more willing to donate to an environmental organization than conservatives, and attention guides climate actions in different ways for liberals and conservatives (Experiment 2). To seek causal evidence, we biased attention to different parts of the temperature curve by coloring stronger climate evidence in red or weak climate evidence in red. We found that liberals were more likely to sign the petition or more willing to donate when stronger evidence was in red, but conservatives were less likely to act when stronger evidence was in red (Experiment 3). This suggests that drawing attention to motivationally consistent information increases actions in liberals, but discouraged conservatives. The findings provide initial preliminary evidence for the motivated attention framework, suggesting an attentional divide between liberals and conservatives in the perception of climate evidence. This divide might further reinforce prior beliefs about climate change, creating further polarization. The current study raises a possible attentional mechanism for ideologically motivated reasoning and its impact on basic perceptual processes. It also provides implications for the communication of climate science to different socio-political groups with the goal of mobilizing actions on climate change.
Project description:Recent years have witnessed an increased public outcry in certain quarters about a perceived lack of attention given to successful members of disadvantaged groups relative to equally meritorious members of advantaged groups, exemplified by social media campaigns centered around hashtags, such as #OscarsSoWhite and #WomenAlsoKnowStuff. Focusing on political ideology, we investigate here whether individuals differentially amplify successful targets depending on whether these targets belong to disadvantaged or advantaged groups, behavior that could help alleviate or entrench group-based disparities. Study 1 examines over 500,000 tweets from over 160,000 Twitter users about 46 unambiguously successful targets varying in race (white, black) and gender (male, female): American gold medalists from the 2016 Olympics. Leveraging advances in computational social science, we identify tweeters' political ideology, race, and gender. Tweets from political liberals were much more likely than those from conservatives to be about successful black (vs. white) and female (vs. male) gold medalists (and especially black females), controlling for tweeters' own race and gender, and even when tweeters themselves were white or male (i.e., advantaged group members). Studies 2 and 3 provided experimental evidence that liberals are more likely than conservatives to differentially amplify successful members of disadvantaged (vs. advantaged) groups and suggested that this is driven by liberals' heightened concern with social equality. Addressing theorizing about ideological asymmetries, we observed that political liberals are more responsible than conservatives for differential amplification. Our results highlight ideology's polarizing power to shape even whose accomplishments we promote, and extend theorizing about behavioral manifestations of egalitarian motives.
Project description:Two studies explored the relationship between political ideology and endorsement of a range of moral principles. Political liberals and conservatives did not differ on intrapersonal or interpersonal moralities, which require self-regulation. However differences emerged on collective moralities, which involve social regulation. Contrary to Moral Foundations Theory, both liberals and conservatives endorsed a group-focused binding morality, specifically Social Justice and Social Order respectively. Libertarians were the group without a binding morality. Although Social Justice and Social Order appear conflictual, analyses based on earlier cross-cultural work on societal tightness-looseness suggest that countries actually benefit in terms of economic success and societal well-being when these group-based moralities co-exist and serve as counterweights in social regulation.
Project description:People's motivation to rationalize and defend the status quo is a major barrier to societal change. Three studies tested whether perceived social mobility - beliefs about the likelihood to move up and down the socioeconomic ladder - can condition people's tendency to engage in system justification. Compared to information suggesting moderate social mobility, exposure to low social-mobility frames consistently reduced defense of the overarching societal system. Two studies examined how this effect occurs. Compared to moderate or baseline conditions, a low social-mobility frame reduced people's endorsement of (typically strong) meritocratic and just-world beliefs, which in turn explained lower system defense. These effects occurred for political liberals, moderates, and conservatives, and could not be explained by other system-legitimizing ideologies or people's beliefs about their own social mobility. Implications for societal change programs are discussed.
Project description:Moral reframing involves crafting persuasive arguments that appeal to the targets' moral values but argue in favor of something they would typically oppose. Applying this technique to one of the most politically polarizing events-political campaigns-we hypothesized that messages criticizing one's preferred political candidate that also appeal to that person's moral values can decrease support for the candidate. We tested this claim in the context of the 2016 American presidential election. In Study 1, conservatives reading a message opposing Donald Trump grounded in a more conservative value (loyalty) supported him less than conservatives reading a message grounded in more liberal concerns (fairness). In Study 2, liberals reading a message opposing Hillary Clinton appealing to fairness values were less supportive of Clinton than liberals in a loyalty-argument condition. These results highlight how moral reframing can be used to overcome the rigid stances partisans often hold and help develop political acceptance.
Project description:Is the media biased against conservatives? Although a dominant majority of journalists identify as liberals/Democrats and many Americans and public officials frequently decry supposedly high and increasing levels of media bias, little compelling evidence exists as to (i) the ideological or partisan leanings of the many journalists who fail to answer surveys and/or identify as independents and (ii) whether journalists' political leanings bleed into the choice of which stories to cover that Americans ultimately consume. Using a unique combination of a large-scale survey of political journalists, data from journalists' Twitter networks, election returns, a large-scale correspondence experiment, and a conjoint survey experiment, we show definitively that the media exhibits no bias against conservatives (or liberals for that matter) in what news that they choose to cover. This shows that journalists' individual ideological leanings have unexpectedly little effect on the vitally important, but, up to this point, unexplored, early stage of political news generation.