Preliminary support for a generalized arousal model of political conservatism

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Abstract

It is widely held that negative emotions such as threat, anxiety, and disgust represent the core psychological factors that enhance conservative political beliefs. We put forward an alternative hypothesis: that conservatism is fundamentally motivated by arousal, and that, in this context, the effect of negative emotion is due to engaging intensely arousing states. Here we show that study participants agreed more with right but not left-wing political speeches after being exposed to positive as well as negative emotion-inducing film-clips. No such effect emerged for neutral-content videos. A follow-up study replicated and extended this effect. These results are consistent with the idea that emotional arousal, in general, and not negative valence, specifically, may underlie political conservatism.

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Tritt, S. M., Inzlicht, M., & Peterson, J. B. (2013). Preliminary support for a generalized arousal model of political conservatism. PLoS ONE, 8(12). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0083333

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