Thursday, July 09, 2015

Political ideology, self control, and belief in free will.

MindBlog has a thread of posts noting psychological studies on those who endorse traditional values and the status quo (conservatives) versus those who endorse egalitarian ideals and progressive change (liberals). Clarkson et al. add a further interesting instalment to such studies, using the usual gaggle of ~150 college undergraduates the first two of their three studies, and ~150 subjects chosen by Amazon's Mechanical Turk for the third.:

Surprisingly little is known about the self-control consequences of individuals’ political ideologies, given the centrality of political ideology to people’s self-identity and the vitality of self-control to human functioning. This research addresses this unexplored gap by offering insight into the processes (freewill beliefs) and factors (the value of freewill for effective self-control) that lead both conservatives and liberals to demonstrate greater self-control. In doing so, these findings provide a platform by which to broaden our understanding of the underlying mechanisms impacting self-control as well as an alternative perspective for interpreting previously documented differences between conservatives and liberals (e.g., intelligence, academic success).
Evidence from three studies reveals a critical difference in self-control as a function of political ideology. Specifically, greater endorsement of political conservatism (versus liberalism) was associated with greater attention regulation and task persistence. Moreover, this relationship is shown to stem from varying beliefs in freewill; specifically, the association between political ideology and self-control is mediated by differences in the extent to which belief in freewill is endorsed, is independent of task performance or motivation, and is reversed when freewill is perceived to impede (rather than enhance) self-control. Collectively, these findings offer insight into the self-control consequences of political ideology by detailing conditions under which conservatives and liberals are better suited to engage in self-control and outlining the role of freewill beliefs in determining these conditions.

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