International Society of Political Psychology

Conference Abstracts

Epistemic and Relational Underpinnings of Attitudes and Persuasion Across the Ideological Spectrum

Margarita Krochik, New York University; John Jost, New York University

Conference: ISPP 2011
Affiliation: New York University
Research Area: Political decision making

Drawing on the theoretical overlap between shared reality theory and the motivated social cognition perspective on ideology, we explored patterns of attitude stability and change across the ideological spectrum. To the extent that epistemic needs for certainty are served by sharing reality with relevant others, the heightened need for cognitive closure associated with political conservatism implies that conservatives’ attitudes should be more sensitive to relational (or heuristic) cues in comparison with liberals. In this talk, we will present evidence supporting this prediction. Aggregating across attitudes toward 95 different object pairs, we found that conservatives were more likely than liberals to see their own social and political attitudes as similar to the attitudes of others (including close others).  Additionally, when source similarity and argument strength were manipulated in a persuasive context, conservatives were more influenced by relational cues indicating source similarity, whereas liberals were more influenced by strong (vs. weak) arguments.  We propose that similarity cues motivate social tuning to a greater extent among conservatives (vs. liberals) because they satisfy epistemic needs for cognitive closure through social validation and the attainment of shared reality.  These findings bear on the social psychological processes whereby liberals and conservatives come to hold opposing values, beliefs, opinions, and styles in both political and non-political domains.