International Society of Political Psychology

Conference Abstracts

The automatic conservative: Ideology-based attentional asymmetries in the processing of valenced inf

Luigi Castelli, University of Padova; Luciana Carraro, University of Padova

Conference: ISPP 2011
Affiliation: University of Padova, Department of Developmental and Social Psychology
Research Area: Political decision making

Research has widely explored the differences between conservatives and liberals, and it has been also recently demonstrated that conservatives display different reactions toward valenced stimuli. However, previous studies have not yet fully enlightened the cognitive underpinnings of these differences. In the current work, we argued that political ideology is related to selective attention processes, so that negative stimuli are more likely to automatically grab the attention of conservatives as compared to liberals. In Study 1, we demonstrated that negative (vs. positive) information impaired the performance of conservatives, more than liberals, in an Emotional Stroop Task. This finding was confirmed in Study 2 employing a Dot-Probe Task, demonstrating that threatening stimuli were more likely to attract the attention of conservatives. In two additional studies we explored the consequences of such ideology-based asymmetry in the processing of valenced information. It was found that in a typical illusory correlation paradigm (Hamilton & Gifford, 1976), participants embracing conservative views of the world formed more negative impressions about the minority group when negative, but not positive, information was also infrequent. It thus appears that ideology-based differences are associated to a key basic cognitive mechanism involved in the formation of social attitudes and this finding may help to illuminate one the routes that contribute to lead conservatives to develop more negative perceptions about minorities.