Values and Epistemic Motivation: Testing Ideological Differences and Similarities in Need for Closure
thesisposted on 01.02.2019, 00:00 by Anthony Washburn
One of the most frequently referenced explanations for ideological differences is that conservatives, compared to liberals, have a greater psychological need to possess knowledge that is certain, unchanging, and permanent (e.g., Jost, Glaser, Kruglanski, & Sulloway, 2003). More recent research finds that epistemic needs predict social conservatism only to a small extent, and sometimes actually predict economic liberalism instead (e.g., Malka, Soto, Inzlicht, & Lelkes, 2014). The proposed dissertation used a new framework for examining ideological differences in epistemic needs as a function of worldview defense (Values and Epistemic Motivation Model). Rather than viewing political preferences as satisfying psychological needs for knowledge and structure, I proposed that liberals and conservatives should be equally likely to seek closure on value-relevant beliefs. My dissertation tested how value relevance and consistency impacted processing of information related to potential political candidates. Liberals and conservatives spent less time evaluating political candidate information when that information conflicted with their important values and beliefs, which was partly explained by negative affect felt toward the candidates with worldview-conflicting stances. Importantly, conservatives and liberals engaged in this motivated process to a similar extent. Therefore, previously accepted political differences might be more a function of value differences between liberals and conservatives rather than underlying differences in psychological needs or functioning.