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Title: Sometimes, it's not Right to go Left : the perceived consequences of endorsing political ideologies
Author: Wilson, Katherine
Awarding Body: University of Kent
Current Institution: University of Kent
Date of Award: 2014
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The aim of the research within this thesis was to investigate lay people’s beliefs about political ideologies and related constructs. Specifically, I researched whether people recognise the functions of ideologies and recognise when strategically, it makes the most sense to endorse them. In nine studies, participants’ knowledge of ideological constructs was assessed. To begin with, participants’ knowledge was assessed indirectly by asking them about their own endorsement of variables, such as social dominance orientation, while imagining themselves embroiled within an international conflict. As the research progressed, more direct methods were used in which participants were asked whether endorsing left or right wing ideological constructs would promote inequality within society and palliative outcomes for individuals. In my first empirical chapter, I present three studies which assess under what specific conditions people will endorse SDO. These studies demonstrate how people endorse SDO strategically in response to specific contextual features of intergroup conflicts. Study 1 showed that people endorse SDO more when locked in an intergroup dilemma with a group which defects (vs. cooperates). In Study 2, the presence (vs. absence) of sunk costs – previous investments by the ingroup in a conflict – increased SDO. In Study 3, high stakes (compared to none) increased the endorsement of SDO. In Studies 2 and 3, increases in SDO elicited indirect effects of contextual factors on participants’ willingness to make further investments in the conflict. In my second empirical chapter, I consider whether this strategic adoption of ideological positions may be based on knowledge of their consequences for intergroup relations. In Study 4, participants evaluated a group described as being high (compared to low) in SDO as more likely to be committed to a conflict, more likely to invest in that conflict, and as a result, more likely to emerge successfully from that conflict. These results were replicated in Study 5, where I began to utilise more direct measures in order to explore lay theories of ideological variables. Participants were explicitly asked whether they thought endorsing ideological variables (SDO, conservatism and system justification) would promote outcomes including success in conflicts and maintaining inequality along with social cohesion within societies. Participants attributed both SDO and conservatism with promoting inequality and success within conflict whereas system justification was evaluated as likely to promote social cohesion. Chapter 5 provided compelling evidence that lay people have accurate knowledge of the functions of ideological constructs. In my third and fourth empirical chapters, I empirically examine the folk beliefs about political ideologies that may draw people to them. Across four studies, participants attributed both left and right wing ideologies as likely to promote aspects of hedonic and eudaimonic wellbeing for others and themselves. Furthermore, participants recognised, with a compelling degree of accuracy, that there are marked differences between left and right wing political ideologies in terms of closed-mindedness and the attitudes they promote towards inequality, just world beliefs and concern for others. Taken together, these findings suggest that lay individuals have accurate knowledge of the consequences of endorsing ideological variables and recognise when it makes strategic sense to do so. Although people’s ideological positions are determined by many factors, the present research suggests that one of these factors may be informed, strategic choice. That is, people may select or modify their ideological positions based on shared and surprisingly sophisticated understandings of their consequences. In the final chapter, I discuss how further research may explore the interplay between lay beliefs about political ideology and their consequences for political choice.
Supervisor: Sutton, Robbie Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: BF Psychology ; JC Political theory