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Political Ideology and Precautionary Reasoning: Testing the Palliative Function of Right-Wing Ideology on Obsessive-Compulsive Symptoms

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Precautionary models of political ideology suggest that people on the right are motivated by needs to neutralize threats in everyday life more than those on the left. This article examines whether this ideological difference extends to a psychological scale that directly captures the need to engage in everyday precautionary actions to reduce feelings of threat: a scale of obsessive-compulsive symptoms. Across four samples (including a nationally representative sample), we find that stronger obsessive-compulsive symptoms are associated with more right-wing ideological preferences, particularly for social rather than economic issues. Most importantly, we use the scale of obsessive-compulsive symptoms to examine a crucial feature of the precautionary model of political ideology that has been left underexplored: does the promotion of right-wing policies serve a palliative function to reduce feelings of threat in everyday life? Using a communication experiment, we find that exposure to real-world policy assurances from the Republican Party (i.e., the US conservative party) provides a small, most likely short-lived reduction in obsessive-compulsive symptoms among Americans. We discuss how these findings shed light on the key paradox about the psychology of right-wing ideology: how right-wing ideology can function to reduce insecurity while people on the right still have higher levels of insecurity.
TidsskriftSocial Cognition
Sider (fra-til)450-474
Antal sider25
StatusUdgivet - 2017

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