“Not for All the Tea in China!” Political Ideology and the Avoidance of Dissonance-Arousing Situations

Abstract

People often avoid information and situations that have the potential to contradict previously held beliefs and attitudes (i.e., situations that arouse cognitive dissonance). According to the motivated social cognition model of political ideology, conservatives tend to have stronger epistemic needs to attain certainty and closure than liberals. This implies that there may be differences in how liberals and conservatives respond to dissonance-arousing situations. In two experiments, we investigated the possibility that conservatives would be more strongly motivated to avoid dissonance-arousing tasks than liberals. Indeed, U.S. residents who preferred more conservative presidents (George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan) complied less than Americans who preferred more liberal presidents (Barack Obama and Bill Clinton) with the request to write a counter-attitudinal essay about who made a "better president." This difference was not observed under circumstances of low perceived choice or when the topic of the counter-attitudinal essay was non-political (i.e., when it pertained to computer or beverage preferences). The results of these experiments provide initial evidence of ideological differences in dissonance avoidance. Future work would do well to determine whether such differences are specific to political issues or topics that are personally important. Implications for political behavior are discussed.

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0059837

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Cite this paper

@inproceedings{Nam2013NotFA, title={“Not for All the Tea in China!” Political Ideology and the Avoidance of Dissonance-Arousing Situations}, author={H. Hannah Nam and John T. Jost and Jay J. van Bavel}, booktitle={PloS one}, year={2013} }