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Political differences in free will belief are associated with differences in moralization

Everett, Jim A.C., Clark, Cory, Meindl, Peter, Luguri, Jamie, Earp, Brian D., Graham, Jesse, Ditto, Peter, Shariff, Azim (2020) Political differences in free will belief are associated with differences in moralization. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, . ISSN 0022-3514. (doi:10.1037/pspp0000286) (KAR id:80467)


In fourteen studies, we tested whether political conservatives’ stronger free will beliefs were linked to stronger and broader tendencies to moralize, and thus a greater motivation to assign blame. In Study 1 (meta-analysis of five studies, n=308,499) we show that conservatives have stronger tendencies to moralize than liberals, even for moralization measures containing zero political content (e.g., moral badness ratings of faces and personality traits). In Study 2, we show that conservatives report higher free will belief, and this is statistically mediated by the belief that people should be held morally responsible for their bad behavior (n=14,707). In Study 3, we show that political conservatism is associated with higher attributions of free will for specific events. Turning to experimental manipulations to test our hypotheses, we show that: when conservatives and liberals see an action as equally wrong there is no difference in free will attributions (Study 4); when conservatives see an action as less wrong than liberals, they attribute less free will (Study 5); and specific perceptions of wrongness account for the relation between political ideology and free will attributions (Study 6a and 6b). Finally, we show that political conservatives and liberals even differentially attribute free will for the same action depending on who performed it (Studies 7a-d). These results are consistent with our theory that political differences in free will belief are at least partly explicable by conservatives’ tendency to moralize, which strengthens motivation to justify blame with stronger belief in free will and personal accountability.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1037/pspp0000286
Uncontrolled keywords: free will; morality; blame; motivated cognition; political psychology
Subjects: H Social Sciences
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Psychology
Depositing User: Jim Everett
Date Deposited: 11 Mar 2020 22:00 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2021 14:11 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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