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(Im)possible Worlds: The social psychological functions of imagining alternative societies

Panayiotou, Orestis (2020) (Im)possible Worlds: The social psychological functions of imagining alternative societies. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent,. (Access to this publication is currently restricted. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided) (KAR id:82863)

Language: English

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Drawing from research and theory (outlined in Chapter 1) emphasising the underlying cognitive-processes of utopian thinking and its potential to instigate motivations for criticism of the status quo, this thesis investigated different psychological concomitants of utopianism, including psychological distance, system justification, and violence. Three studies (Chapter 2) provide evidence that utopias are perceived as more psychologically distant than dystopias. Studies 2 and 3 reveal that this asymmetry in distance is driven by a higher prevalence of dystopian (vs. utopian) representations in society and tends to be more prevalent among individuals low in system justification. Study 4 (Chapter 3) suggests that the effect of utopian thinking on system justification depends on political orientation. Liberal participants rejected, while conservatives supported the overarching socio-political system when imagining ideal (vs. realistic) possible worlds. Studies 5 - 6 (Chapter 3), conducted prior to 2016 US Presidential and 2017 UK General elections, respectively, suggest that the moderating role of political orientation may subside in the context of system change. Participants envisaging ideal possible worlds prior to elections reported lower system justification levels, irrespective of political orientation. These results suggest that political orientation and the social context may influence whether utopian thinking instigates motivation to criticise the status quo. Studies 7 - 11 (Chapter 4) examine the influence of utopian thinking on two forms of non-normative collective action (i.e., radical action and violence). Studies 7 and 8 suggest that idealistic beliefs about change encourage support for verbal and physical forms of collective violence against out-groups, while realistic beliefs about social change tend to dampen such justifications. Studies 9 - 11(Chapter 4) provided only partial experimental support of these effects. In Chapter 5, I discuss the implications of these findings 2 for the emerging field of research into utopian thinking as well as propose avenues for future research into this topic.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Cichocka, Aleksandra
Thesis advisor: Sutton, Robbie
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Psychology
SWORD Depositor: System Moodle
Depositing User: System Moodle
Date Deposited: 14 Sep 2020 10:07 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2021 14:14 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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