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Social Justice Research

, Volume 30, Issue 4, pp 381–407 | Cite as

The Role of Genes and Environments in Linking the Need to Evaluate with Political Ideology and Political Extremity

  • Aleksander KsiazkiewiczEmail author
  • Robert F. Krueger
Article

Abstract

Understanding the origins of political ideology and political extremity at the individual level is becoming increasingly pressing in the face of polarization in the political domain. Building upon the motivated social cognition model of political ideology, we propose a motivated cognition approach to the study of political extremity with the need to evaluate as a key epistemic motive that contributes to political extremity. Moreover, we hypothesize that the link between the need to evaluate and political extremity may rest largely on shared genetic effects. This hypothesis builds upon existing biology and politics research, which has convincingly demonstrated that genes influence the direction of ideology, but has been largely silent on the role of genes in political extremity. To test our hypothesis, we consider several types of ideological, affective, and partisan extremity alongside conventional measures of political ideology and the need to evaluate in a behavioral genetic framework. Using a twin study methodology, we show for the first that the need to evaluate is heritable, that its phenotypic relationships with ideological extremity and strength are rooted in shared genetic influences, and, unexpectedly, that the relationship between the need to evaluate and some forms of political extremity is largely environmental. In examining the genetic and environmental components of the covariation of the need to evaluate with political ideology and right wing authoritarianism, we find limited support for shared genetic influences. Taken together, these results illustrate the value of adopting a biologically informed motivated cognition approach to the study of political ideology and political extremity.

Keywords

Need to evaluate Ideology Political extremity Twin study Genetics Motivated cognition 

Notes

Acknowledgements

This study was funded, in part, by the Rice Social Science Research Institute. The remainder of the study was crowd-funded through the SciFund Challenge.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

Aleksander Ksiazkiewicz declares that he has no conflict of interest. Robert F. Krueger declares that he has no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

Supplementary material

11211_2017_292_MOESM1_ESM.docx (57 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 56 kb)

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignUrbanaUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA

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