One of the Skitka Lab’s enduring interests has been research designed to increase our understanding of the cognitive and motivational underpinnings of the left-right ideological divide, and political psychology more generally. Our current work in this area has been primarily focused on understanding the sources of what we call the “ideo-attribution effect,” that is, the tendency for liberals and conservatives to make different attributions for the causes of various social and personal problems. Specifically, conservatives tend to attribute poverty, crime, homelessness, AIDS, foreign aggression, and even obesity to causes internal to persons, whereas liberals tend to attribute the same phenomena more to situational factors. At least three explanations for these effects can be proposed: (a) the dispositional hypothesis--liberals and conservatives have dispositionally different ways of looking at and construing their social worlds, based on factors that shape personality development, (b) the ideological script hypothesis-- rather than being fundamentally different, liberals and conservatives may instead adopt a post hoc and heuristic "party line" once they define themselves as either liberal or conservative, or (c) the motivated correction hypothesis --liberals and conservatives may not differ in a baseline propensity to make first pass personal attributions; rather observed differences may be due to the fact that making a personal attribution in the contexts studied most frequently would be inconsistent with values liberals hold especially dear. Liberals recognize the inconsistency of humanitarian values, for example, and holding the poor responsible for their plight, and therefore adjust their initial personal attributions to take situational factors into account. If this is true, however, then conservatives should be equally motivated to correct a tendency toward making dispositional inferences when their values are inconsistent with doing so. Our research supports the motivated correction hypothesis—our research reveals that the psychological dynamics that lead to the ideo-attribution effect are the same across liberals and conservatives, but differences in relevant values predict when one will see the “usual” ideo-attribution effect or its reversal. Our future research will test whether liberals and conservatives find “correction” equally effortful, and other implications of our motivated correction model of ideological reasoning.

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