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Rediscovering Tomkins' polarity theory : Humanism, normativism, and the psychological basis of left-right ideological conflict in the U.S. and Sweden

Nilsson, Artur LU and Jost, John T. (2020) In PLoS ONE 15(7).
Abstract

According to Silvan Tomkins' polarity theory, ideological thought is universally structured by a clash between two opposing worldviews. On the left, a humanistic worldview seeks to uphold the intrinsic value of the person; on the right, a normative worldview holds that human worth is contingent upon conformity to rules. In this article, we situate humanism and normativism within the context of contemporary models of political ideology as a function of motivated social cognition, beliefs about the social world, and personality traits. In four studies conducted in the U.S. and Sweden, normativism was robustly associated with rightist (or conservative) self-placement; conservative issue preferences; resistance to change and acceptance of... (More)

According to Silvan Tomkins' polarity theory, ideological thought is universally structured by a clash between two opposing worldviews. On the left, a humanistic worldview seeks to uphold the intrinsic value of the person; on the right, a normative worldview holds that human worth is contingent upon conformity to rules. In this article, we situate humanism and normativism within the context of contemporary models of political ideology as a function of motivated social cognition, beliefs about the social world, and personality traits. In four studies conducted in the U.S. and Sweden, normativism was robustly associated with rightist (or conservative) self-placement; conservative issue preferences; resistance to change and acceptance of inequality; right-wing authoritarianism and social dominance orientation; system justification and its underlying epistemic and existential motives to reduce uncertainty and threat; and a lack of openness, emotionality, and honesty-humility. Humanism exhibited the opposite relations to most of these constructs, but it was largely unrelated to epistemic and existential needs. Humanism was strongly associated with preferences for equality, openness to change, and low levels of authoritarianism, social dominance, and general and economic system justification. We conclude that polarity theory possesses considerable potential to explain how conflicts between worldviews shape contemporary politics.

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published
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PLoS ONE
volume
15
issue
7
article number
e0236627
publisher
Public Library of Science
external identifiers
  • scopus:85089129652
  • pmid:32735591
ISSN
1932-6203
DOI
10.1371/journal.pone.0236627
language
English
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yes
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4a73ec82-3506-41b4-bc01-684e4e9b8464
date added to LUP
2020-08-19 13:47:31
date last changed
2020-08-20 03:00:03
@article{4a73ec82-3506-41b4-bc01-684e4e9b8464,
  abstract     = {<p>According to Silvan Tomkins' polarity theory, ideological thought is universally structured by a clash between two opposing worldviews. On the left, a humanistic worldview seeks to uphold the intrinsic value of the person; on the right, a normative worldview holds that human worth is contingent upon conformity to rules. In this article, we situate humanism and normativism within the context of contemporary models of political ideology as a function of motivated social cognition, beliefs about the social world, and personality traits. In four studies conducted in the U.S. and Sweden, normativism was robustly associated with rightist (or conservative) self-placement; conservative issue preferences; resistance to change and acceptance of inequality; right-wing authoritarianism and social dominance orientation; system justification and its underlying epistemic and existential motives to reduce uncertainty and threat; and a lack of openness, emotionality, and honesty-humility. Humanism exhibited the opposite relations to most of these constructs, but it was largely unrelated to epistemic and existential needs. Humanism was strongly associated with preferences for equality, openness to change, and low levels of authoritarianism, social dominance, and general and economic system justification. We conclude that polarity theory possesses considerable potential to explain how conflicts between worldviews shape contemporary politics.</p>},
  author       = {Nilsson, Artur and Jost, John T.},
  issn         = {1932-6203},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {7},
  publisher    = {Public Library of Science},
  series       = {PLoS ONE},
  title        = {Rediscovering Tomkins' polarity theory : Humanism, normativism, and the psychological basis of left-right ideological conflict in the U.S. and Sweden},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0236627},
  doi          = {10.1371/journal.pone.0236627},
  volume       = {15},
  year         = {2020},
}