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Testing the effects of pathogen threat and sexual strategies on political ideology

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 September 2020

Natalie J. Shook
West Virginia University and University of Connecticut
Benjamin Oosterhoff
Montana State University
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Disgust has been consistently associated with greater political conservatism. Two explanations have been proposed for this link. According to a pathogen threat model, disgust serves a pathogen-avoidance function, encouraging more conservative ideology, whereas a sexual strategies model suggests that this link is explained by variability in short-term versus long-term mating goals. In two preregistered studies using a college student and community sample (total N = 1,950), we examined whether experimentally manipulating pathogen threat and mate availability produced differences in political ideology and whether these differences were explained by disgust and sociosexual attitudes. Across both studies, we did not find evidence that manipulating pathogen threat or mate availability resulted in change in political ideology. In Study 1, manipulating mate availability was indirectly associated with greater political conservativism through stronger sociosexual attitudes that favor monogamy. These findings failed to replicate in Study 2. Implications for theory and future research are discussed.

© Association for Politics and the Life Sciences 2020

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