Although we maintain distinctions among specific hypotheses for the purposes of assessing cumulative empirical evidence for and against each, one of the virtues of our motivated social-cognitive perspectives is that it helps to integrate seemingly unrelated motives and tendencies. Specifically, we argue that a number of different epistemic motives (dogmatism-intolerance of ambiguity; cognitive complexity; close-mindedness; uncertainty avoidance; needs for order, structure, and closure), existential motives (self-esteem, terror management, fear, threat, anger, and pessimism), and ideological motives (self-interest, group dominance, and system justification) are all related to the expression of political conservatism. Now we draw on the perspective of motivated social cognition to advance the integrative argument that epistemic, existential, and ideological motives are themselves interrelated.
Definition of EPISTEMOLOGY :
the study or a theory of the nature and grounds of knowledge especially with reference to its limits and validity.
Theoretical and empirical considerations lead us to conclude that virtually all of the above motives originate in psychological attempts to manage uncertainty and fear. These, in turn, are inherently related to the two core aspects of conservative thought - resistance to change and the endorsement of inequality. The management of uncertainty is served by resistance to change insofar as change (by its very nature) upsets existing realities and is fraught with epistemic insecurity. Fear may be both a cause and a consequence of endorsing inequality: it breeds and justifies competition, dominance struggles, and sometimes, violent strife. Epistemic motives, by definition, govern the ways in which people seek to acquire beliefs that are certain and that help to navigate social and physical worlds that are threateningly ambiguous, complex, novel, and chaotic. Thus, epistemic needs effect the style and manner by which individuals seek to overcome uncertainty and fear of the unknown. FOOTNOTE : As suggested by an anonymous reviewer, it is possible that conservatives do not fear uncertainty per se but rather are especially concerned with minimizing future negative outcomes (failure - NCL). In this sense, it may be that a pessimistic, risk-averse prevention orientation characterizes conservatives' thinking about uncertain outcomes, which may explain why they would, for example, adopt a worst case scenario perspective with regard to military foreign policy.
BOIL DOWN A DEFINITION OF SALIENCE IN CONTEXTDefinition of SALIENCE :
- 1: moving by leaps or springs : jumping
- 2: jetting upward a salient fountain
- 3a : projecting beyond a line, surface, or levelb : standing out conspicuously : prominent; especially : of notable significance
Existential motives, too, involve a desire for certainty security that is associated with resisting rather than fostering change. Empirical work demonstrates that uncertainty-related threats and mortality salience (i.e., the pointed awareness of mortality - NCL) have similar and compatible effects on social and political attitudes, suggesting that epistemic and existential motives are in fact highly interrelated. Epistemic commitments, it seems, help to resolve existential conflicts, and existential motives affect the search for knowledge and meaning. Insofar as knowledge and meaning are derived from extant cultural arrangements and conventionally accepted definitions of reality [gigantic assumptions here - NCL], the terror arising from the possibility of one's own demise may induce resistance to change.
Ideological beliefs, it has often been noted, help ...
WORST CASE SCENARIO or Big Ugly Take The Hindmost
the butterflies in my stomach tasted ok with the tangy béarnaise /the waiter with the déclassé Italian provost's mustache may have had them on a string /sell 'em by the gram with endives, watercress, and a five pound thumb on the scale /the phantom sharing my table had a smoky affectation and a counterfeit invitation /mirages are constitutionally hermaphroditic having diacritics in their signatures /confabulation was the time of night with wax winged hyphens dotting every dash /a more austere hand on the tiller would certainly have made for the safety of depth /mumblety-peg, mumblety-peg, knives and fire and bright words sheathed in invective /who lives in such unhandsome climes or dines by the gnash of Scylla on Charybdis /he who raves first laughs worst tongue tangled in triangular teeth, trip-hammer tiptoe /vermin underfoot have bellies of hinged boilerplate, marsupials smuggle hand grenades /I asked for the check; my Thompson chopper had a 100 round drum - once should do /Lefty couldn't be dissuaded from picking his teeth with the customer's switch blades /