20 April 2010

The problem with the conservative mind

From the discussion section from "System Justification, the Denial of GlobalWarming, and the Possibility of “System-Sanctioned Change." The article analyzes conservative denial of environmental problems and shows how conservatism costs society dearly:

The results of our first two studies also suggest that commonly observed differences between demographic and ideological groups with respect to environmental attitudes can be explained in part by system justification tendencies. Specifically, political conservatives scored higher than liberals on measures of system justification (see also Jost, Nosek, et al., 2008), and this partially accounted for their propensity to minimize or deny environmental problems and their reluctance to bear personal responsibility for alleviating the causes of environmental problems. These findings shed light on the oft-noted tendency of political conservatives to express less concern about environmental problems compared to liberals (e.g., Begley, 2007; Carroll, 2007; Dunlap, 2008). However, system justification did not fully account for the effect of political orientation on environmental attitudes. It seems likely that “top-down” institutional factors are also at work, including differences in the official platforms of the Republican and Democratic parties (Begley, 2007; McCright & Dunlap, 2003). The current research also provides one of the first investigations into the nature of the relationship between national identification and system justification, as well as the relationship between national identification and attitudes concerning the natural environment. Not too surprisingly, people who are more highly identified with their country and are more invested in its success are especially motivated to perceive the socioeconomic system of that country as fair and legitimate (cf. Shayo, 2009; Laurin et al., 2009). However, system justification motivation, as we have seen, also carries with it potentially negative consequences, such as resisting efforts to improve the status quo, which ultimately hurts the very system in which one is psychologically invested (see also Jost, Blount, et al., 2003; Wakslak et al., 2007). More optimistically, our third study suggests that by emphasizing the fact that the “American way of life” depends on a healthy natural environment, it is possible to motivate those who are otherwise personally or ideologically inclined to dismiss environmental problems to confront those problems openly and to take constructive action.

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