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J Pers Soc Psychol. 2002 Aug;83(2):470-87.

Dispositions, scripts, or motivated correction? Understanding ideological differences in explanations for social problems.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Illinois at Chicago, 60607-7137, USA.


Research has consistently found that liberals and conservatives generate different attributions for the causes of social problems and respond differently to people who have internal-controllable causes for needing help. Five studies using a variety of methods (the "college bowl" paradigm, the attitude-attribution paradigm, 2 surveys with nationally representative samples, and an experiment that assessed attributional judgments under varying levels of cognitive load) explored whether these differences could be explained by (a) underlying dispositional differences in the tendency to see the causes of behavior as personally or situationally located, (b) ideological scripts, or (c) differences in the motivation to correct personal attributions. Results were most consistent with the motivated correction explanation. The findings shed further light on the cognitive strategies and motivational priorities of liberals and conservatives.

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