Political ideology, exploration of novel stimuli, and attitude formation

Shook, Natalie J.; Fazio, Russell H.
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology

In this study, the relations among political ideology, exploratory behavior, and the formation of attitudes toward novel stimuli were explored. Participants played a computer game that required learning whether these stimuli produced positive or negative outcomes. Learning was dependent on participants’ decisions to sample novel stimuli and discover the associated valence. Political ideology correlated with exploration during the game, with conservatives sampling fewer targets than liberals. Moreover, more conservative individuals exhibited a stronger learning asymmetry, such that they learned negative stimuli better than positive. Mediational analyses revealed that the differences in learning were due to the extent of exploratory behavior during the game. Relative to liberals, politically conservative individuals pursued a more avoidant strategy to the game, which led to their development of a more pronounced valence asymmetry in learning and attitude formation.