A new study published in Social Psychological and Personality Science Journal investigated 26 “primal world beliefs” and their relations to political ideology. This included beliefs that the world is Hierarchical, Intentional, Just, Worth Exploring, and so on.

It found that the primary difference between Left- and Right-Wing worldviews is the belief that hierarchy is inherent to reality. This is not simply the belief that hierarchies exist but that they are part of the natural order and not artificially imposed; just the way that things are, whether people like it or not. Right-Wingers apply this hierarchical view to every aspect of the universe: Humans, animals, plants, etc.

“Folks who see the world as hierarchical think that almost everything in the world can be ranked from better to worse. Differences probably matter because they distinguish things of more value from things with less. So, when in doubt, respect differences.”

“Conservatives do tend to show a default motivation to respect and preserve differences, whether it be borders between countries, differences between sexes, differences between rich and poor, and lots more. And liberals tend to assume those differences are fraudulent or arbitrary. The poor don’t deserve to be poor. The rich don’t deserve to be rich. And so forth.”

The study discovered five additional primal world beliefs that significantly differentiate Left- and Right-Wing worldviews. These are marked in darker gray on the chart below.

They also compared the worldviews of Social and Economic Conservatives. Both displayed significant overlap, with one key distinction: Economic Conservatives believe that the world is progressing, while Social Conservatives do not.

The authors summarized Left- and Right-Wing worldviews as follows:

Conservatives tend to see the world as a place where, like it or not, observable differences reflect real underlying value [high Hierarchical world belief] that is somehow meant to be [high Intentional world belief] where station and attention received are usually deserved [high Just world belief, low belief that the world is Worth Exploring]. Therefore, most hierarchies that emerge are best left as they are [high Acceptable world belief]. However, unfortunately, change is slowly eroding the world’s hierarchies [low Progressing world belief]. Therefore, constraining change and accepting inequality [the textbook two-part definition of conservatism that researchers use] is just common sense.

Liberals tend to see the world as a place where observable differences are superficial, rarely reflecting actual value [low Hierarchical world belief], cosmic purpose or intent [low Intentional world belief], deserved status [low Just world belief], or attention received [high Worth Exploring]. Therefore, most hierarchies require reform [low Acceptable world belief]. Fortunately, however, the world is getting better and change is taking us in the right direction [high Progressing world belief]. Therefore, embracing change and rejecting inequality [the textbook definition of liberalism] is just common sense.

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