Folk economic beliefs moderate the effects of majority group status threat

AbstractFolk theories guide behavior and shape how people make sense of their environment. We investigated whether folk economic beliefs would moderate the widely publicized finding that people show a conservative shift in their politics when their majority status in society is threatened. Across three experiments, participants read about either projected demographic changes (threat) or changes in online dating (control), indicated whether they viewed the economy as a zero- or non-zero-sum system, and responded to measures of sociopolitical attitudes. Compared to controls, participants in the threat condition who conceptualized the economy in zero-sum terms supported more conservative policies. However, those who conceptualized the economy in non-zero-sum terms actually endorsed more liberal positions in this condition. These effects obtained only when participants expressed their economic views before their political attitudes. This suggests folk economic beliefs shape how people respond to threats to their majority status, provided those beliefs are first made explicit.

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