Date of Graduation

8-2016

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology (PhD)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Psychological Science

Advisor

Scott Eidelman

Committee Member

Denise R. Beike

Second Committee Member

William H. Levine

Abstract

It is well established that people like familiarity over novelty. Because that which is most familiar is frequently indicative of the way things are, favoring familiarity should create a psychological advantage for the status quo. In two studies, I tested the hypothesis that familiarity bias—susceptibility to the mere-exposure effect whereby attitude objects receive increasingly favorable evaluations due to repeated sensory experience—is foundational to ideological support for the status quo. In Study 1, individual variation in familiarity bias predicted greater Right-Wing Authoritarianism. Existential threat was experimentally manipulated via the salience of international terrorism in Study 2, but was unsuccessful due to a major terrorist attack against Brussels, Belgium during data collection. The present research offers mixed support for a link between familiarity bias and ideological support for the status quo. Further tests are necessary to determine if and how susceptibility to the mere-exposure effect is related to and right-wing ideology and motivations to manage threat and uncertainty.

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