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Childhood harshness predicts long-lasting leader preferences

Abstract : Understanding the origins of political authoritarianism is of key importance for modern democracies. Recent works in evolutionary psychology suggest that human cognitive preferences may be the output of a biological response to early stressful environments. In this paper, we hypothesized that people's leader preferences are partly driven by early signals of harshness. We experimentally elicited children's (Study 1) and adults' (Study 2) political preferences using faces controlled for dominance and trustworthiness and showed that early childhood harshness has an enduring effect on adult political attitudes. Importantly, this effect was further confirmed using self-reported extreme authoritarianism (Study 2) and by the analysis of the large database of the European Value Survey (Study 3). We discuss the potential political implications of this early calibration of leader preferences.
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Contributor : Julie Grezes <>
Submitted on : Thursday, January 30, 2020 - 6:20:26 PM
Last modification on : Tuesday, January 12, 2021 - 3:29:35 AM

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Lou Safra, Yann Algan, Teodora Tecu, Julie Grèzes, Nicolas Baumard, et al.. Childhood harshness predicts long-lasting leader preferences. Evolution and Human Behavior, Elsevier, 2017, 38 (5), pp.645-651. ⟨10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2017.05.001⟩. ⟨inserm-02461685⟩



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