Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science


Do conservatives and liberals have differing sensitivities to avoidance, inhibition, and negative emotion? Do psychological factors beneath our conscious awareness underlie the political ideologies we embrace? Political science researchers have broken new ground over the past ten years in our understanding of the psychology and physiology of political ideology. However, large questions remain about how political ideology may be related to avoidance motivations and negative emotion. This work expands our current knowledge in this area by presenting three studies with multiple methodologies: original survey data, electroencephalographic measurements, and behavioral experiments in a lab setting. Working in the tradition of J.A. Gray’s dual systems of behavioral motivation, I explore how political ideology is related to several related dispositional measures of behavioral avoidance, behavioral inhibition, and negative affectivity. Overall, and in contrast to literature expectations, my evidence suggests that liberals and conservatives do not have persistent differences in avoidance sensitivity or negativity bias. While strong evidence remains demonstrating important dispositional differences liberals and conservatives, additional research will be required before researchers can conclude that conservatives are motivated by psychological avoidance or negative affect.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.