People who endorse right-wing authoritarianism tend to have a greater sense of meaning in life, according to a new study published in the Journal of Personality. The research provides some of the first empirical evidence that right‐wing authoritarianism serves an existential function.
“In recent years, we have witnessed a proliferation of right-wing authoritarian ideology and behavior across the Western Hemisphere. We wanted to understand why people find the authoritarian worldview appealing,” said Jake Womick, a PhD candidate at the University of Missouri and corresponding author of the study.
“One potential answer we wanted to test was that it may serve an existential function, facilitating a sense that the individual’s life is meaningful. This hypothesis was first generated by psychologists attempting to understand the rise of the Nazis during WWII. Until now, it has gone empirically untested.”
A survey of 2,391 American adults found that individuals who scored higher on a measure of right-wing authoritarianism also tended to report higher levels of meaning in life. In other words, people who agreed with statements like “The established authorities generally turn out to be right about things, while the radicals and protestors are usually just ‘loud mouths’ showing off their ignorance” tended to also agree with statements like “I have a good sense of what makes my life meaningful.”
This relationship held even after controlling for religiosity, personality traits, and other factors.
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