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Childhood harshness induces long-lasting preference for authoritarian leaders

Lou Safra, Yann Algan, Teodora Tecu, Julie Grèzes, Nicolas Baumard and Coralie Chevallier
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Lou Safra: École normale supérieure - Paris (ENS Paris)
Teodora Tecu: University of Bucharest
Julie Grèzes: École normale supérieure - Paris (ENS Paris)
Nicolas Baumard: École normale supérieure - Paris (ENS Paris)
Coralie Chevallier: École normale supérieure - Paris (ENS Paris)

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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.

Keywords: Authoritarianism; Poverty; Childhood; Social perception; Dominance; Politics (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2017-09
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-neu and nep-pol
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Published in Evolution and Human Behavior, 2017, vol. 38, pp.645-651

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