Revisiting the rigidity-of-the-right hypothesis: A meta-analytic review

I have myself written rather a lot on this topic and I am pleased to see that Thomas H Costello and his colleagues below have done another good iconoclastic article in the area. I think however he gave too much credence to the idea that there is such a thing as a trait of psychological rigidity.

There is not. There are rigid behaviours of various sorts but they are often not correlated. A person who is rigid about one thing is not particularly likely to be rigid about something else.

There have been findings to that effect since the 1950s but the datum demonstrating it that I particularly like is the fact that the two halves of the widely used Budner scale of rigidity do not correlate (r = .08 in a general population sample). The scale purports to measure one thing but is a mixed-up measure of two different things. See here and here. What it supposedly measures does not exist. Pychological rigidity is a unicorn concept. You can describe it but it does not exist. Its existence is a failed theory

Insofar as there has been some coherence in rigidity research, it is probably traceable to IQ. Those whom researchers called rigid were probably just a bit thick

The rigidity-of-the-right hypothesis (RRH), which posits that cognitive, motivational, and ideological rigidity resonate with political conservatism, is an influential but controversial psychological account of political ideology. Here, we leverage several methodological and theoretical sources of this controversy to conduct an extensive quantitative review—with the dual aims of probing the RRH’s basic assumptions and parsing the RRH literature’s heterogeneity. Using multi-level meta-analyses of relations between varieties of rigidity and ideology measures alongside a bevy of potential moderators (s = 329, k = 708, N = 187,612), we find that associations between conservatism and rigidity are tremendously heterogeneous, suggesting a complex—yet conceptually fertile—network of relations between these constructs. Most notably, whereas social conservatism was robustly associated with rigidity, associations between economic conservatism and rigidity indicators were inconsistent, small, and not statistically significant outside of the United States. Moderator analyses revealed that non-representative sampling, criterion contamination, and disproportionate use of American samples have yielded over-estimates of associations between rigidity-related constructs and conservatism in past research. We resolve that drilling into this complexity, thereby moving beyond the question of if conservatives are essentially rigid to when and why they might or might not be, will help provide a more realistic account of the psychological underpinnings of political ideology.


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