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Unpacking Liberalism and Conservatism: Exploring Optimality Effects of Implicit Political Values on Mitigating Partisan Polarization
Extreme forms of political polarization impair societies’ capacities to respond to other major problems that arise. Psychology could play a central role in preventing, mitigating and reversing toxic polarization. Unfortunately, the way conservativism and liberalism are often conceptualized and measured in research tends to dichotomize the underlying values inherent to both ideologies, and so misses configurations of their values that may be more optimal and less susceptible to division. The current study uses survey data to unpack these value structures and examine the effects of more optimal combinations of them on mitigating polarization. Findings suggest that a more nuanced approach to understanding these ideologies can lead to a reduction in polarization and suggests that more balanced value orientations are associated with lower levels of political tribalism. The implications of this research for civic education and the framing of policies in the media are discussed.