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Journal Article

The dual evolutionary foundations of political ideology


Atkinson,  Quentin D.       
Linguistic and Cultural Evolution, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Max Planck Society;

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Claessens, S., Fischer, K., Chaudhuri, A., Sibley, C. G., & Atkinson, Q. D. (2020). The dual evolutionary foundations of political ideology. Nature Human Behaviour, 4, 336-345. doi:10.1038/s41562-020-0850-9.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0007-5A95-C
Research over the last fifty years has suggested that political attitudes and values around the globe are shaped by two ideological dimensions, often referred to as economic and social conservatism. However, it remains unclear why this ideological structure exists. Here we highlight the striking concordance between these dual dimensions of ideology and independent convergent evidence for two key shifts in the evolution of human group living. First, humans began to cooperate more and across wider interdependent networks. Second, humans became more group-minded, conforming to social norms in culturally marked groups and punishing norm-violators. We propose that fitness trade-offs and behavioural plasticity have maintained functional variation in willingness to cooperate and conform within modern human groups, naturally giving rise to the two dimensions of political ideology. Supported by evidence from across the behavioural sciences, this evolutionary framework provides insight into the biological and cultural basis of political ideology.