Political cognition helps explain social class divides: Two dimensions of candidate impressions, group stereotypes, and meritocracy beliefs

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Abstract

Political cognitions—particularly impressions and stereotypes along two fundamental dimensions of social evaluations—play some role in explaining social class divides and accompanying resentments. First, the Big Two dimensions (warmth/communion and competence/agency) describe candidate perception, person perception, and group stereotypes. In particular, the stereotype content model and related perspectives show social-class stereotypes depicting elites as competent but cold and lower-income groups as incompetent but warm. This trade-off justifies the system as meritocractic, because elites’ stereotypic competence supports their status based on deservingness. Nevertheless, varied evidence (from social psychology, political science, and sociology) indicates common beliefs that support cross-class resentments: In particular, many citizens express political resentment both downward (toward cheats) and upward (toward elites). In this context, backlash against the system results. Anticipated by systematic theories, these political cognitions (impressions, stereotypes, beliefs) help explain the populist and nativist resentments in current political discourse; all support polarized, dysfunctional politics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)108-115
Number of pages8
JournalCognition
Volume188
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

Keywords

  • Class
  • Political cognition
  • Resentment
  • Status
  • Stereotypes

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