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Keywords:

  • threat;
  • worldview;
  • ideology;
  • authoritarianism

Research has shown that social threat correlates with ideological authoritarianism, but the issues of causal direction and specificity of threat to particular ideological attitudes remain unclear. Here, a theoretical model is proposed in which social threat has an impact on authoritarianism specifically, with the effect mediated through social worldview. The model was experimentally tested with a sample of undergraduates who responded to one of three hypothetical scenarios describing a future New Zealand that was secure, threatening, or essentially unaltered. Both threat and security influenced social worldview, but only threat influenced authoritarianism, with differential effects on two factorially distinct subdimensions (conservative and authoritarian social control attitudes) and with the effects of threat mediated through worldview. There was a weak effect of threat on social dominance that was entirely mediated through authoritarianism. The findings support the proposed theoretical model of how personal and social contextual factors causally affect people's social worldviews and ideological attitudes.