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Unifying behavioral inquiry: integrating personality traits and situational effects in the study of political behavior

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Title: Unifying behavioral inquiry: integrating personality traits and situational effects in the study of political behavior
Author(s): Hibbing, Matthew V.
Director of Research: Mondak, Jeffery J.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s): Mondak, Jeffery J.
Doctoral Committee Member(s): Canache, Damarys; Kuklinski, James H.; Rudolph, Thomas J.
Department / Program: Political Science
Discipline: Political Science
Degree Granting Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree: Ph.D.
Genre: Dissertation
Subject(s): Political Behavior Personality Big Five
Abstract: We have developed a remarkable understanding of how the political environment influences individual political thought and action, but we have not made as much progress in developing our knowledge of the individual predispositions that citizens bring with them into the political world. In recent years, a novel research agenda has highlighted the role biological factors play in shaping political behavior. At the same time, there has been a resurgence of interest in personality traits in political behavior research, made possible by the rise of the Big Five in trait psychology. Though these streams (traditional environmental research, biology and politics, and personality and political behavior) have generally been viewed separately, the crucial next step for political behavior researchers will be to think about how they all fit together. In this dissertation I develop a framework for placing personality effects into a broader context. I argue that personality traits are stable, biologically-based dispositions and I demonstrate empirically that a substantial amount of the variance shared between traits and political behavior is heritable. These findings comport well with a theory of influence in which personality traits act as a mediator between genes and politics. Moving forward from this insight, we can use personality dispositions to form a better understanding of heterogeneous environmental effects. Personality traits interact with environmental stimuli to shape political behavior. People experience the political world differently and the richest and most satisfying theories going forward will account for these individual differences without losing sight of the crucial role played by the environment. Here, I show that personality traits play an important role in shaping political discussion behavior, but that role is subtle and conditional. I also find that personality traits play an important role in influencing individual decision making, but that the environment activates considerations that differ based on the personality characteristics of the individual. Taken together, the theoretical and empirical advances outlined here demonstrate the importance of devising models of human behavior that take individual differences seriously without forgetting about the important role played by the environment. By integrating the biological, with the environmental, the immediate with the long-term, and the political with the general psychological, we can forge a much stronger understanding of how humans behave in the political world.
Issue Date: 2012-02-06
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2142/29834
Rights Information: Copyright 2011 Matthew V. Hibbing
Date Available in IDEALS: 2012-02-06
Date Deposited: 2011-12
 

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