People differ, often strikingly, in their views on desired social structures and processes.
For example, while some value ethnic diversity in their society, others believe non -indigenous
individuals (whatever that might mean) should be repatriated to their land of origin. Similarly,
whereas some believe religion should play no role in determining social policy, others strongly
advocate the importance of living according to religious scripture, including at a social level.
This variation in attitudes, and its implication for societal cohesion, has made research on the
origins of social and political attitudes of enduring interest to psychologists, sociologists,
political scientists, among many others.
The goal of the current thesis was to extend work in this literature in two key ways:
Firstly, I examined whether political attitudes can be understood within a personality system
model. This work addresses previous mixed results on the links of basic personality traits to
political conservatism. In Chapter 3, I test predictions from this model; namely, that direct
influences on political behaviour flow from moral values, with personality mostly acting
indirectly via these moral values, rather than directly affecting political attitudes. Findings from
two studies (published as Lewis & Bates, 2011a) supported these predictions suggesting that the
new model helps explain inconsistencies in previous research attempting to link personality to
political orientation that have not included the intermediary level of values.
Secondly, I examined the genetic architecture of social attitudes constructs in three
separate studies. Chapter 4 addressed whether in -group favouritism reflects heritable effects, and,
secondly, whether race -favouritism was accounted for broad or specific genetic effects. Results
indicated that a common biological mechanism exists facilitating generalised favouritism, with
evidence for additional genetic effects specific to each form of group favouritism. These findings
(published as Lewis & Bates, 2010) suggest that (at least) at the genetic level, race favouritism is
In Chapter 5, I examined whether prosocial obligations across the domains of welfare,
work, and civic obligation share a common genetic basis, or reflect specific heritable
components (published as Lewis & Bates, 2011b). In females, results indicated the existence of a
common heritable factor underlying each of these prosocial obligations. In males, a prosocial
factor was also observed; familial effects (genetic and shared -environment effects were
indistinguishable) influenced this general mechanism. At the domain -specific level, modest
genetic effects were observed in females for civic and work obligations, with shared - environment effects influencing welfare obligations. In males, genetic influences were observed
for welfare obligation, with unique -environments affecting work and civic duty.
Finally, in Chapter 6, I present work examining the genetic architecture of religious
belief. Although genetic factors are known to influence strength of religious belief, the
psychological mechanism(s) through which this biological influence is manifest are presently
unknown. Two non -theological constructs - 1) need for community integration and 2) need for
existential certainty - were hypothesised to account for the genetic effects on religiosity. The
results supported this hypothesis, with genetic influences on these traits wholly accounting for
the heritable basis of religiosity, suggesting that religion "re- uses" systems involved in meeting
both social and existential needs.