Economic attitudes and individual difference: replication and extension
Embargo end date16/12/2023
The work presented in this dissertation primarily focused on two topics. The first was understanding differences in support for redistribution. In this section, we replicated existing research on the three-player two-situation model, extended this model with more precise measures – for instance of malicious envy – and developed new measures for instance of mutualism. The second main topic was understanding how motivations and cognitive ability influence people's economic attitudes and knowledge. The thesis is structured as follows. Chapter 1 provides a brief introduction about redistribution and economic ideology which will be discussed in subsequent chapters and argues for the importance of replication existing findings in psychology. Chapter 2 aims to address whether social orientation and cognitive style reflect the differences in cultural orientation, such as individualism and collectivism. We conducted a study (n = 216) to test the relationships between Sociogram Task (a social orientation measure which assumes that using a relatively large circle to perform self in a diagram would be more individualistic), Triad Task (a cognitive style measure which assumes grouping objects through their category rather than relationship would be more individualistic), and three cultural orientation measures. We found that neither social orientation nor cognitive style was associated with cultural orientations, and social orientation nor cognitive style were not correlated with each other, either. This result showed that Sociogram Task and Triad Task did not reflect the underlying dimension of individualism and collectivism, indicating that social orientation and cognitive style were not linked with cultural orientations. Given that the effects of social orientation and cognitive style failed to replicate, we switched to our main findings in the next part. In part one of this dissertation (Chapter 3 to Chapter 5), we explored a different direction, focusing on the replication and extension of the three-player two-situation model, which hypothesizes that people’s attitude toward resource allocation (e.g. support for economic redistribution) is driven by three motivations: compassion, envy, and self-interest. In Chapter 3, we build on the work of the three-player two-situation model, testing whether the attitude toward redistribution is motivated by the three motivations rather than procedural fairness. We successfully replicated this model in three studies (n = 1,011), confirming that support for redistribution is influenced by compassion, envy, and self-interest, and procedural fairness plays no role. Furthermore, we also refined the three-player two-situation model, indicating that the concept of envy referred to malicious envy, which is characterized by hostility and behaviours about decreasing others’ advantage. These results support the role of evolution motivates in explaining contemporary economic redistribution. In Chapter 4, we aim to answer whether support for redistribution would be shaped by a specific kind of fairness vital in collaboration, the equal-division fairness. In two studies (n = 805), we found that motivation of equal-division played a significant role in support for redistribution. Furthermore, we found that attitude toward redistribution involved a coercive part, which was also associated with equal-division fairness. These results confirmed the role of equal-division motivation, suggesting that the three-player two-situation model includes equal-division fairness and coercive enforcement. In Chapter 5, we focused on another key concept of the evolution of cooperation, mutualism, trying to answer how it influences support for redistribution and associates with compassion, envy, self-interest, and equal-division fairness. We developed a Mutualism scale based on Baumard, André, and Sperber (2013), which reflects proportional division, proportional punishment, and helping behaviour. In two studies (n = 902), the Mutualism scale showed good fits to the predicted model and satisfactory reliability and validity. Furthermore, we found mutualism was independent of compassion, envy, and self-interest, but associated with equal-division, coercing others to share equally, and negative attitudes toward redistribution. These results extended the three-player two-situation model, confirming the importance of equal-division and mutualism motivations in explaining people’s tendency toward economic redistribution. In the second part of this dissertation (Chapter 6 and Chapter 7), we turned to concern how cognitive ability influence people's economic attitudes and knowledge. In Chapter 6, we addressed whether cognitive ability influences economic attitudes. In two studies (n = 1,400) and a longitudinal data set (n = 11,563), we found cognitive ability was positively correlated with how far individuals deviate from prevailing centrist views, that is, the level of economic extremism. These results indicated that the association between cognitive ability and economic attitudes was not a simple linear relationship, highlighting the role of cognitive ability in generating radical attitudes. Chapter 7 aims to answer whether cognitive ability is related to economic knowledge and whether it will increase financial outcomes. In two studies (n = 1,356), we found that cognitive ability was positively associated with economic knowledge, and greater economic knowledge also positively correlated with financial literacy. In addition, our findings showed that education level and economic training level only had little effect on economic knowledge compared with cognitive ability. These findings fill the gap between cognitive ability and economic knowledge, extending the role of general ability in improving lifetime financial wellbeing. Finally, Chapter 8 was a summary of the previous chapters’ findings, and suggestions for future research on people's economic attitudes and knowledge, especially the role of individual differences in this research area.