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Access Type

WSU Access

Date of Award

1-1-2010

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

M.A.

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

R. Douglas Whitman

Abstract

Bias in mental representations and belief systems has been linked to asymmetries in information processing by the two hemispheres in research that uses wide variety of methodologies and participant samples. Also, associations have been drawn between such biases in belief systems and sociopolitical orientation leading to the hypothesis that links can be drawn from lateral processing through cognitive style to social and political orientation. This study sought to examine individual differences in laterality - as assessed via a lateralized semantic priming methodology - and manifestations of rigidity and flexibility in belief updating within a sociopolitical context. Analyses revealed that a theoretical inference of hemispheric communication based on accuracy data from the lexical decision making task was significantly related to self-reported charectorlogical rigidity and sociopolitical orientation. Specifically, greater communication between the hemispheres was significantly correlated with a lower degree of characterological rigidity and sociopolitical liberalism. This study proposes a dual hemispheric model for mental flexibility and belief adaptation such that the hemispheres participate in a reciprocal exchange of information whereby the left hemisphere seeks to rigidly construct belief systems while the right hemisphere works to incorporate new information into these existing structures. Efficient communication between the hemispheres allows for greater malleability in personal ideologies, which was found to be related to a more liberal worldview in our sample.