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Gender Moderates the Impact of Need for Structure on Social Beliefs: Implications for Ethnocentrism and Authoritarianism
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The present research examines the interplay between individual differences in need for structure, social beliefs, and gender. It is well documented that need for structure, that is, a preference for structure and simplicity in one's thinking, predicts authoritarianism and ethnocentrism. Further, women tend to score lower in authoritarianism and ethnocentrism than men. Although there seem to be no gender differences in need for structure, the present research hypothesizes that the association between need for structure and social beliefs is stronger for men than for women. This hypothesis comes from the observation that, all else being equal, men tend to think more about the domain of beliefs such as authoritarianism and ethnocentrism, which should strengthen the relationship between men's cognitive needs and their social beliefs. The hypothesis is also motivated by the finding that, more than men, women often give priority to caring and compassion when forming beliefs about outgroups. This should weaken the link between women's cognitive needs and their social beliefs. Three studies conducted in the USA (n = 398) and one study conducted in Germany (n = 112) examined whether gender moderated the influence of need for structure on authoritarianism and racism. Using a variety of measures, need for structure predicted authoritarianism and racism for men, but not for women. The discussion focuses on the implications of the present findings for the relationship between cognitive orientations and social beliefs. It is argued that research on cognitive orientation and social beliefs needs to take gender into account to improve its accuracy of prediction.
need for structure
students - psychology