UWTSD research presented at the British Psychological Society Annual Conference in Brighton on May 5


Research presented at the British Psychological Society Annual Conference in Brighton on Friday 5th May suggests that people are more likely to endorse authoritarian leadership and control of groups they perceive as threatening immediately after a terrorist attack, even when the attack is in another country.

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The researchers, Katie Sullivan and Paul Hutchings from the School of Psychology at University of Wales Trinity Saint David, tracked people's scores on measures of right wing authoritarianism between October 2015 and October 2016 and found that, whilst their authoritarian attitudes remained stable overall across this time, there was a significant increase in scores in the 36 hours after the Paris terror attacks in November 2015 which left 130 people dead and 368 injured. During this time participants were more likely to endorse statements such as ‘our country needs a strong leader’ and ‘society should stop immoral people ruining things’ according to the study findings.

Dr Hutchings said: "It does not appear to be the case that people go into a frenzy when such an attack happens, demanding drastic action is taken; instead, almost all of our participants were a little more accepting of authoritarian measures being taken in the immediate aftermath of the Paris attack, but this did not accurately reflect their views before the attack or later in the year.

"This suggests that we should be wary of any knee-jerk reactions, particularly in the form of policies that may alter our way of life, directly after such an attack; whilst it may meet with the immediate mood of the people it does not appear to accurately reflect how they feel in the long term."

Dr Paul Hutchings is an experimental social psychologist and senior lecturer in the School of Psychology. His primary research area is in prejudice and discrimination and political psychology.

Katie Sullivan is a PhD student in the School of Psychology. Her research is focused upon implicit and explicit prejudice attitudes towards racial and cultural ingroups and outgroups.


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