Cooperative and conformist behavioural preferences predict the dual dimensions of political ideology
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Description: Decades of research suggest that our political differences are best captured by two dimensions of political ideology. The dual evolutionary framework of political ideology predicts that these dimensions should be related to variation in social preferences for cooperation and group conformity. Here, we combine data from a New Zealand survey and a suite of incentivised behavioural tasks (n = 991) to test whether cooperative and conformist preferences covary with a pair of widely used measures of the two dimensions of political ideology—Social Dominance Orientation (SDO) and Right Wing Authoritarianism (RWA)—and related policy views. As predicted, we find that cooperative behaviour is negatively related to SDO and economically conservative policy views, while conformist behaviour in the form of social information use is positively related to RWA and socially conservative policy views. However, we did not find the predicted relationships between punitive and rule following behaviours and RWA or socially conservative views, raising questions about the interpretation of punishment and rule following tasks and the nature of authoritarian conformist preferences. These findings reveal how cooperative and conformist preferences that evolved to help us navigate social challenges in our ancestral past continue to track our political differences even today.