On the grammar of politics—or why conservatives prefer nouns

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Cichocka, Aleksandra ; Bilewicz, Michal ; Jost, John T. ; Marrouch, Natasza ; Witkowska, Marta (2016)

Previous research indicates that political conservatism is associated with epistemic needs for structure and certainty (Jost et al., 2003) and that nouns elicit clearer and more definite perceptions of reality than other parts of speech (Carnaghi et al., 2008). We therefore hypothesized that conservatives would exhibit preferences for nouns (vs. verbs and adjectives), insofar as nouns are better suited to satisfy epistemic needs. In Study 1, we observed that social conservatism was associated with noun preferences in Polish and that personal need for structure accounted for the association between ideology and grammatical preferences. In Study 2, conducted in Arabic, social conservatism was associated with a preference for the use of nominal sentences (composed of nouns only) over verbal sentences (which included verbs and adjectives). In Study 3, we found that more conservative U.S. presidents used greater proportions of nouns in major speeches, and this effect was related to integrative complexity. We discuss the possibility that conservative ideology is linked to grammatical preferences that foster feelings of stability and predictability.
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