(Beijing Key Laboratory of Applied Experimental Psychology; National Demonstration Center for Experimental Psychology Education (Beijing Normal University); Institute of Developmental Psychology, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China)
Abstract： Political orientation refers to people’s ideological self-positioning and can be divided into liberalism and conservatism. Individuals with different political orientations exhibit significant differences in cognitive and behavioral characteristics. Although individuals’ political orientation is relatively stable, it may change under threat. Motivated social cognition theory postulates that threat makes people more conservative. Terror management theory proposes that threat makes people more firmly believe in their original cultural worldviews, and thus makes their political orientation more pronounced. This suggests that threat will cause liberals to be more liberal and conservatives to be more conservative. Based on deep analysis and discussion of relevant theories and empirical studies, we point out that failing to distinguish between external threat and internal threat may explain why these two theories are contradictory. We propose that internal threat can reinforce individuals’ original political orientation, while external threat makes people more conservative. Future research should endeavor to explore the mechanism underlying how external and internal threat affect political orientation, this phenomenon in Chinese context, and how to promote harmonious relationship between people with different political orientations.