Theses Doctoral

Motivational Influences on the American Gun Rights Debate

Conley, Mark Alexander

For almost forty years gun ownership and the motivational underpinnings of why guns are valued has received little attention in psychology. The gun rights debate is an unresolved salient item that has been on the national agenda for decades, and national polls provide evidence for a slow and steady voter realignment over this issue. Motivation science tools that explain value creation, regulatory focus and regulatory fit, help to explain the salience and importance of gun rights for millions of Americans. Three field experiments, with replications and extensions, demonstrated motivational fit between the prevention orientation (marked by vigilant concern for threats) and gun ownership. This research remained agnostic regarding the legal and moral components of the gun rights debate. Instead, these experiments demonstrate the malleability of gun value as a function of fundamental motivations. This applied political psychology research made two basic contributions to regulatory fit theory. First, these field experiments found fit effects between motivational inductions and distinct field environments. Also, by incorporating a pure control condition into these regulatory fit experiments, this research pinned down that literal dollar value of motivationally relevant objects is intensified by fit (as opposed to decreased by non-fit).


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Higgins, Edward Tory
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 14, 2018