The Psychology of Worldviews: Toward a Non-Reductive Science of Personality
Abstract: Persons are not just mechanical systems of instinctual animalistic proclivities, but also language-producing, existentially aware creatures, whose experiences and actions are drenched in subjective meaning. To understand a human being as a person is to understand him or her as a rational system that wants, fears, hopes, believes, and in other ways imbues the world with meaning, rather than just a mechanical system that is subject to the same chains of cause and effect as other animals. But contemporary personality psychology has, to a great extent, focused on the behavioral side of personality, while neglecting its meaning side, failing to realize that subjective meanings are part of the very constitution rather than just causes of personality. My overarching purpose with this dissertation is, consequently, to contribute to the establishment of a genuinely non-reductive science of personality that systematically studies the systems of meaning that comprise a person’s worldview in their own right, as sources of meaning in personality. I both establish conceptual and theoretical foundations for the psychology of worldviews and present empirical research on worldviews. The conceptual and theoretical issues are addressed in the introductory chapters and the first paper. I begin by explicating a non-reductive realist philosophy of personality that steers between reductionism and social constructionism, and by suggesting that we need a more coherent understanding of personality and a richer study of it, rather than a radically new methodology. I continue by discussing the limitations of, and conceptual issues with, previous approaches to personality, and by outlining the conceptual foundations for a psychology of worldviews to remediate their weaknesses, demarcating worldview constructs as referring to presuppositions, concepts, and narrative scripts that, by working as the substrata, or background, for intentional thought, feeling, and action, form the most central sources of meaning. I continue by discussing the structure and dynamics of worldviews in terms of the relationship between innate meaning-making mechanisms and the universal features of the existential condition that they address. I conclude the introductory chapters by describing the background of the empirical research and by discussing limitations with the present thesis and directions for future theory and research. I continue, in the first paper, to argue that the study of traits (objective behavioral regularities) and the study of worldviews (subjective meanings) form mutually irreducible parts of personality psychology and that worldviews are not inherently less universal in terms of structure, or in other ways less basic, than traits. I conclude this paper by emphasizing the need to address coherence not just in behavior, but also within worldviews and between traits and worldviews, and to complement traditional individual differences research with personalistic methodology. The empirical research is presented in the second and third papers included in this thesis. This research addresses Humanism and Normativism, which are arguably the two broadest and potentially most important worldview constructs in the research literature today, representing whether human beings are thought of as intrinsically valuable and ontologically important (humanism) or as acquiring value and reality only through the attainment of external norms and ideals (normativism). Although originally thought to be opposites, previous research has suggested that they are uncorrelated. In the first empirical paper, I introduce a hierarchical model of their structure, develop scales to measure their facets, and demonstrate through confirmatory factor analysis that they are, contrary to previous wisdom, negatively related in terms of view of human nature, attitude to affect, and interpersonal attitude, but unrelated in terms of epistemology and political values. I present evidence also of discriminant and predictive validity in relation to other worldview variables, life goals, educational field, political and religious orientation, and the Big Five aspects. In the second empirical paper, I use humanism and normativism to explain the broad systems of meaning that potentially underlie, and intersect with, variables from the most important models of the underpinnings of political ideology today, through path modeling. The results suggest that humanism is related to political ideology through preference for equality, as mediated by moral concern with fairness and the avoidance of harm, emotionality, and honesty-humility, and that normativism is related to political ideology through conservative attitudes in general, as mediated by system justification, moral concern with authority, loyalty, and purity, and low openness. Both of the empirical articles provide ample evidence of broad systems of meaning cutting across different aspects of the worldview and of their explanatory power with regards to other psychological phenomena. These studies thereby help to substantiate the viability of the psychology of worldviews.
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