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Although models of political ideology traditionally focus on the motivations that separate conservatives and liberals, a growing body of research is directly exploring the cognitive factors that vary due to political ideology. Consistent with this emerging literature, the present research proposes that conservatives and liberals excel at tasks of distinct working memory processes (i.e., inhibition and updating, respectively). Consistent with this hypothesis, three studies demonstrate that conservatives are more likely to succeed at response inhibition and liberals are more likely to succeed at response updating. Moreover, this effect is rooted in different levels of cognitive flexibility and independent of respondents’ demographics, intelligence, religiosity, and motivation. Collectively, these findings offer an important perspective on the cognitive factors that delineate conservatism and liberalism, the role of cognitive flexibility in specific working memory processes, and the impact of political ideology on a multitude of behaviors linked to inhibition and updating (e.g., creativity, problem-solving, self-control).

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