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The evolutionary psychology of small‐scale versus large‐scale politics: Ancestral conditions did not include large‐scale politics

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European Journal of Social Psychology

Published online on


The current research question sought to examine political psychology as it relates to evolutionary mismatch. The basic hypothesis is that people will be more cognitively prepared to think about political situations that are relatively small in scale compared with political situations that are large in scale. This research also examined the effects of whether the political situation is highly relevant to oneself. To test these questions, 49 young adults were presented with four sets of instructions. They were asked to write paragraphs describing (i) a large‐scale, self‐relevant political situation, (ii) a large‐scale non‐self‐relevant political situation, (iii) a small‐scale self‐relevant political situation, and (iv) a small‐scale non‐self‐relevant political situation. Paragraphs generated by the participants were analyzed using Tyler's (2013) Writing Sample Readability Analyzer. Results demonstrated that paragraphs designed for large‐scale political situations had more sentences and were less readable than paragraphs designed for small‐scale situations—while paragraphs designed for small‐scale political situations were relatively readable and included more words per sentence, suggesting that, consistent with the core hypothesis, participants had an easier time processing information related to small‐scale political situations than large‐scale political situations. Implications for the nature of modern politics are discussed.