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Our research examines whether psychological inflexibility predicts support for national security policies that limit civil liberties, unfairly target Muslims, and exclude Syrian refugees from entering the country. New research has suggested that high psychological inflexibility may be implicated in prejudice (Vilardaga, Estevez, Levin, & Hayes, 2012). According to that theory, inflexibility may contribute to discriminatory behaviors because it describes a person's tendency to engage in behaviors aimed at down-regulating internal distress. Recently, an enormous number of refugees from Syria have relocated from Syria into the EU, other Middle Eastern Countries, and in the United States. A political backlash to both the threat of terrorism and the large number of refugees has emerged in the United States, with a number of governors declaring that their states will not accept these refugees. We hypothesize that inflexibility may predict whether people support policies aimed at making the nation safer in light of terrorist threats, even if those policies restrict civil rights or unfairly target minorities. We surveyed 107 students from a southern American university to examine whether psychological inflexibility predicted support for a number of civil rights-restricting security policies, including policies that ban Syrian refugees from entering the country. We found that inflexibility was highly correlated with support for these policies. We then ran a regression to see which personality traits were most predictive of support for banning Syrian refugees from settling in the country. The results showed that political conservatism and inflexibility were both significant predictors, with inflexibility being slightly more predictive.


Poster presented at the annual meeting of the Association for Contextual Behavioral Science


Seattle, WA