Date of Submission


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)



Department Chair

Stephanie H. Felgoise, PhD, ABPP

First Advisor

Brad M. Rosenfield, PsyD

Second Advisor

Robert A. DiTomasso, PhD, ABPP

Third Advisor

Michael B. Roberts, PsyD


Over the past two decades, the number of Americans on the extremes of the political spectrum has more than doubled, and politically motivated aggression has increased. In addition, an unprecedented division has emerged between the left and right on fundamental political values and animosity continues to rise. The purpose of this study was to explore factors that potentially contribute to political polarization and animosity in the United States, including authoritarianism, strength of partisan commitment, and distorted thinking. The participants for this study comprised 513 individuals from the general population of the United States recruited from online platforms. Participants completed an online questionnaire that included the Inventory of Cognitive Distortions (ICD), the Left-Wing Authoritarian Scale (LWA Scale) or the Right-Wing Authoritarian Scale (RWA Scale), and the Buss-Perry Aggression Questionnaire (BPAQ), as well as demographic questions. Results indicated that distorted thinking (scores on the ICD) predicted aggression levels; however, partisan strength and authoritarianism did not. Moreover, ANOVA analyses revealed no significant differences in endorsement of the frequency of cognitive distortions among individuals who identified as Moderate, Very Left Wing, and Very Right Wing or between individuals who identified as Independent, Democrat, and Republican. This study furthers the field’s understanding of the role that distorted thinking plays in our charged political atmosphere and provides insight into how the field might work to reduce political tension through targeting distorted thinking in the general population.