Psychological Features of Extreme Political Ideologies

Jan Willem van Prooijen*, André P.M. Krouwel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

726 Downloads (Pure)


In this article, we examine psychological features of extreme political ideologies. In what ways are political left- and right-wing extremists similar to one another and different from moderates? We propose and review four interrelated propositions that explain adherence to extreme political ideologies from a psychological perspective. We argue that (a) psychological distress stimulates adopting an extreme ideological outlook; (b) extreme ideologies are characterized by a relatively simplistic, black-and-white perception of the social world; (c) because of such mental simplicity, political extremists are overconfident in their judgments; and (d) political extremists are less tolerant of different groups and opinions than political moderates. In closing, we discuss how these psychological features of political extremists increase the likelihood of conflict among groups in society.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-5
Number of pages5
JournalCurrent Directions in Psychological Science
Issue number2
Early online date29 Jan 2019
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jan 2019


  • ideology
  • intolerance
  • overconfidence
  • political extremism
  • rigidity of the right


Dive into the research topics of 'Psychological Features of Extreme Political Ideologies'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this