Monday, September 18, 2017

Cognitive Resources in the Service of Identity Expression

An Expressive Utility Account of Partisan Cue Receptivity: Cognitive Resources in the Service of Identity Expression. Yphtach Lelkes, Ariel Malka, and Bert N. Bakker.

Abstract: What motivates citizens to rely on partisan cues when forming political judgments? Extant literature offers two perspectives on this matter: an optimistic view that reliance on cues serves to enable adequate decision making when cognitive resources are low, and a pessimistic view that reliance on cues serves to channel cognitive resources to the goal of expressing valued political identities. In the present research we seek to further understanding of the relative importance of these two motives. We find that individuals low in cognitive resources are not more likely to follow partisan cues than are individuals high in cognitive resources. Furthermore, we find the highest level of cue receptivity is observed for those individuals who have both a strong social identification with their party and high cognitive resources. This suggests that partisan cue receptivity more often involves a harnessing of cognitive resources for the goal of identity expression.

Keywords: Partisan Cues, Social Identity, Cognitive Reflection, Motivated Reasoning

This work complements and extends two recent projects on the role of reflection on political reasoning. First, Arceneaux and Vander Wielen (2017) argue that those who are the least likely to be affectively attached to issues or parties and the most likely to be reflective exhibit behavior most akin to democratic ideals. In particular, these low affect/high reflection citizens are less likely to conform to elite cues than those who are high in affect and low in reflection. This is because these citizens combine relative weak emotional attachments to party-consistent issue positions with a relatively strong tendency to engage in effortful reasoning that could override emotional intuitions. As our strength of party identity measures affective attachment to a party (Huddy et al., 2015), the present work investigates the effect of high affect/high reflection on political reasoning, and our results are in line with Arceneaux and Vander Wielen (2017) untested predictions which they suggest for future research. Specifically, strong cognitive resources combined with an emotional attachment to partisanship seems to lead to toeing the party line. Second, Groenendyk (2013) argues that cognitive resources are required to defend one’s partisan identity–one reason partisan identities may remain stable among those high in cognitive resources is because they are able to rationalize changing attitude structures. The present findings reinforce that perspective as well.

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