OF POLITICAL PSYCHOLOGY
Political psychology is in need of revitalization to recapture its capacity to incorporate the emotional and psychodynamic roots of political behavior. To be sure, the field has made considerable strides over the past quarter century. First, as an interdisciplinary field that strives to understand the psychological bases of political behavior, it has strengthened its commitment to linking theory to issues of normative importance by focusing on such issues as citizenship responsibility, democratic commitment, interethnic tolerance, and willingness to engage in peaceful conflict resolution. 1 This commitment transcends the misguided “value-free” approach of some earlier research agendas.
Second, great theoretical progress has been made in accounting for how people process information and reconcile new information with preexisting perspectives (Alsolabehere & Iyengar, 1993; Ferejohn & Kuklinski, 1990; Lau & Sears, 1986; Ottati, 2002; Ottati & Wyer, 1993; Torney-Purta, 1989; Wyer & Ottati, 1993). Theories of “political cognition” have sharpened our understanding of how people cope with incomplete and inconsistent information about politics and policies. In the subfield of political socialization, which focuses on the development of political attitudes and predispositions among children and young adults, theories of cognitive and moral development have enriched our understanding of how political orientations change as individuals' cognitive and ethical capacities mature (Cook, 1985, 1989; Torney-Purta, 1989, 2000). “Political communication” has been analyzed far more systematically today than in previous eras. The theory of heuristics, developed by cognitive psychologists, helped to anticipate the simplifications that people use to understand complex politics and policies when confronted with uncertainty and limited analytic capacity (Kahneman, Slovic, & Tversky, 1982).
The study of political cognition has been undertaken through careful surveys, “laboratory” simulations, content analysis of political communi