On-Line Versus Memory-Based
Process Models of Political Evaluation
State University of New York at Stony Brook
Nothing in science—nothing in life, for that matter—makes sense without theory. It is our nature to put all knowledge into context in order to tell a story and to re-create the world by this means.
—E. O. Wilson, 1998, p. 56
Political psychology, as an interdisciplinary pursuit, applies psychological concepts and methods to test theories about elite and mass political behavior. Traditionally, much of the borrowing has been from the subfields of personality and social psychology, and more recently with the “new look” of the information processing perspective, from the subfield of social cognition (Kinder, 1998a; Lodge, 1995; McGuire, 1993). As the cognitive perspective has been steadily absorbed into the mainstream of political psychology over the last decade, political scientists have become increasingly concerned not only with behavioral outcomes (matters of what and when) but with the cognitive processes that produce them (matters of how and why). By appropriating the theoretical frameworks and methodological tools developed by psychologists, political scientists have begun to pry open the black box of cognitive processes that connect the causes and consequences of political behavior (e.g., Huckfeldt, Levine, Morgan, & Sprague, 1999; Lavine, Thomsen, & Gonzales, 1997; Lodge, McGraw, & Stroh, 1989; Zaller, 1992; Zaller & Feldman, 1992). In doing so, political scientists stand to gain a more complete understanding of how personality and the political environment, as well as values, beliefs, and attitudes, guide political choices.