Political Cognition as Social Cognition:
Participation in national-level politics has been the focus of much of the political behavior literature. From seminal works such as The People's Choice (Lazarsfeld, Berelson, and Gaudet 1948), The American Voter (Campbell et al. 1960), Public Opinion and American Democracy (Key 1961), and An Economic Theory of Democracy (Downs 1957) to more contemporary work such as The Nature and Origins of Mass Opinion (Zaller 1992), the theoretical focus and empirical examples have drawn from national politics. Politics, however, can have abroader meaning than competition among candidates, officeholders, and parties at the national level. We can follow Aristotle's (1996) claim, originally made circa 350 B.C., that “man is by nature a political animal” and observe the evidence for his contention in family politics, office politics, church politics, neighborhood politics, and the politics existing in any assemblage of humans.
AS POLITICAL COGNITION
Some cognitive scientists, evolutionary psychologists, and primatologists have agreed with Aristotle and argued that the very nature of our intelligence is political. In a seminal paper about social cognition, Nicholas Humphrey (1976) argued that although Robinson Crusoe's task of survival on the desert island was technically challenging, the really hard problems came from the arrival of Man Friday. This line of reasoning, sometimes called the Machiavellian intelligence hypothesis (Byrne and Whiten 1988; Whiten and Byrne 1997), contends that managing the problems of the social world requires a far greater level of intellect because contexts change rapidly (see de Waal 1998). The evolution of affective