Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR)

Taming Intuition: How reflection Minimizes Partisan Biases

Seminar with Kevin Arceneaux, ACES Visiting Scholar

11Dec2018 16:00 - 17:00


Democracy rests on the idea that the people should govern themselves. In modern democracies, effective self-governance requires people to vote for candidates who share their values and against those who fail to live up to their expectations. Are voters up to this task?

Decades of research suggests that people are blinded by their partisan attachments, making them more interested in rooting for their party than in holding elected officials accountable. We address this question by constructing the Intuitionist Model of Political Reasoning, which incorporates advances about the workings of the human mind made by cognitive sciences. Contrary to canonical models of political reasoning that treat reasoning as an entirely conscious act, this model recognizes that people’s decisions are guided by unconsciously formed intuitions. In politics, people’s intuitive response is to root for their partisan team. When this intuitive response leads people astray --- such as when their party leaders make bad decisions --- democratic theory requires that they reflect on their intuitive response and vote against their party. It turns out that people vary in their willingness to be reflective and, as a result, in their ability to live up to the demands of self-governance.

About the speaker

Kevin (Vin) Arceneaux is Thomas J. Freaney, Jr. Professor of Political Science and Director of the Behavioral Foundations Lab at Temple University. He studies how people make political decisions, paying particular attention to the effects of psychological biases. He has published articles on the influence of partisan campaigns on voting behavior, the effects of predispositions on attitude formation, the role of human biology in explaining individual variation in predispositions, and experimental methodology. In December 2018 Kevin Arceneaux is Visiting Scholar for ACES’ European Politics and Society Theme.

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