Coordination Incentives Can Explain Diverse and Simplistic Partisan Worldviews: An Experimental Test
Brad L. LeVeck
University of California, San Diego (UCSD)
APSA 2011 Annual Meeting Paper
Many theories of democratic decision making hope that voters will adapt their existing perspectives on governance to reflect new information. However, many empirical studies find that partisan voters actively ignore or resist new information which contradicts their existing perspective on politics. We argue that this may be in part because partisans use their existing perspectives to coordinate political actions. Refining or adapting one's model of the world risks placing voters out of sync with the rest of their political coalition. To test this theory we adapt an experiment on category learning from psychology where subjects often appear to meet the democratic ideal. Subjects in these experiments start out with simple and relatively inaccurate perspectives on how to categorize objects, but move towards categorization structures that are more sophisticated and accurate. Half the subjects in our experiment are placed in a similar learning situation, and paid only for accuracy. The other half are assigned to a world where they are paid both for accuracy and for matching the action of other agents who stick to using simple rules. We find that subjects in the second condition, though exposed to the same information about how accurate they are, and even though they are paid the same for their accuracy, stick to believing simpler and less accurate category schemes.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 35
Keywords: categories, mental models, motivated reasoning, game theory, learning, political psychology
JEL Classification: C92, D72working papers series
Date posted: August 1, 2011 ; Last revised: September 7, 2011
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