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date: 22 January 2020

Abstract and Keywords

All citizens, including the most sophisticated and attentive, possess a powerful drive to defend their opinions, attitudes, and worldviews in the face of challenges. This bias manifests as an active effort to rationalize what they want to believe rather than accepting incongruent viewpoints. This propensity to dismiss or counterargue perspectives we do not like is evident across political identities and raises serious obstacles to successfully shifting others’ attitudes. This article presents an integrated understanding of these information processing phenomena under the John Q. Public model and explains how prior beliefs, confirmation bias, and disconfirmation bias interact to produce persistence in evaluations. It then goes on to explain how network analysis and experimental designs can be leveraged to illuminate the black box of communication effects and deepen our understanding of when persuasion is successful. Mapping out the cognitive relationships between semantic concepts and connecting these to a raw, affective charge provides a clearer view of citizens’ understanding of issues and how their thoughts and feelings shift in response to targeted political messaging.

Keywords: political beliefs, motivated reasoning, persuasion, affect, partisanship, ideology, communication, networks

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