A view from information processing perspective: the determinants and consequences of cognitive engagement in policy judgements

Ryu, Jaesung
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This research analyzed the quantity and nature of new information citizens acquire and process to formulate their policy judgments. I investigated the factors that drive variability in individuals’ cognitive efforts in seeking and processing the relevant information available from the environment and the impacts of the variability on policy judgments. I asked three principle questions about the formation of policy preferences, focusing on information acquisition: first, which persons expend more time and effort to find and acquire political information; second, what type of information finds its way into policy judgments; and lastly, how this information acquisition affects policy judgments. Drawing on the information processing perspective, I begin with a postulation that citizens are neither predisposition-driven nor information-driven in making their policy judgments. Rather, they are continually compelled by the interaction between priors (i.e., predispositions or preexisting values, beliefs, and attitudes) and external stimuli (i.e., new information available from the environment) in making their policy judgments. My analyses are based on two primary data sources: one is a large-scale survey data from National Election Studies (NES); another one is an original data from my own experiment. Taking online information processing method along with online polling, I created a unique data set in which the complete information search process is tracked and recorded. I tested two sets of hypotheses. The first set of hypotheses deals with the determinants of information acquisition. The second set of hypotheses is about the consequences of information acquisition. The evidence provided here shows that (1) many individuals are able and willing to engage in active information seeking to warrant a deeper understanding of the issue at hand; (2) partisan information is not always preferred over factual information; (3) policy judgments about affirmative action are significantly influenced by the extent to which an individual uses incoming, relevant information; (4) different levels of cognitive engagement interact with the different types of information to make a difference in policy judgments about affirmative action.