Identity-motivated elaboration : the role of partisan social identities and elaboration in political persuasion and learning
Persuasive political messages play a central role in the attitude formation process. The unification of the social identity theory, the theory of motivated reasoning, and the elaboration likelihood model better explains the way individuals learn from and are persuaded by messages in the evolving political media landscape. Partisanship is a social identity that biases the processing of new political information. The current dissertation employs an experimental design (with replication) to test the process of identity-motivated elaboration and structural equation modeling to test hypothesized relationships. The results reveal that the insertion of partisan cues to a political message, indicating partisan social group norms, conditions persuasion by partisan social identity, limits learning, and valences elaboration. Citizens engage in partisan motivated reasoning, not just to defend prior beliefs, but to defend their partisan social identity. Identifying with the Democratic or Republican Party creates a partisan lens through which all new political information is processed. The integration of the three psychological theories avails a new perspective on the political persuasion process, one that is more nuanced and extensive than that provided by any isolated theoretical perspective. The current study extends our understanding of this complex political communicative process by synthesizing the social identity approach, partisan motivated reasoning, and valenced cognitive elaboration into a unified theory of political persuasion.
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