2014-2015 Spring

Morris Fiorina

March 30, 2015

Are Leaning Independents Just Weak Partisans Under Another Name?

ABSTRACT: The classic party identification question battery places respondents into seven categories: strong Republicans and Democrats, not-so-strong (“weak”) Republicans and Democrats, independents who lean toward the Democratic or Republican parties, and “pure” independents. It has become common practice, however, for researchers to combine leaning independents with their respective partisan categories using the justification that leaning independents are “essentially identical” to weak partisans. Such a practice is not justified because (1) it ignores the possibility of endogeneous responses to the directional probe, and (2) it ignores considerable evidence that leaners are different from weak partisans. This is not an arcane methodological quibble. If leaners—about 30 percent of the potential electorate–are partisans, the potential electorate is much more stable and the prospects for political change much less likely than if leaners are independents. This paper presents evidences showing that leaning independents are different from weak partisans in numerous ways, but we are unable to provide any simple characterization of leaners.

Morris Fiorina
Camille Johnson

April 6, 2015

When we talk about matters: Content moderates cognitive depletion in interracial interactions

ABSTRACT: The antecedents and consequences of intergroup interactions have been well-studied, but interaction content—what partners actually talk about—has not. In the experiment we report here, interaction content moderated well-documented self-regulation effects (i.e., cognitive depletion) among White participants interacting with a Black partner. Specifically, White individuals participated in a video email interaction with an ostensible Black or White partner who broached topics systematically varying in intimacy. Greater cognitive depletion was evident after interacting with a Black partner relative to a White partner, but only after discussing more intimate topics. When conversation topics aligned with Whites’ preferences to avoid intimacy in interracial interactions, depletion effects were reduced. Thus, interaction content, which has been largely ignored in intergroup interaction research, has important implications for intergroup interaction.

Camille Johnson
Zakary Tormala

April 6, 2015

Attitude Certainty and Attitudinal Advocacy

ABSTRACT: When and why do people advocate on behalf of their attitudes?  Despite the theoretical and practical significance of this question, the attitudes and persuasion literature has little to say about the factors that drive advocacy intentions and behaviors. One thing we do know is that attitude certainty appears to be an important determinant. In this talk, I will present very recent research that seeks to provide more nuanced insight into the certainty-advocacy relationship. First, I will discuss a series of studies exploring the unique roles of attitude clarity and attitude correctness in fostering different forms of advocacy — in particular, sharing intentions and persuasion intentions. Second, I will describe new data from our lab exploring the shape of the certainty-advocacy relationship. Across studies, I hope to offer new insight into (or at least food for thought about) the underlying motives that promote advocacy-type behavior.

Paul Sniderman

April 27, 2015

The Elasticity of Political Preferences

ABSTRACT: It now is a standard presumption that most citizens are highly susceptible to preference reversals.  Whether they support or oppose a policy depends on the circumstances of the moment — for example, how the issue is framed or what happens, for whatever reason, to come to the mind at the moment of choice. If true, most citizens are airheads.  Is it true?

Michelle Mello

May 4, 2015

The Nanny State? Public Views on Legal Interventions to Fight Noncommunicable Disease

ABSTRACT: Rising levels of obesity, diabetes, and other diseases associated with so-called “lifestyle choices” have sparked interest in how the law could be used to influence health behaviors.  Some legal interventions have garnered wide praise, but others have provoked vocal criticisms that they are excessive interferences by the “nanny state.”  What drives the public’s willingness to view these legal interventions as legitimate uses of government authority?  What patterns are observable in public views over time? This talk will discuss from public opinion survey work that aims to provide insights into these questions.

Richard Leo

May 18, 2015

False Confession, Erroneous Convictions, and Safeguarding the Innocent

ABSTRACT: In this talk, I will discuss the history of police interrogation in America, focusing on the modern shift from physically coercive to psychologically-oriented methods of interrogation and confession-taking in criminal cases.  I will then discuss the social psychology of police interrogation: the fundamental assumptions, goals and methods of influence that are designed to move (presumed guilty) suspects from (expected) denials to (desired) admissions and full narrative confessions.  I will then discuss the counter-intuitive phenomenon of police-induced false confessions: their types, sources, and consequences. I will discuss what we know about false confessions from field research as well as laboratory studies. As part of this analysis, I will also discuss the phenomenon of wrongful conviction more broadly in the American criminal justice system.  Finally, I will briefly discuss reforms in the criminal justice system that are designed to reduce the frequency of false confessions as well as the wrongful convictions that they sometimes spawn.