chapter  11
Cognitive Coherence in Politics: Unifying Metaphor and Narrative in Civic Cognition
Pages 22

How do citizens make sense of the political world? Previous research has reiterated that citizens often lack detailed information when it comes to politics, revealing „a high variance in political awareness around a generally low mean‰ (Zaller, 1992, p. 18). 1 Instead, citizens use cognitive shortcuts (heuristics) to „simplify cognitively taxing demands and to respond quickly to new information‰ (Jacobs & Shapiro, 2011, p. 14; see also Lau & Redlawsk, 2006; Taber, 2011). Although a full review of this literature is outside the scope of this chapter, „[t]here is no question that citizens use heuristics to simplify their information processing; there is considerable uncertainty, however, about whether such shortcuts allow them to behave competently‰ (Taber, 2011, p. 380). Although heuristics enable citizens to overcome cognitive limitations by making use of existing knowledge structures, they also leave citizens susceptible to bias and manipulation. Placing normative evaluations of heuristic usage temporarily to the side, there is still substantial merit in understanding the cognitive processes that can generate this susceptibility (see also Chong & Druckman, 2011). In the United States, for example, focus has shifted from „attributing failures of American democracy to the ignorance and stupidity of the masses‰ (Schattschneider, 1960, p. 135) to securing richer, descriptive accounts of civic behavior and rationales (e.g., Lupia, Levine, Menning, & Sin, 2007; Lupia, McCubbins, & Popkin, 2000), and to more critical assessments of the media and political leaders (Shapiro & Jacobs, 2011).