Is Political Cognition Like Riding a Bicycle? How Cognitive Neuroscience Can Inform Research on Political Thinking



Our understanding of political phenomena, including political attitudes and sophistication, can be enriched by incorporating the theories and tools of cognitive neuroscience—in particular, the cognitive neuroscience of nonconscious habitual cognition (akin to bicycle riding). From this perspective, different types of informational “building blocks” can be construed from which different types of political attitudes may arise. A reflection-reflexion model is presented that describes how these blocks combine to produce a given political attitude as a function of goals, primes, expertise, and inherent conflict in considerations relevant to the attitude. The ways in which neuroimaging methods can be used to test hypotheses of political cognition are reviewed.