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Remembering and Voting: Theory and Evidence from Amnesic Patients

Authors


  • This project is part of the first author's doctoral work, and he would like to thank, first and foremost, Jim Kuklinski for his remarkable support and guidance. We also thank Brian Gaines, David Hendry, Jeff Mondak, Molly Ritchie, Justin Rhodes, Thomas Rudolph, Joel Voss, members of the Amnesia Research Lab and Cognitive Neuroscience of Memory Lab, John Kihlstrom and two anonymous reviewers, and Rick Wilson for helpful feedback and comments. An earlier version of this article was presented at the 2010 New Faces of Political Methodology Conference at Pennsylvania State University and at the Applying Advances in Social and Cognitive Neurosciences to Political Behavior Workshop at Caltech. This work was supported by grants from NINDS (P50 NS19632) and NIHM (RO1 MH062500), with additional funding from the Kiwanis Foundation and the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology. Data from this study can be obtained at https://netfiles.uiuc.edu/jcorone2/www/. Correspondence regarding this article should be sent to Jason C. Coronel (jasoncoronel@gmail.com).

  • Some of the main bodies of work that have either explicitly or implicitly used this criterion include the literatures on issue proximity voting (Downs 1957; Enelow and Hinich 1984; for a review, see Grofman 2004), candidate evaluation (Lodge, McGraw, and Stroh 1989; Lodge, Steenbergen, and Brau 1995), and “correct voting” (Lau and Redlawsk 1997, 2006).

Jason C. Coronel is a Ph.D. candidate in political science, University of Illinois, 1407 West Gregory Drive, Urbana, IL 61801 (jasoncoronel@gmail.com). Melissa C. Duff is Assistant Professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders, University of Iowa, 250 Hawkins Drive, Iowa City, IA 52242 (melissa-duff@uiowa.edu). David E. Warren is a Post-Doctoral Fellow of Neurology, University of Iowa, 200 Hawkins Drive, Iowa City, IA 52242 (davideugenewarren@gmail.com). Kara D. Federmeier is Associate Professor of Psychology, University of Illinois, 603 East Daniel Street, Champaign, IL 61820 (kfederme@cyrus.psych.illinois.edu). Brian D. Gonsalves is Assistant Professor of Psychology, University of Illinois, 603 East Daniel Street, Champaign, IL 61820 (bgon@cyrus.psych.uiuc.edu). Daniel Tranel is Professor of Neurology, University of Iowa, 200 Hawkins Drive, Iowa City, IA 52242 (daniel-tranel@uiowa.edu). Neal J. Cohen is Professor of Psychology, University of Illinois, 603 East Daniel Street, Champaign, IL 61820 (njc@illinois.edu).

Abstract

One of the most prominent claims to emerge from the field of public opinion is that citizens can vote for candidates whose issue positions best reflect their own beliefs even when they cannot remember previously learned stances associated with the candidates. The current experiment provides a unique and powerful examination of this claim by determining whether individuals with profound amnesia, whose severe memory impairments prevent them from remembering specific issue information associated with any particular candidate, can vote for candidates whose issue positions come closest to their own political views. We report here that amnesic patients, despite not being able to remember any issue information, consistently voted for candidates with favored political positions. Thus, sound voting decisions do not require recall or recognition of previously learned associations between candidates and their issue positions. This result supports a multiple memory systems model of political decision making.

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