RESOURCE ALLOCATION IN SOCIAL COGNITION
Stereotypes and prejudices were once thought to be causally linked (Allport, 1954), but scholars have come to view them as independent constructs (Duckitt, 2003; Amodio & Devine, 2006). Prejudices are affective orientations toward groups, whereas stereotypes are cognitive representations of groups (Amodio & Devine) that allow information to be processed more quickly (Macrae, Milne, & Bodenhausen, 1994) and potentially more efficiently (Sherman, Lee, Bessenoff, & Frost, 1998). However, for stereotypes to facilitate processing efficiency, they must be updated to reflect counter-stereotypical information when it is encountered. Of course, the idea of updating stereotypes conflicts with their well-known resistance to change (Hilton & Von Hippel, 1996). Even in the face of counter-stereotypical information, individuals are able to maintain their stereotypes through biased retrieval (Kunda, 1990; Kunda & Oleson, 1995; Kunda & Sanitioso, 1989), and this makes it possible to deploy stereotypes again and again for the purpose of identity reaffirmation (Fein & Spencer, 1997; Kunda & Spencer, 2003; Steele, 1988).
When the literature on party identification and the literature on stereotyping are placed side-by-side, the parallels are hard to miss. Although party identification was originally seen as an affective orientation that colors political perceptions (Campbell, Converse, Miller, & Stokes, 1960), it is now viewed by many as an efficient heuristic for simplifying politics (Brady & Sniderman, 1985; Huckfeldt, Levine, Morgan, & Sprague, 1999; Kam, 2005; Popkin, 1991; Schaffner & Streb, 2002; Shively, 1979; Tomz & Sniderman, 2005). However, this efficiency depends on partisans' willingness to bring their identity into alignment with their evaluations, as revisionist theories suggest. Critics of the revisionist model argue that party identification is highly stable and resistant to change even when partisans disagree with their party (Green et al., 2002).
Noticing the parallels between these literatures, the dual motivations theory of party identification builds on research into stereotype maintenance. In a series of experiments, Yzerbyt, Coull, and Rocher (1999) manipulated cognitive resources during an encounter with a member of a stereotyped group who deviated from that stereotype. They found that participants devoted their cognitive resources to stereotype maintenance rather than updating their preconceptions to reflect new information. Most stereotype change occurred when subjects encountered deviant individuals but lacked the cognitive resources necessary to preserve their stereotypes. In a separate set of experiments, Sherman, Stroessner, Conrey, and Azam (2005) found that participants who were high in prejudice attended more closely to stereotype-inconsistent information as long as they had sufficient cognitive resources. Participants then attributed this stereotype-inconsistent information to external factors while attributing stereotype-consistent information to internal factors. In short, prejudice motivated participants to devote whatever resources they had to explaining away inconsistencies in order to maintain their existing stereotype.
According to Sherif (1966), “Whenever individuals belonging to one group interact, collectively or individually, with another group or its members in terms of their group identification, we have an instance of intergroup behavior” (p. 12). Therefore, theories of intergroup stereotyping and prejudice should apply just as readily to the partisan context as they do to domains such as race, ethnicity, and gender. Moreover, if we take seriously the notion that partisan orientations truly constitute identities (Campbell et al., 1960; Campbell, Gurin, & Miller, 1954; Green et al., 2002; Greene, 1999), then a threat to one's party identity amounts to a threat to one's self-concept and, by extension, to one's self-esteem. Therefore, partisans should be expected to utilize their cognitive resources for the purpose of identity defense.
Cognitive Resources Hypothesis:
When cognitive resources are limited, partisans will be more likely to bring their identities into alignment with dissonant attitudes.