The Origins of Information Processing Preferences in Politics: Examining Parental Influence


  • Lori D. Bougher
  • Richard R. Lau


Cognitive motivations (e.g., need for cognition and need to evaluate) and decision strategies (e.g., rational choice vs. heuristic-based) importantly shape political understanding, evaluations, and vote choice. Despite the importance of these cognitive factors, few studies have examined their origins. Adopting an exploratory framework with a primary focus on parental influence, we uniquely address this research gap by identifying potential pathways through which parents can affect this development. Using a convenience sample of college students who participated in a 10-week panel study with their parents, we reveal that, unlike many other political characteristics, there is little parent-child similarity in cognitive motivations and decision strategies. We, however, find some similarity in the information search behaviors parents and children exhibit during the mock election campaign. The findings highlight the need to further investigate not only additional parenting behaviors, but also the socializing role of the information environment itself.