Research Paper: An Investigation of Beliefs, Information and the Halo Effect in Electoral Decisions
Ishan Kashyap Hazarika & Sourabh Rai, B.A. (Hon.) Economics, 2021
Rational ignorance suggests that voters largely ignore a lot of information while voting due to the high cost of attaining and processing the information. It is further suggested that rational voters do not vote to affect election results but to express opinions. It is thus likely that cognitive biases shape electoral decision-making. The Halo effect, for instance, extrapolates information in one domain to another and helps voters avoid processing extra information. In this paper, we investigate the conditions under which extra information is processed or ignored, and first impressions are generalised. We find, through a Randomised Control Experiment, that new and weakly formed political beliefs also have effects similar to strongly held political beliefs, on information provided later. In particular, the study presented picture-information about candidates, either accompanying or not accompanying text-information. Additional text-information did not significantly change voter-choice when the text information reaffirmed picture-based preferences but did significantly change voter-choice when it contradicted picture-based preferences. These results are viewed from the perspective of both the Identity-Protective Cognition Thesis and the Halo effect, thus hinting that the two may be connected, an insight that is largely missing in the previous literature.
Note that this is a pre-print. For the final published version, please visit- https://ojs.trp.org.in/index.php/arss/article/view/1610
Hazarika, I. K. and Rai, S. (2020). An Investigation of Beliefs, Information and the Halo Effect in Electoral Decision Making. Asian Review of Social Sciences, 9(1): 27-33