The article entitled “Different paths to the same result: Rational choice, political psychology and impression formation in campaigns” examined two different theories on how people generate impressions about political candidates. The first theory was based on psychological theories and the second was based on the rational choice model used by political scientists. While radically different outcomes were anticipated, it seems that when each impression making theory is executed under the same circumstances, that both produce similar results. (Bianco, 1998).
The similarity in results can be explained by one simple point. Each theory has basically the same final objective, to get what they want for the least amount of effort. When this goal is applied to selecting a politician to vote for or support, then the voter is trying to identify the candidate that will take actions while in office that preserve both their subjective and objective interests with the least amount of prodding. (Stone, 2002, pg. 233 and Bianco, 1998). For example, Politician A may support gun rights, be against gay marriages and be for spending more money on education. Politician B, on the other hand, may be against loosening gun ownership restrictions, be against gay marriages and be for spending more money on education. A voter, who is for gun rights, for gay marriages and for increasing education spending, would look at these two candidates and select the candidate that has the most similar interests as they do. In this case the selected candidate would most likely be Politician A because they supported two out of the three interests held by the voter, while Politician B only had one out of the three interests. While not a perfect match, the voter may feel that lobbying for one interest would take much less effort than lobbying for two interests.
While the final selection may end up being the same, the path to getting there differs slightly between the two observed impression making theories. The rational choice model takes four steps. These steps include: (1) defining a goal, (2) identifying all possible ways to reach the goal, (3) evaluating the options and (4) choosing the option that will produce the most benefits for the least amount of effort or resources. (Stone, 2002, pg. 233). The motivated tactician, on the other hand would follow a slightly different set of decision making steps. They would: (1) make a snap judgment about the candidate based on their preconceived stereotypes based on the candidates race, ethnicity, gender, political affiliation, etc. (2) determine if the candidate is interesting enough to use more analytical characteristics to evaluate the interests of the candidate, (3) conduct further research if deemed interesting, (4) evaluate the candidate based on the various pieces of information they gathered, (5) choose the impression about the candidate that seems to be the most accurate, and (6) use this information to select a candidate to vote for. (Bianco, 1998).
The difference between these two impression making processes seems to be what justifications the voter uses for selecting an impression about the candidate. For example, the rationalator seems to use the actions of the politician as their justifier whereas the motivated tactician relies more on personal characteristics when making their judgments. The rationalator also seems to be more goal focused while the motivated tactician is focused on selecting a candidate that is most like them. However, these differences in process are moot, as the final outcome of both impression making/decision making models is to reach a specific goal for the least amount of effort or for the least cost to the voter.
Bianco, William T. (1998, October). “Different paths to the same results: Rational choice, political psychology and impression formation in campaigns.” American Journal of Political Science, 42(4): 1061-1082.
Stone, Deborah. (2002). Policy Paradox: The Art of Political Decision Making, Revised Edition. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.