Political Behavior

, Volume 12, Issue 1, pp 5-18

First online:

Black-box models of candidate evaluation

  • Milton LodgeAffiliated withDepartment of Political Science, SUNY at Stony Brook
  • , Patrick StrohAffiliated withNew York University
  • , John WahlkeAffiliated withUniversity of Arizona

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All contemporary models of candidate evaluation are memory-based models in that they treat the direction and strength of evaluation as a function of the mix of positively and negatively valued (valenced) information retrieved from memory. Yet, oddly enough, despite the assumption that memory mediates judgment, none of the major models looks at the processes involved in what information voters recall and how that evidence was integrated into a summary evaluation. In this sense then, political science models of vote choice are black-box models: They are silent about how voters actually go about interpreting information and integrating the “evidence” into a summary evaluation of the candidates. In this article we critique the major political science models, call attention to the implicit assumptions they make about what “evidence” is assumed to be in memory, and conclude with an argument for introducing process into our explanations of vote choice.