Howard Lavine


Associate Professor of Political Science and Psychology
Associate Professor of Political Science and Psychology. Ph.D., University of Minnesota, 1994.
Research Interests: Political Psychology; Public Opinion and Political Persuasion; Ambivalence; Authoritarianism; Experimental Methodology.

Department of Political Science
SUNY at Stony Brook 
Stony Brook, N.Y. 11794-4392
(631) 632-4304 (office)
(631) 632-4116 (fax)

  • Curriculum Vitae [pdf ]
  • Representative Publications

    Howard Lavine
    PDF's of Representative Publications


    Lavine, H., and Gschwend, T. (2007). Issues, party, and character: The moderating role of 
                ideological thinking on candidate evaluation. British Journal of Political Science, 37
                139-163. (pdf)

    Schatz, R. & Lavine, H. (2007). Waving the flag: National symbolism, social identity, and  
                political engagement. Political Psychology, 28, 329-355. (pdf)

    Basinger, S., & Lavine, H. (2005). Ambivalence, information, and electoral choice. American 
                Political Science Review99, 169-184. (pdf)

    Lavine, H., Lodge, M., & Freitas, K. (2005). Authoritarianism, threat, and selective exposure 
                to information. Political Psychology, 26, 219-244. (pdf)

    Lavine, H., Lodge, M., Polichak, J., & Taber, C. (2002). Explicating the black box through 
                experimentation: Studies of authoritarianism and threat. Political Analysis, 10, 342-360. (pdf)

    Lavine, H. (2001). The electoral consequences of ambivalence toward presidential candidates.
                American Journal of Political Science, 45, 915-929. (pdf)

    Gonnerman, M. E., Parker, C., Lavine H., & Huff, J. W. (2000).  The relationship between self-
                discrepancies and affective states: The moderating roles of self-monitoring and 
                standpoints on the self. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin26, 810-819. (pdf)

    Lavine, H., Borgida, E., & Sullivan J. L. (2000). On the relationship between attitude 
                involvement and attitude accessibility: Toward a cognitive-motivational model of 
                political information processing. Political Psychology21, 81-106. (pdf)

    Lavine, H. (1999). Types of evidence and routes to persuasion: The unimodel vs. dual-process 
                models.  Psychological Inquiry10, 141-144. (pdf)

    Lavine, H., Wagner, S. H., & Sweeney, D. (1999). Depicting women as sex objects in television 
                advertising: Effects on body dissatisfaction and attitudes toward women. Personality and 
                Social Psychology Bulletin, 25, 1049-1058. (pdf)

    Lavine, H., Burgess, D., Snyder, M., Transue, J., Sullivan, J. L., Haney, B., & Wagner, S. 
                (1999). Threat, authoritarianism, and voting: An investigation of personality and 
                persuasion. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 25, 337-347. (pdf)

    Schatz, R. T., Staub, E., & Lavine, H. (1999). On the varieties of national attachment: Blind 
                versus constructive patriotism. Political Psychology, 20, 151-174. (pdf)

    Lavine, H., Huff, J. W., Wagner, S. J., & Sweeney, D. (1998). The moderating influence of 
                attitude strength on the susceptibility to context effects in attitude surveys.  Journal of 
                Personality and Social Psychology
    75, 359-373. (pdf)

    Lavine, H., Thomsen, C. J., Zanna, M. P., & Borgida, E. (1998). On the primacy of affect in the 
                determination of political attitudes and behavior: The moderating influence of affective-
                cognitive ambivalence. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology34, 398-421. (pdf)

    Christiansen, N., & Lavine, H. (1997). Need-efficiency trade-offs in the allocation of resources: 
                Ideological and attributional differences in aid allocation preferences. Social Justice 
                Research, 10, 289-310. (pdf)

    Lavine, H., Thomsen, C. J., & Gonzalez, M. H. (1997). The development of inter-attitudinal
                consistency: The shared consequences model. Journal of Personality and Social 
                Psychology, 72, 735-749. (pdf)
    Lavine, H., & Latané, B. (1996). A cognitive-social theory of public opinion: Dynamic impact 
                and cognitive structure. Journal of Communication, 4648-56. (pdf)

    Lavine, H., & Snyder, M. (1996). Cognitive processing and the functional matching effect in 
                persuasion: The mediating role of subjective perceptions of message quality. Journal of 
                Experimental Social Psychology, 32, 580-604. (pdf)

    Lavine, H., Sullivan, J. L., Borgida, E., & Thomsen, C. J. (1996). The relationship of national 
                and personal issue salience to attitude accessibility on foreign and domestic policy issues. 
                Political Psychology, 17, 293-316. (pdf)

    Thomsen, C. J., Lavine, H., & Kounios. (1996). Social value and attitude concepts in semantic 
                memory: Relational structure, concept strength, and the fan effect. Social Cognition14

  • Research Interests
  • Courses
  • Political Psychology (Journal of the International Society of Political Psychology)

Course Offerings and Syllabi

Type of Class

Course Number

Course Name

Undergraduate POL 348 Political Beliefs
Undergraduate POL 349 Social Psychology of Politics
Doctoral POL 610 Foundation: Experimental Methods
Doctoral POL 632 Mass Communication and Attitude Change
Doctoral POL 678 Mass Belief Systems

Research Interests

Among the most important insights in the psychology of decision making is that preference judgments are reached through a diverse and flexible set of cognitive strategies.  In my recent work, I have proposed a general psychological framework of political choice, one that considers how decision strategies are contingent on variation in political engagement and attitude strength, key aspects of the political environment (e.g., the degree to which an electoral context subsidizes the voter’s information costs), and most important, on the nature of voters’ goals as they seek to learn about and appraise political candidates, issues, and events.

The core argument is that political reasoning involves a tension between strivings for three generally conflicting motivations: efficiency, accuracy, and belief perseverance.  Ideally, citizens would like to make “correct” judgments that reflect reality and their substantive values, while at the same time making frugal use of cognitive resources and leaving current beliefs intact.  In many instances, voters can manage to maximize these goals by relying on the simple but powerful cue of party identification.  However, we find that many citizens experience internalized conflict toward the party labels (quite apart from levels of partisan strength and political sophistication), rendering partisan cues unreliable judgment guides.  While this ambivalence may occur for a variety of reasons, the most politically potent manifestation stems from a disjuncture between voters’ long-term identification with a political party and their short-term evaluations of the party’s capacity to govern and to deliver benefits to the public. 

In a series of papers (and a book in progress), my colleagues and I show that partisan ambivalence is a fundamental aspect of mass belief systems and a principal determinant of the way voters “decide how to decide” across a variety of political judgment contexts.  By degrading the heuristic value of partisan identity as a political cue, partisan ambivalence motivates voters to step up their information processing; in particular, to think more deeply (i.e., “systematically) and objectively about their political choices, leading ultimately to normatively better political decisions.  For example, in electoral contexts, ambivalent voters pay greater attention to the policy content of campaigns and rely on a larger and more diverse set of factors in reaching their decisions.  In judging economic performance, ambivalence virtually eliminates partisan bias and sharply heightens responsiveness to real economic signals.  More broadly, ambivalent voters are more sensitive to the political environment, more willing to acquire new information, and more likely to update their political preferences and beliefs in accord with rational models.  

I also have a longstanding interest in the psychological nature, origins and political dynamics of authoritarianism.  In several articles published over the last decade, I have explored the hypothesis that authoritarians are especially sensitive to various forms of implicit and explicit situational threat.  From automatic priming experiments to studies of message-based persuasion, selective perception, voting, and policy reasoning, my colleagues and I find that threat magnifies the cognitive, attitudinal, and behavioral effects of authoritarianism.  In my current work, I show that the influence of racial diversity on policy attitudes is conditioned by levels of authoritarianism but rarely by economic markers (e.g., income).  The pattern of findings indicates that the political consequences of racial conflict more likely stem from cultural and symbolic rather than instrumental (i.e., realistic group conflict) motives.

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Department of Political Science • Social and Behavioral Sciences Building, 7th Floor, Stony Brook, NY 11794-4392 • Phone: 631-632-7650 • Fax: 631-632-4116