The Partisan Brain: An Identity-Based Model of Political Belief

Jay J. Van Bavel, Andrea Pereira

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Democracies assume accurate knowledge by the populace, but the human attraction to fake and untrustworthy news poses a serious problem for healthy democratic functioning. We articulate why and how identification with political parties – known as partisanship – can bias information processing in the human brain. There is extensive evidence that people engage in motivated political reasoning, but recent research suggests that partisanship can alter memory, implicit evaluation, and even perceptual judgments. We propose an identity-based model of belief for understanding the influence of partisanship on these cognitive processes. This framework helps to explain why people place party loyalty over policy, and even over truth. Finally, we discuss strategies for de-biasing information processing to help to create a shared reality across partisan divides.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)213-224
Number of pages12
JournalTrends in Cognitive Sciences
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2018


  • attention
  • group identity
  • memory
  • partisanship
  • perception
  • reasoning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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