Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science


Shana Gadarian

Second Advisor

Len Newman


Accuracy, Motivated, Pressure, Reasoning

Subject Categories

Political Science | Social and Behavioral Sciences


How effective can social pressure be when encouraging accuracy motivations amongst the public? In politics, directionally motivated reasoning is a powerful force that can shape the way people access, process, and remember political information, which can often lead to inaccurate viewpoints, or opinions backed up by erroneous or unsupported information. These inaccuracies can be problematic for Democratic accountability. Accuracy motivations, or seeking the most accurate answer possible, are preferable for a public’s political knowledge and information processing. Using three novel survey experiments on the American public, I test whether inducing accuracy motivations via types of social pressure- in-group conformity, out-group disassociation, public shame, and rewarding correct responses- has any effect on increasing accuracy motivations, both by the amount of information sought, and by how accurately subjects responded on knowledge questions.I find that using social pressure to incentivize accuracy increases the proportion of correct responses on political knowledge questions. Varying types of social pressure were all somewhat successful in inducing accuracy motivations. I find some mixed evidence suggesting that the effects of social pressure induced accuracy motivations is mitigated by the presence of strong directional preferences on that topic.

This study suggests that while social pressure is effective at promoting accuracy motivations, how successful it is in improving political knowledge and dissuading inaccuracies is context specific. I conclude with a discussion of what practical implications of accuracy-based social pressure might look like, and consider the ways in which individuals can have their directional preferences satisfied without having to rely on conspiracies, misinformation, or inaccurate readings of the political facts and climate.


Open Access