This is a bit of correspondence with a thoughtful scholar & friend who was commenting on The Politically Motivated Reasoning Paradigm.
“Biggest question [for me] is what is the relationship between values and identities. You make clear that people can be acting protect any type prior but those two seem distinct in some ways and may benefit from more discussion. . . . .
[I am interested in the] larger question about whether you would call cultural cognition orientations an identity. The question arose because [I have a colleague] who is writing . . . on cases of identity-value conflict such as when a minority holds distinct values from the modal member of his/her identity group.
I’m eager to offer a response or acknowledge I don’t have a very good one to the sort of “value-identity” conflict you are envisioning.
But I think we need to "iterate" a bit more in order to converge on a common conception of the issue here.
So I'm not going to try to address the "identity-value" conflict right off. Instead, I am going to discuss different understandings of how "values" & "identity" relate to one another in a research program that looks at the sort of "fact polarization" of interest to cultural cognition & other conceptions of PMR.
I'll start w/ two theories of why one might measure "values" to operationalize the source of "motivation" in PMR: dissonance avoidance & status protection.
As a preliminary point, neither theory understands the sorts of "values" being measured as what motivates information processing. For both, the theoretically posited "motivator" is some unobserved (latent) disposition that causes the observable expression of "values," which are then treated simply as "indicators" or imperfect measures of that latent disposition.
For that reason, both theories are agnostic on whether the relevant values are "truly, really" "political," "cultural" or something else. All "value" frameworks are just alternative measures of the same unobserved latent dispositions. The only issue is what measurement strategy works best for explanation, prediction, & prescription -- a criterion that will itself be specific to the goal of the research (e.g., I myself use much more fine-grained indicators, corresponding to much narrower specifications of the underlying dispositions, when I'm doing "field based" science communication in a region like S.E. Florida than I do when I'm participating in a scholarly conversation about mass opinion formation in "American society": the constructs & measurement instruments in former context wouldn't have same traction in latter context but the ones w/ most traction in latter furnish less in the former, where the consumers of the information are trying to do something that is advanced by a framework fitted more to their conditions).
Okay, the 2 theories:
1. Dissonance avoidance (DA). We might imagine that as "political beings" individuals are like diners at a restaurant that serves a "fixe prixe" menu of "ideologies" or "worldviews" or whathaveyou. After making their selections, it would be psychologically painful for these individuals to have to acknowledge that the world is configured in a way that forecloses achieving states of affairs associated with their preferred "worldview"or "ideology" or whatever: e.g., that unconstrained private orderings of the sort prized by individualists will burden the natural environment with toxic byproducts that make such a way of life unsustainable. They are therefore motivated to construe information in a manner that "fits" the evidence on risk and like facts to positions ("beliefs") supportive of policies congenial to their worldviews & unsupportive of policies uncongenial to the same.
2. Status protection (SP). DA is a relatively individualistic conception of PMR; SP is more "social." On this account, individual well-being is understood to be decisively linked to membership in important "affinity groups," whose members are bound together by their shared adherence to ways of life. Cultivating affective styles that evince commitment to the positions conventionally associated with these groups will be essential to signaling membership in and loyalty to one or another of them. "Policy" positions will routinely bear such associations. But sometimes risks and like policy-relevant facts will come to bear social meanings (necessarily antagonistic ones in relation to the opposing groups) that express group membership & loyalty too. In those cases, PMR will be a mode of information processing rationally suited to forming the affective styles that reliably & convincingly express an individual's "group identity."
Avoiding the psychic disappointment of assenting to facts uncongenial to an individual's personal "policy preferences" is not the truth-extrinsic goal that "motivates" cognition on this view. Status protection--i.e., the maintenance of the sort of standing in one's group essential to enjoying access to the benefits, material and emotional, that membership imparts--is.
Okay, those are the two theories.
But let me be clear: neither of these theories is "true"!
Not because some other one is -- but because no theories are. All theories are simplified, imperfect "models"-- or pictures or metaphors, even! -- that warrant our acceptance to the extent that they enable us to do what we want to do w/ an empirical research program: enlarge our capacity to explain, predict & prescribe.
For now at least.
But in any case, my question is whether your & your colleague's question --whether "cultural cognition orientations" are "an identity" -- can be connected to this particular account of how "values," "identities," & PMR are connected? If so, then, I might have something more helpful to say! If not, then maybe what you have to say about why not will help me engage this issue more concretely.