Richard R. Lau

Richard R. Lau, Professor of Political Science at Rutgers University, received his B.A. from Stanford University in 1974 and his Ph.D. in social psychology from UCLA in 1979. He taught at Carnegie Mellon University before coming to Rutgers in 1990. As a political psychologist, Lau has tried throughout his career to apply theories of individual cognition and behavior to political questions. His earliest research contrasted "self-interest" and "symbolic beliefs" as determinants of policy attitudes and political behavior, and the role of "negativity" (the tendency to give more weight to negative information than comparable positive information) in explaining political behavior and electoral outcomes. Lau is perhaps best known for promoting "information processing" theories of human cognition within political science. His own work in political cognition has focused on the effects of chronically accessible political constructs -- or political schemata -- on political perception and attitude change. His current research interests concern information search, heuristics, and choice strategies employed by voters during political campaigns, with an eye toward exploring the normative implications of these human decision making strategies; the role of "policy metaphors" in public opinion formation; and the effectiveness (and effects) of negative political campaigning. Some important publications include: Lau, Richard R., & David P. Redlawsk. "Voting Correctly." 1997. American Political Science Review, 91(September): 585-599. Lau, Richard R., Richard A. Smith, & Susan T. Fiske. 1991. "Political Beliefs, Policy Interpretations, and Political Persuasion." Journal of Politics, 53(August): 644-675. Lau, Richard R. 1989. "Individual and Contextual Influences on Group Identification." Social Psychology Quarterly, 52(September): 220-231. Lau, Richard R. 1985. "Two Explanations for Negativity Effects in Political Behavior." American Journal of Political Science, 29 (February): 119-138. Lau, Richard R., & David O. Sears, Eds. 1986. Political Cognition: The 19th Annual Carnegie Symposium on Cognition. Hillside, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.