Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Political Science

First Advisor

Donald R Songer


This dissertation focuses on an important question in the judicial politics literature: what types of influences encourage opinion-writers to cite and use precedents in particular patterns. I address this question by using a series of innovative frameworks from social psychology, specifically systematic information processing frameworks using a theory of motivated reasoning. This theory postulates that the interplay (and shifts) between attitudinal accessibility and fear of invalidation/illegitimacy will encourage judges to cite and/or treat precedents using behavior that is consistent with top-down or bottom-up forms of motivated reasoning. Specifically, when attitudinal accessibility is high and fear of invalidation is low, precedent citation and treatment patterns should be consistent with top-down forms of motivated reasoning. In contrast, cases that have low attitudinal accessibility and a high fear of invalidation, precedent citation and treatment patterns should be broadly consistent with bottom-up forms of motivated reasoning, with the other two cells occupying mixed (or intermediate) forms of motivated reasoning.