Daphna Spivack is a joint JD & PhD student in the Psychology Department at Stanford, where she studies the ways in which different psychological biases affect our judicial and political systems. She looks at how biased processing affects our preferred policy outcomes and influences prosecutor and juror decision making in the courtroom. For her research with the Center for American Democracy, she focuses on the ways in which political polarization and motivated reasoning influence perceptions of executive power.
Citizens’ perception of the legitimacy of executive power is often tied to their / support of the executive in office rather than to a careful analysis of the / executive’s role within the balance of powers. However, more research is needed to understand how citizens think about executive power—specifically the ways in which people justify the expansion of executive power when doing so accords with their own policy preferences but perceive the same power to be illegitimate when it conflicts with their policy preferences. This line of research will explore which dispositional factors—such as political ideology, political polarization, open mindedness, and need for cognition—predict support and opposition for executive power in an ideologically congruent manner. This question is more important now than ever, when executives are using broad powers unilaterally in response to COVID.