The stories groups tell: campaign finance reform and the narrative networks of cultural cognition

  • Aaron Smith-WalterEmail author
  • Michael D. Jones
  • Elizabeth A. Shanahan
  • Holly Peterson


The purpose of this study is to test whether groups with different cultural cognition orientations construct different stories about the same policy issue given the same information. We employed a focus group methodology to assemble participants with similar cultural dispositions and used the Narrative Policy Framework to examine the policy narratives that groups form about campaign finance. Our analyses indicate that the stories these homogeneous cultural groups tell associate political process concerns related to campaign finance to their core cultural values. Even when provided with the same information, the stories that the groups produced varied along theoretically consistent cultural dimensions. Our findings show the narrative cores displayed similar attribution of the problem to intentional human action; however we observed variation in the manner in which certain characters were assigned blame, and significant differences in the density of several of the narrative networks. We found that differences in presence of victims emerged along the grid dimension of cultural cognition with egalitarian narratives cores possessing victims, whereas hierarchist narratives did not. A difference that emerged along the group dimension of cultural cognition was the core narrative of individualist groups generated policy solutions, while communitarian narrative cores did not.


Narrative policy framework Social network analysis Cultural cognition Campaign finance reform 



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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of Massachusetts LowellLowellUSA
  2. 2.School of Public PolicyOregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA
  3. 3.Department of Political ScienceMontana State UniversityBozemanUSA
  4. 4.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of South AlabamaMobileUSA

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