Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science

First Advisor

T. Wayne Parent


This dissertation is a response to Bennett's (1977) call for a theoretical framework capable of integrating existing theories of mass belief systems. The theory offered here is built on two important discoveries in this body of research: the importance of simplifying heuristics and the hierarchical structure of belief systems. Recognizing that heuristics are described in a narrative form, the general importance of narrative for political cognition is suggested and explored. Of particular importance is the possibility that hierarchical belief systems are grounded in core narratives or myths. After demonstrating the theoretical links between myth and belief system, a way of conceptualizing a narrative view of political cognition is developed. This step in the dissertation argues that the political belief system is best conceived of as a self-organized system, and that narrative functions as a form/process which provides the organizing principle for the system. Next the relationship between this and previous theories of belief systems is explored. Finally, interviews with a small number of respondents are examined for indications of the existence and function of myths and other narratives within political beliefs.