Communication research based on social cognition draws heavily from dual process models such as the heuristic-systematic model. Both heuristic and systematic processing are said to be aided by quick rules of thumb or mental shortcuts called heuristics. However, the operationalization of heuristics is quite problematic because their use in decision-making is not directly measured. Scholars claim the operation of specific heuristics in specific situations, based often on clever experimental evidence. We propose a methodological framework that calls for both manipulation and measurement of heuristics in order to offer more direct evidence of their operation. We first review different existing approaches in the literature for operationalizing heuristics. We then discuss our approach and describe the application of moderated mediation to analyze the resulting data. We conclude with a study idea and simulated data that illustrate how our proposed design and analysis framework could be applied in communication research.
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