Scholars have become acutely interested in how behavior driven by ideas rather than self-interest determines policy-making outcomes. This review examines the literature on this subject. It differentiates among the types of ideas that may affect policy making (i.e., cognitive paradigms, world views, norms, frames, and policy programs) and identifies some of the persistent difficulties associated with studying how ideas shape policy. In particular, studies often do a poor job pinpointing the causal mechanisms that link ideas to policy-making outcomes. More attention needs to be paid to articulating the causal processes through which ideas exert effects. Suggestions for future scholarship that might improve this situation are offered. These include identifying the actors who seek to influence policy making with their ideas, ascertaining the institutional conditions under which these actors have more or less influence, and understanding how political discourse affects the degree to which policy ideas are communicated and translated into practice.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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