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The emotional activist: The role of affect in political decision making

Carolyn R Brown Kramer, University of Nebraska - Lincoln

Abstract

What role does affect play in individuals' political decisions? How do the emotions we experience relate to our political behaviors, such as talking with others about a candidate, requesting and wearing campaign stickers, or seeking additional information about candidates? Research in psychology and political science indicates a strong link between emotion and political decision making, including information processing, information search, and candidate choice (Marcus, Neuman, & MacKuen, 2000; Lau & Redlawsk, 2006). The theory of affective intelligence (Marcus, 2002; Marcus, Neuman, & MacKuen, 2000) states that there are two affective systems triggered by different emotions; these affective systems have differing implications for political decision making. However, little research to date has focused on the relation between individuals' affective experiences and their actual political behavior in an experimental framework. In this study, participants' emotions were manipulated through a congruence manipulation technique; the relations between emotion, campaign activity behavior, and information search behavior were examined. Results indicated that, contrary to the theory of affective intelligence, enthusiasm positively predicted both campaign activity behavior and information search behavior, but that neither anxiety nor aversion was significantly related to behavior. It is proposed that the processes underlying the decision to engage in campaign activity behaviors are inherently different from those underlying vote choice and other previously studied political behaviors. Allowing participants to "opt in" or "opt out" of behavioral engagement may also have played a role in the current findings. By allowing participants to choose whether or not to engage in behaviors rather than requiring them to choose between alternatives, these results may indicate how real-world decision-making processes occur. Implications of these findings and future research directions are discussed.^

Subject Area

Psychology, Social|Political Science, General

Recommended Citation

Brown Kramer, Carolyn R, "The emotional activist: The role of affect in political decision making" (2009). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3354832.
http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/dissertations/AAI3354832

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