MPSA 2020: Conference in a Conference

Emotions in Politics

Panel 2: Measuring Emotions

Saturday, April 18th 9:45 – 11:15am, Location TBA

Mixed Affective States and the Fundamental Challenge of Persuasion 

Authors: Joshua R. Gubler and Christopher F. Karpowitz


Abstract: We develop a new theory of mixed affective states: a condition in which individuals report feeling multiple, contradictory emotions. Mixed affect is important because attempts to persuade people to adopt new or different political attitudes often activate both highly pleasant and highly unpleasant emotions simultaneously. We call this tendency the Fundamental Challenge of Persuasion. In this article, we propose a method for identifying mixed affective states, and with the help of data from four very different studies, we show that such states are common reactions to political information. In addition, we highlight evidence that failing to attend to mixed affective states can cause researchers to miss important aspects of their treatment effects. Just as ambivalence is a central feature of political cognition, mixed affective states are key to understanding how ordinary citizens respond to the political messages they receive.


Brief overview: We develop a theory of and a method to identify mixed affective states – when individuals report feeling multiple emotions at once. They further present studies showing that such states are common in response to political information. 

Introducing New Measures of Pathogen Disgust and Sex/Gender Identity

Authors: Aleksander Ksiazkiewicz, University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign and Amanda Friesen, IUPUI

Abstract: Disgust is derived from evolutionary processes to avoid pathogen contamination. Theories of gender differences in pathogen disgust utilize both evolutionary psychological and socio-cultural perspectives. Drawing on research that suggests that masculine and feminine gender identity are somewhat orthogonal, we examine how gender identity intersects with pathogen disgust. In addition, building on evolutionary psychological and socio-cultural accounts of how caregiving and parental investment affect pathogen disgust, we develop a new scale to measure caregiving disgust and compare its properties across gender, parental status, and political ideology with those of a conventional pathogen disgust measure. 

Brief Overview: Combining  evolutionary psychology and socio-cultural accounts of how caregiving affects pathogen disgust, we assess how gender intersects with pathogen disgust. We present a scale for caregiving disgust and show how it differs across individuals.

More than a Feeling: Refining Measures of Emotions and Assessing their Effects in Politics across Racial Groups

Authors: Davin Phoenix and Camille D. Burge

Abstract: Scholars of emotions in politics use numerous measures to assess the role of affect in political decision-making. What remains unclear from extant work is the emotion measurement strategy that is most effective at engendering participants’ emotions and assessing their effect on one’s politics. Also left unresolved is the question of how individuals’ responses to varying emotion prompts can differ systematically across relevant social identities such as race. In this paper, we assess whether racial groups vary systematically in their emotional responsiveness to specific actors or institutions (e.g. individual political elites, parties, or branches of government), broader structural concepts (e.g. racism, police violence). and contemporary political movements (e.g. NFL anthem protests, Black Lives Matter, and climate change activism). Moreover, we examine how frequently Black and White Americans’ expressions about politics convey distinct emotions, and we analyze variations in the frequency with which these emotions arise—both within and across racial groups. Our goals with this project are to provide a more precise understanding of how to measure emotions and their effects on decision making, and to offer a comprehensive framework for understanding how race shapes individuals’ emotional and subsequently behavioral responses to their political environment.

Mapping the historical, theoretical, and operationalization domains of Emotion

Author: Marcus

Abstract: Advancing research wherein emotion plays a central role requires some clarity about meaning of emotion and of the available research approaches. In this presentation I review both the implicit and explicit meanings, past and present, of emotion with special attention to the normative qualities often ascribed. Additionally, I explore the theoretical programs in the social sciences, both comprehensive accounts (such as affective intelligence, as well as those from the cognitive appraisal school – such as proposed by Roseman, Lazaraus, Clore and Ortoney, and Scherer – and more focused theories (such as motivated social cognition framework of Jost et at cognition of Lodge and Taber, Hibbing et al and negativity versus positivity). Then turn to various methods available to operationalize emotion (e.g., self-report, facialEMG, neural monitoring – lesion studies, fMRI, EEG, emotion induction). In all these I attempt ot layout fundamentals with some comparison of their relative strengths and liabilities.