MPSA 2020: Conference in a Conference

Emotions in Politics

Panel 6: Fake news, faces and threats as sources of emotional responses to politics

Saturday, April 18th 4:45 – 6:15pm, Location TBA

The individual-level causal effects of a popular anti-“fake news” video 

Authors: Bor, Osmundsen & Petersen

Abstract: “Fake news” are widely acknowledged as an important challenge for Western democracies. Yet, surprisingly little effort has been devoted to designing and measuring the effect of various counter-strategies. Here, we address this void by running a pre-registered experiment analyzing the causal effects of the most viewed anti-“fake news” video on YouTube. The video – produced by – outlines strategies for spotting fake news and encourages responsible civil behavior online. We experimentally manipulate exposure to this video in a unique panel of Twitter users (N = ~2300) who completed background surveys with detailed psychological profiling and gave informed consent to link these data to their scraped Twitter feeds. We measure the causal effect of watching the video on performance in a “fake news” quiz immediately after exposure and on the sharing of links from verified “fake news” websites on Twitter in the months following the exposure. Finally, using text-as-data approaches, we measure the emotional tone of the participants’ political tweets and shared news content to examine whether exposure to the video promotes civility. 

Facing emotional politicians: Examining voters’ response to politicians’ emotional displays

Authors: Homan, Schumacher & Bakker

Brief overview: Physiological lab experiment examining the extent to which citizens mimic and are emotionally affected by the emotional expressions of politicians they support and oppose.

Abstract: What happens when politicians show emotions? According to emotional contagion theory, one might expect that people mimic politicians’ nonverbal expressions, leading to affect transfer from politician to voter. However, it is more likely that emotional mimicry is conditional upon people’s priors, raising the following questions: do we only mimic the politicians we support? Or can we be tempted by the enemy’s smile? In this study, we theorize and test (1) the extent to which politicians’ emotional displays transfer to voters, (2) how party identification moderates emotional contagion, (3) and which emotions are most contagious. We conduct a pre-registered experiment (N=150) in the fall of 2019, where participants are shown manipulated (deep-fake) video’s with facial expressions of politicians. We measure both cognitive-emotional (self-reports) and physiological emotional responses (facial electromyography, skin conductance). The study provides insights in how voters are emotionally affected by politicians’ emotional displays, and contributes to the polarization literature by examining whether and when voters can be emphatic to their opponents emotions.

Keywords: emotional expressions, facial mimicry, party identification, physiological measurement

Facing Farage: Using the Componential Processing Model (CPM) of emotion to understand U.K. and U.S. citizen appraisal of immigration arguments

Authors: Stewart, Senior 

Abstract: Basic Emotion Theory (BET), by asserting that happiness, anger, disgust, fear, and sadness have prototypical facial expressions and physiological signatures, is being reconsidered due to these emotions rarely being observed or interpreted as theorized. The Componential Processing Model (CPM) of emotion improves upon the BET by considering how individuals appraise relevant information using a multi-stage pre-conscious and conscious process, including contextual factors. Information regarding relevance, implications, coping, and norms is processed in an ongoing basis so that patterns of differences ought to exist based upon stimuli and the population. We consider CPM’s applicability to politics using a 1:20s long attack on UK immigration policies by Brexit proponent Nigel Farage as stimulus. We first evaluate Farage’s facial behavior through the Facial Action Coding System using both FaceReader7 and manual coding. We then test CPM predictions using a cross-cultural on-line study of ~600 U.S. and U.K. undergraduates in a 2 (political context = U.S. vs. UK) X 5 (Observable Audience Response = control, applause, laughter, booing, laughter & booing) experiment that evaluates their effect on nine variables measuring CPM appraisal.

Brief overview: We carry out a cross-cultural study to consider how individuals appraise arguments regarding UK immigration based upon the influence of nonverbal behavior of the speaker and audience response using the Componential Processing Model (CPM) of emotion.

A Picture (Maybe) Tells a Thousand Words: The Role of Visual Imagery in Attention to Environmental Threats

Author: Gruszczynski

Abstract: While classical treatments of agenda-setting of the link between press and public are well-established, less is known about the impact of visual imagery on public attention. In this research, I conduct a large-scale analysis of visual and text emotionality of news stories about environmental threats. Using a combination of machine learning and human coding, this research seeks to demonstrate how both perceiving and projecting emotion onto visual imagery serve to influence attention to environmental issues, including climate change. In doing so, this research seeks to not only further our understanding of the importance of visual communication to agenda-setting, but also provides a methodological roadmap to more readily analyze the visual-heavy communication processes so prevalent in the 21st Century