The Emotional Foundation of Political Cognition: The Impact of Extrinsic Anxiety on the Formation of Political Tolerance Judgments

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Abstract

Common sense recognizes emotion's ability to influence judgments. We argue that affective processes, in addition to generating feeling states, also influence how political cognition is manifested. Drawing on the theory of affective intelligence, we examine the role that anxiety plays in how and when people rely on predispositions and when they rely on contemporaneous information in making political tolerance judgments. We report on two experimental studies to test our arguments. In the first study we find that extrinsic anxiety generates a resistance response among subjects who hold a strong predisposition and a receptive response among those who do not. In the second study we present subjects with explicit “frames” exposing them to a pro- or anti-free speech message. We find that extrinsic anxiety enhances responsiveness to frames while an absence of anxiety diminishes the impact of these frames. Taken together these results show that affective processes shape how people make political judgments.

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