Get access

Voters, Emotions, and Memory



In this paper we argue that emotional response to information encountered in campaigns has implications for the likelihood of remembering that information at the time of the vote. Most voting models are built on what voters remember—whether it is the placement of candidates on issues, or opened ended responses to prompts. That recall of memory is biased is well-known, but the extent to which those biases are driven by affective response to candidate information has not been studied. Using dynamic process tracing, we examine voters' emotional responses, information search, and candidate evaluations during a simulated presidential primary campaign. By manipulating anxiety and the amount of incongruent information that voters encounter, we can detect the direct influence of affect in information processing. We find evidence that voters are more likely to remember information that generates any affective reaction as opposed to information for which the subjects report no emotional response. However, we find little evidence that anxiety has a special role, compared to enthusiasm or anger, in increasing the likelihood that an individual item is remembered. This challenges a primary contention of the theory of Affective Intelligence that anxiety leads to more memories for campaign information.