Conservatives Anticipate and Experience Stronger Emotional Reactions to Negative Outcomes


  • The first two authors contributed equally to this work.


The present work examined whether conservatives and liberals differ in their anticipation of their own emotional reactions to negative events. In two studies, participants imagined experiencing positive or negative outcomes in domains that do not directly concern politics. In Study 1, 190 American participants recruited online (64 male, Mage = 32 years) anticipated their emotional responses to romantic relationship outcomes. In Study 2, 97 Canadian undergraduate students (26 male, Mage = 21 years) reported on their anticipated and experienced emotional responses to academic outcomes. In both studies, more conservative participants predicted they would feel stronger negative emotions following negative outcomes than did more liberal participants. Furthermore, a longitudinal follow-up of Study 2 participants revealed that more conservative participants actually felt worse than more liberal participants after receiving a lower-than-desired exam grade. These effects remained even when controlling for the Big Five traits, prevention focus, and attachment style (Study 1), and optimism (Study 2). We discuss how the relationship between political orientation and anticipated affect likely contributes to differences between conservatives and liberals in styles of decision and policy choices.