Effects of Emotion on Perceived Risks of Terrorism
Abstract (via Lerner, Gonzalez, Small & Fischoff)
The aftermath of September 11th highlights the need to understand how emotion affects citizens’ responses to risk. It also provides an opportunity to test current theories of such effects. On the basis of appraisal-tendency theory, we predicted opposite effects for anger and fear on risk judgments and policy preferences. In a nationally representative sample of Americans (N=973, ages 13–88), fear increased risk estimates and plans for precautionary measures; anger did the opposite. These patterns emerged with both experimentally induced emotions and naturally occurring ones. Males had less pessimistic risk estimates than did females, emotion differences explaining 60 to 80% of the gender difference. Emotions also predicted diverging public policy preferences. Discussion focuses on theoretical, methodological, and policy implications.
Excerpted Conclusion (via Lerner, Gonzalez, Small & Fischoff)
A field experiment, using a nationally representative sample and a multimethod approach, found that fear and anger altered beliefs and attitudes regarding matters of national interest. Experiencing more anger triggered more optimistic beliefs; experiencing more fear triggered greater pessimism. These effects held across a range of risks (terror and non-terror related) and with both a verbal response scale and a more analytical probability response scale. Thus, two negative emotions had consistently divergent effects on risk estimates, providing additional evidence for the importance of examining specific emotions, rather than just global moods.
Interesting:(via Lerner, Gonzalez, Small & Fischoff)
Thus, the effects we observed might resemble those evoked by comparable news reports and periods of reflection. A more sustained focus (e.g., a crisis, intense political debate, memorial period) could be expected to increase the effects. Similar emotional manipulations (by experimenters, politicians, etc.) should have similar effects, proportional to their emotional power.