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Brader: Striking a responsive chord

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Brader. 2005. Striking a responsive chord. AJPS 49:388-405.

Overview

Drawing on the theory of 'Affective Intelligence', Brader notes that our disposition (habit) system can be interrupted when our surveillance system finds something new or threatening. Based on this insight, he hypothesizes that campaign ads can influence us differently depending on which emotions they create. He specifically examines enthusiasm and fear.

Place in the Literature

Unlike the book 'Affective Intelligence', this book actually tells you how emotion changes political outcomes; 'Affective Intelligence' just tells you that emotion matters, not how it changes outcomes.

Hypotheses

"Enthusiasm appeals--featuring content and imagery associated with success and good times--should increase the desire to participate and reinforce the salience of prior beliefs in candidate choice. Fear appeals--featuring content and imagery associated with threat--should motivate a search for information, decrease the salience of prior beliefs, and encourage reconsideration of choices on the basis of contemporary evaluations."

Implication for Negative Ads

"Negative ads that elicit fear should not necessarily incite avoidance, but instead release a person from the grip of a 'standing decision' and make way for critical reflection." The difference between positive and negative ads is not at all like what previous studies have thought--it has to do with the diverse effects of completely different emotions being aroused, fear vs enthusiasm.

Also: It may not matter that you have the same amount of money--only that both sides have enough money to get their message out.

Design

A typical advertising experiment, in which manipulated campaign ads are inserted into a news broadcast that subjects view. Done in 1998 in Massachussets during the governor's race.

Manipulation of Emotion

Matched pairs design.

  1. One pair of ads had a positive script. To vary emotion (enthusiasm), there was an emotionally neutral and an enthusastic/upbeat version. The neutral version used mundane imagery and no music. The upbeat one used happy pictures and cheerful music.
  2. One pair of ads had a negative script. To vary emotion (fear), there was an emotionally neutral and a a fearful version. The neutral version used mundane imagery and no music. The fearful one used grainy black and white photos and dissonant music.

Findings

After watching the news (and ads), the subjects were supposed to recall how the ad made them feel. Those who watched the fearful ad reported feeling more anxiety than those who watched an ad with the same script but neutral imagery. Similarly, those who watched the upbeat ad reported feeling more upbeat/hopeful than those who watched an ad with the same script but neutral imagery.