Subject Know Thyself? Comparing Self-Reported and Observed Emotions and Their Influence on Political Attitudes
24 Pages Posted: 4 May 2016
Date Written: January 7, 2016
Do subjects’ self-reports of emotion correspond to observable evidence of emotion when subjects are exposed to complex emotional stimuli such as video news reports? We explore the answer to this question with a pilot study that uses software that machine codes facial expressions of subjects to detect discrete emotions. Subjects were randomized to receive a positive, situationally-framed news story about drone warfare or a negative episodically-framed news story about drone warfare followed by a series of standard emotion self-report questions. The data produced by automated facial action coding permits a set of nuanced tests to link the ordering complex stimuli to self-reports of emotion and to subsequent opinions about drone warfare. We find evidence that self-reports and observed emotions are weakly related and observed emotion predicts attitudes about drone warfare independent of self-reports. This suggests that self-reports, while useful, do not capture the full extent of emotional experiences that shape political attitudes.
Keywords: automated facial action coding, emotion, public opinion, foreign policy opinions
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