The Role of Anger in the Biased Assimilation of Political Information

41 Pages Posted: 28 Mar 2018

See all articles by Elizabeth Suhay

Elizabeth Suhay

American University; American University - School of Public Affairs

Cengiz Erisen

Yeditepe University

Date Written: October 3, 2017

Abstract

Political psychologists have established that politically motivated reasoning is a common phenomenon; however, the field knows comparatively less about the psychological mechanisms that drive it. Drawing on advances in the understanding of the relevance of emotion to political reasoning and behavior, we argue that anger likely plays a major role in motivating individuals to engage in the biased assimilation of political information—an evaluative bias in favor of information that bolsters one’s views and against information that undercuts them. We test this proposition with two online studies, the second of which includes a quasirepresentative sample of Americans. The studies support our expectations. Individuals felt more negative emotions toward arguments that undermined their attitudes and positive emotions toward arguments that confirmed them; however, anger was nearly alone in fueling biased reactions to issue arguments.

Suggested Citation

Suhay, Elizabeth and Erisen, Cengiz, The Role of Anger in the Biased Assimilation of Political Information (October 3, 2017). American University School of Public Affairs Research Paper No. 3152109. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3152109 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3152109

Elizabeth Suhay (Contact Author)

American University ( email )

4400 Massachusetts Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20016
United States

American University - School of Public Affairs ( email )

Washington, DC 20016
United States

Cengiz Erisen

Yeditepe University ( email )

81120 Kayisdagi, Istanbul
Turkey

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