Anatomy of emotions in politics : the role of discrete emotions in political information search and participation




Choi, Sohyun

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Discrete emotions in response to politics have increasingly been examined. However, there has been a negativity bias where scholars have been primarily focusing on discrete negative emotions. Despite documented evidence of their distinctiveness in cognitive psychology, discrete positive emotions, such as enthusiasm, hope, and pride, have received little to no attention from communication scholars and political scientists. Drawing from appraisal theories, this dissertation advances our knowledge about the different constructs of discrete emotions, especially positive emotions, and their effects on information search and political participation. I answered two main questions in this research: First, how different are enthusiasm, hope, and pride from one another in terms of their constructs of appraisal components? Second, to what extent do discrete positive and negative emotions result in differential effects on people’s information seeking and political participation? I employed a multi-methodological approach to analyze the cognitive constructs and effects of discrete emotions. First, I executed an online survey to find out which appraisal components predict each positive emotion. The confirmatory factor analysis captured three different sets of cognitive appraisal dimensions for enthusiasm, hope, and pride. Second, I conducted an online experiment to test the varying effects of six discrete emotions on participants’ information seeking behavior and their intentions to participate in eight political activities. I investigated the differential effects for three positive emotions and three negative emotions. This research uncovers that enthusiasm, hope, and pride, prevalent positive emotions in the political realm, are different from one another in regard to their cognitive appraisal constructs. Moreover, the dynamics among emotions, information seeking, and participation intentions are found to vary across discrete emotions with the same valance in several instances. The dissertation sheds light on different profiles of discrete emotions as well as their varying effects on people’s political life. The closer look at the role of discrete emotions in politics increases our chance to better democracy as citizens become more aware of their own emotions enacted by the media, politicians, parties, and can thus make conscious decisions about exercising their rights as a citizenry.


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