The Affect Effect: Dynamics of Emotion in Political Thinking and Behavior

The Affect Effect: Dynamics of Emotion in Political Thinking and Behavior

The Affect Effect: Dynamics of Emotion in Political Thinking and Behavior

The Affect Effect: Dynamics of Emotion in Political Thinking and Behavior


Passion and emotion run deep in politics, but researchers have only recently begun to study how they influence our political thinking. Contending that the long-standing neglect of such feelings has left unfortunate gaps in our understanding of political behavior, The Affect Effect fills the void by providing a comprehensive overview of current research on emotion in politics and where it is likely to lead.

In sixteen seamlessly integrated essays, thirty top scholars approach this topic from a broad array of angles that address four major themes. The first section outlines the philosophical and neuroscientific foundations of emotion in politics, while the second focuses on how emotions function within and among individuals. The final two sections branch out to explore how politics work at the societal level and suggest the next steps in modeling, research, and political activity itself. Opening up new paths of inquiry in an exciting new field, this volume will appeal not only to scholars of American politics and political behavior, but also to anyone interested in political psychology and sociology.


This book responds to a resurgent interest in the way emotion interacts with thinking about politics and, as a result, the way citizens engage in or withdraw from political activity. We have come to conclude that there is indeed an affect effect, actually, numerous, diverse, and significant effects. Our explicit goal in this work is to draw focused attention to what had been a relatively neglected area in the study of mass political behavior.

We organize this introductory discussion around five spanning topics. The first is the varying centrality of emotional concepts in theorizing about political behavior. The second is the character of the phenomenon of emotion itself—in particular, the question of its structure. Third, and perhaps most important, is functionality—what role do human emotions play in a theory of political thinking and behavior, and how are affect and cognition structurally linked? Fourth, how is this phenomenon to be assessed—what are the available methodologies? And finally, we discuss praxis—a brief review of how what we know thus far of the dynamics of political affect might be applied in political practice and perhaps public policy.

It will become evident to even a casual reader of this book we have not yet converged on a singular theory of the role that emotions play in political thinking and behavior. In Part IV Lupia and Menning constructively chide us about the conceptual vagaries and inexplicit rules of scientific inference in this literature. They hold up the field of game theory as an instructive model of relative conceptual and inferential clarity. Some might question whether the phenomena at hand lend themselves to that sort

1. In this chapter we use the terms emotion and affect interchangeably, although some
scholars attempt to make distinctions among those terms as well as the term mood (White

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