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

By W. Russell Neuman; George E. Marcus et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER ONE
Theorizing Affect's Effects

W. RUSSELL NEUMAN, GEORGE E. MARCUS, ANN N. CRIGLER, AND MICHAEL MACKUEN

This book responds to a resurgent interest in the way emotion1 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
1993)-

-1-

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