Choosing Sides with the Cold War Schema
We're for the good guys. . . . I know who the good guys and the bad guys are.
-- Secretary of State George Shultz ( The New York Times, February 28, 1986, p. A6)
How do we know who the good guys and the bad guys are? Americans have at their disposal an array of criteria for determining which side to support in a foreign or international conflict. The cold war schema provides a number of particularly important criteria, many of which Secretary of State Shultz used to arrive at the above conclusion about Nicaragua.
According to the cold war schema, the side of the United States, freedom, and democracy is the good side, and the side of the Soviet Union, communism, and oppression is the bad side. When a cold war schema user chooses side in a foreign or international conflict, associating one or both of the protagonists with one or more of these six elements of the schema is likely to affect sidetaking. If balance theory is correct, there should be a tendency for cold war schema users to favor whoever is positively associated with the United States, freedom, or democracy, or negatively associated with the Soviet Union, communism, or oppression.
In the experiment presented in this chapter, subjects were presented with news reports of a foreign conflict in which one side was either supported by the United States, supported by the Soviet Union, referred to as "democratic," or referred to as "communist." As cold war schema users would have been expected to do,