Political attitudes: Interactions of cognition and affect
- Cite this article as:
- Way, B.M. & Masters, R.D. Motiv Emot (1996) 20: 205. doi:10.1007/BF02251887
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Commonly held political opinions provide an ecologically relevant focus for studying the interactions of environmental context, affect or emotion, and cognition. To explore this approach to information processing, John T. Lanzetta helped initiate a series of experiments examining how emotional responses to politicians' nonverbal displays influence changes in attitude toward these leaders. Although this line of research has revealed how a number of variables interact when humans respond to known individuals in meaningful situations, the precise relationship between mood state or affect prior to a stimulus and subsequent emotions and cognitions remains unclear. Based on recent theories of modular brain function, an experimental paradigm was designed to test the hypothesis that the effects of a mood state on information processing depend on the subject's awareness of the affect as well as on its valence. Preliminary data from such a study, in which preconscious images of emotionally evocative stimuli were used to induce positive or negative affect prior to viewing the leader, suggests that the induction of negative affective states can lead to more positive attitudes. Reflected in such public opinion phenomena as the “rally-round-the-flag” effect, this mood-incongruent attitude change challenges many traditional theories of emotion and cognition.