Policy Sciences

, Volume 49, Issue 2, pp 191–210 | Cite as

Emotion-driven negative policy bubbles

  • Moshe MaorEmail author
Research Note


Existing explanations of systematic undersupply of policy (e.g., institutional frictions, policy drift, and loss aversion) highlight the role of institutional and cognitive factors in the policy process while paying little attention to the role of emotions and emotional sentiments (e.g., policy mood). To bridge this gap, this article conceptualizes the role of negative emotions (e.g., fear, anger, hatred, disgust) and emotional sentiments in driving systematic policy underreaction (or what I have termed a negative policy bubble). Regarding the birth of emotion-driven negative policy bubbles, the behavioral understanding advanced here points to (1) an endogenous process that affects opinion formation, attention, learning, behavior, and attitudes; (2) an exogenous shock that “turns on” an endogenous process; (3) emotional manipulation by emotional entrepreneurs, or (4) a process by which the psychological context within which the policy process takes place conditions policy dynamics. Self-reinforcing processes interact with the contagion of emotions, imitation, and herd behavior to reinforce the lack of confidence in the policy, thereby creating a lock-in effect of systematic undersupply of policy. This process may be interrupted following modest endogenous or exogenous perturbations; a decrease in the intensity and duration of negative emotions and/or an increase in their speed of decline by emotional entrepreneurs, as well as following the reduction in negativity bias when the information environment becomes predominantly negative. The paper also provides guidance on productive directions for future research.


Policy change Underreaction Underinvestment Emotion Emotional entrepreneurs Policy mood 



Earlier versions of this article—including the first version, entitled “Policy Anti-Bubbles”—were presented at the workshop on “Financial, Technological, Social and Political Bubbles,” ETH Risk Center, Zurich, 2015; the Biennial ECPR Standing Group for Regulatory Governance Conference, 2014; the Annual Meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association, 2014; the Institute of Political Science, University of Heidelberg, 2014, and the International Workshop on “Policy Design and Governance Failures,” Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore, 2014. I thank the audiences of these events for useful comments and suggestions. I also thank the anonymous reviewers for their comments on the manuscript. All remaining errors are my own.


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceHebrew University of JerusalemJerusalemIsrael

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