Thursday, July 13, 2006

Stoking the Voters' Passions

This is the title of a review in Science Magazine by James Druckman of Ted Brader's recent book "Campaigning for Hearts and Minds - How Emotional Appeals in Political Ads Work." (Univ. of Chicago Press, 2006). The main focus is on television ads. Brader extends the work of others in experiments that show that ads that generate enthusiasm will increase political interest, participation, and confidence, whereas fear-provoking ads will cause people to reevaluate their preferences and potentially change their opinions. His experiments manipulated emotional stimulation entirely by including or excluding certain images and music, having nothing to do with the ads' contents.

CREDIT: COURTESY TED BRADER, graphic from Science Magazine. Cueing emotion: In Brader's enthusiasm experiment, one ad contained hopeful images and music while the other relied on the narration and less evocative imagery. (Both ads used the same positive script, here: "There's good news in your neighborhood. The future looks bright for a generation of young people.") The fear experiment compared the effects of the same unevocative imagery with those of threatening images and dissonant music. (In the negative narration for this pair, "It's happening right now in your neighborhood. A generation of young people is in danger.")

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