Haas, I. J., & Schneider, S. P. (2017). Mass political behavior. In F. Moghaddam (Ed.), The SAGE Encyclopedia of Political Behavior (pp. 470-472). SAGE Publications.
Mass political behavior is the study of how average citizens form and express opinions about politics and decide how to engage with the political system through voting or other forms of political participation. Political scientists interested in mass political behavior have drawn on a variety of disciplinary approaches to understand the topic--including history, economics, sociology, and more recently, psychology, biology, and neuroscience. Political psychologists interested in understanding mass political behavior have applied social psychological theories of attitudes, emotion, social cognition, and social identity to help improve our understanding of political behavior. This entry provides a brief overview of how psychology has been used to study public opinion, voting behavior, and political participation.
Haas, I. J. (2016). The impact of uncertainty, threat, and political identity on support for political compromise. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 38(3), 137-152. [pdf]
This work examines the impact of uncertainty and threat on support for political compromise. In Study 1, uncertainty, threat, and support for compromise were measured. Uncertainty increased support for compromise only when paired with positive or neutral affect. Studies 2 and 3 used an experimental design to examine the impact of incidental affect on support for political compromise as a function of political identification. Uncertainty was more likely to increase support for compromise in positive or neutral contexts and for political moderates and liberals. The combination of uncertainty and threat led conservatives to express reduced support for compromise.
Skinner, A. L., & Haas, I. J. (2016). Perceived threat associated with police officers and Black men predicts support for policing policy reform. Frontiers in Psychology, 7, 1057. [pdf]
Racial disparities in policing and recent high-profile incidents resulting in the deaths of Black men have ignited a national debate on policing policies. Given evidence that both police officers and Black men may be associated with threat, we examined the impact of perceived threat on support for reformed policing policies. Across three studies we found correlational evidence that perceiving police officers as threatening predicts increased support for reformed policing practices (e.g., limiting the use of lethal force and matching police force demographics to those of the community). In contrast, perceiving Black men as threatening predicted reduced support for policing policy reform. Perceived threat also predicted willingness to sign a petition calling for police reform. Experimental evidence indicated that priming participants to associate Black men with threat could also reduce support for policing policy reform, and this effect was moderated by internal motivation to respond without prejudice. Priming participants to associate police officers with threat did not increase support for policing policy reform. Results indicate that resistance to policing policy reform is associated with perceiving Black men as threatening. Moreover, findings suggest that publicizing racially charged police encounters, which may conjure associations between Black men and threat, could reduce support for policing policy reform.
Haas, I. J. (2016). Political neuroscience. In J. R. Absher & J. Cloutier (Eds.), Neuroimaging Personality, Social Cognition, and Character: Traits and Mental States in the Brain (pp. 355-370). Cambridge, MA: Academic Press. [pdf]
This chapter examines the emerging interdisciplinary field of political neuroscience. Existing research using structural and functional neuroimaging to understand political affect, cognition, and behavior is reviewed, considering both similarities and differences across individuals. Focusing on how affective and cognitive processes give rise to political behavior, additional work from neuroscience, psychology, and political science is discussed and integrated. I argue that significant advances in political neuroscience likely require an integration of neuroscience with political science in a way that incorporates social psychological theory. Psychology can help bridge the gap between these seemingly disparate levels of analysis—from brain function to mass political behavior—and may help guide hypothesis generation and experimental design. I consider how the political neuroscience approach may help shed light on important questions in social and political psychology, such as the interplay between cognition and emotion. Limitations of existing work and suggestions for future research are discussed.
Haas, I. J. (2016). Political psychology. In D. S. Dunn (Ed.), Oxford Bibliographies in Psychology. New York: Oxford University Press. [pdf]
The field of political psychology explains political behavior as a function of both individual- and group-level psychological processes. While the field is interdisciplinary, political psychologists tend to work in either psychology or political science departments. Although the overall aim is often similar, researchers from each discipline approach the same questions in different ways, and interested scholars are encouraged to examine literatures from both fields. The general approach to research is to focus on individual political attitudes, emotion, beliefs, and behavior, and attempt to explain these phenomena using psychological research and theory. Historical approaches to research in this field often relied on case studies or qualitative approaches, whereas newer work has incorporated a variety of quantitative methods (surveys, experiments). Related fields of biopolitics and political neuroscience have begun to utilize physiological and neuroscientific methods to address questions of interest to political psychologists. This bibliography provides resources for general overviews of the field of political psychology, as well as relevant textbooks and academic journals. In addition, resources are provided in relation to a variety of specific research topics and areas.
Haas, I. J., & Cunningham, W. A. (2014). The uncertainty paradox: Perceived threat moderates the effect of uncertainty on political tolerance. Political Psychology, 35(2), 291-302. [pdf]
People respond to dissimilar political beliefs in a variety of ways, ranging from openness and acceptance to closed-mindedness and intolerance. While there is reason to believe that uncertainty may influence political tolerance, the direction of this influence remains unclear. We propose that threat moderates the effect of uncertainty on tolerance; when safe, uncertainty leads to greater tolerance, yet when threatened, uncertainty leads to reduced tolerance. Using independent manipulations of threat and uncertainty, we provide support for this hypothesis. This research demonstrates that, although feelings of threat and uncertainty can be independent, it is also important to understand their interaction.
Van Bavel, J. J., Packer, D. J., Haas, I. J., & Cunningham, W. A. (2012). The importance of moral construal: Moral versus non-moral construal elicits faster, more extreme, universal evaluations of the same actions. PLoS ONE, 7(11), e48693. [pdf]
Over the past decade, intuitionist models of morality have challenged the view that moral reasoning is the sole or even primary means by which moral judgments are made. Rather, intuitionist models posit that certain situations automatically elicit moral intuitions, which guide moral judgments. We present three experiments showing that evaluations are also susceptible to the influence of moral versus non-moral construal. We had participants make moral evaluations (rating whether actions were morally good or bad) or non-moral evaluations (rating whether actions were pragmatically or hedonically good or bad) of a wide variety of actions. As predicted, moral evaluations were faster, more extreme, and more strongly associated with universal prescriptions—the belief that absolutely nobody or everybody should engage in an action—than non-moral (pragmatic or hedonic) evaluations of the same actions. Further, we show that people are capable of flexibly shifting from moral to non-moral evaluations on a trial-by-trial basis. Taken together, these experiments provide evidence that moral versus non-moral construal has an important influence on evaluation and suggests that effects of construal are highly flexible. We discuss the implications of these experiments for models of moral judgment and decision-making.
Cunningham, W. A., Haas, I. J., & Jahn, A. (2011). Attitudes. In J. Decety & J. T. Cacioppo (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Social Neuroscience (pp. 212-226). New York, NY: Oxford University Press. [pdf]
This chapter reviews social neuroscience research that links social psychological attitudes and evaluative processes to their presumed neural bases. The chapter is organized into four parts. The first section discusses how attitude representations are transformed into evaluative states that can be used to guide thought and action. The next two sections address the related processes of attitude learning and change. The final section discusses applications of these concepts for the study of prejudice and political behavior.
Cunningham, W. A., Johnsen, I. R., & Waggoner, A. S. (2011). Orbitofrontal cortex provides cross-modal valuation of self-generated stimuli. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 6(3), 286-293. [pdf]
Prior research has shown that the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) plays an important role in the representation of the evaluation of stimuli, regardless of stimulus modality. Based on these findings, researchers have proposed that the OFC serves a common currency function, allowing for the direct comparison of different types of perceptual stimuli (e.g. food, drink, money). The present study was designed to extend this research and investigate whether these same regions of OFC that have been identified in previous research are involved in evaluating imagined stimuli. Specifically, we asked participants to draw on prior attitudinal knowledge to generate internal representations of liked and disliked exemplars from different categories during functional magnetic resonance imaging. The results of this study support the idea that imagined stimuli (regardless of stimulus category) are evaluated in the OFC using a common system that has been identified in previous research for externally perceived stimuli.
Cunningham, W. A., Van Bavel, J. J., & Johnsen, I. R. (2008). Affective flexibility: Evaluative processing goals shape amygdala activity. Psychological Science, 19(2), 152-160. [pdf]
Although early research implicated the amygdala in automatic processing of negative information, more recent research suggests that it plays a more general role in processing the motivational relevance of various stimuli, suggesting that the relation between valence and amygdala activation may depend on contextual goals. This study provides experimental evidence that the relation between valence and amygdala activity is dynamically modulated by evaluative goals. During functional magnetic resonance imaging, participants evaluated the positive, negative, or overall (positive plus negative) aspects of famous people. When participants were providing overall evaluations, both positive and negative names were associated with amygdala activation. When they were evaluating positivity, positive names were associated with amygdala activity, and when they were evaluating negativity, negative names were associated with amygdala activity. Evidence for a negativity bias was found; modulation was more pronounced for positive than for negative information. These data suggest that the amygdala flexibly processes motivationally relevant evaluative information in accordance with current processing goals, but processes negative information less flexibly than positive information.
Polusny, M. A., Ries, B. J., Schultz, J. R., Calhoun, P., Clemensen, L., & Johnsen, I. R. (2008). PTSD symptom clusters associated with physical health and health care utilization in rural primary care patients exposed to natural disaster. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 21(1), 75-82.
This study investigated the influence of exposure to a tornado disaster and disaster-related posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptomatology on physical health complaints and primary health care utilization among rural medical patients. One-hundred five patients completed self-report measures assessing disaster exposure, PTSD symptoms, and self-reported physical health complaints. Objective rates of health care utilization were gathered by a review of medical records. Tornado disaster exposure and generalized psychological distress were associated with physical health complaints one year following the disaster. After controlling for age, gender, and levels of predisaster health care utilization, PTSD Cluster C (avoidance) symptoms were associated with increased rates of postdisaster health care utilization. Implications of these findings for interventions within the medical system are discussed.