Anxiety, Immigration, and the Search for Information

Gadarian,-ShanaIn the April 2014 issue of Political Psychology, Shana Gadarian, assistant professor of political science, and co-author Bethany Albertson from UT-Austin use the issue of immigration to explore the role of anxiety in responses to political appeals.  They show how the concept of quantity versus quality can be applied to information seeking, particularly among individuals with anxiety.

According to previous literature, anxiety motivates citizens to learn and pay more attention to news coverage. Literature in psychology demonstrates that anxiety is associated with a tendency to pay closer attention to threatening information. Through an experimental process, Gadarian and Albertson induce anxiety about immigration and then gave subjects the opportunity to search for additional information in a website designed to mimic online news sources.

Gadarian and Albertson argue that the implications of their findings are critical to understanding how citizens operate in threatening situations and that political scientists should be aware that people think and process information differently, depending on their anxiety levels. The authors found that anxious subjects exhibit biased information-processing in the way that they read, remember, and agree with threatening information. 05/27/14