Manipulating Emotions Can Sway Public Opinion

Health & Fitness

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Zoonar/S.Heap/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Certainly over the years, politicians and those who create their commercials have gotten more adept at manipulating the emotions of voters.

However, are these attempts at stirring up anxieties really having an effect on the way people think about the issues?

Dr. Jonathan Renshon, an expert on political psychology, says that these manipulations can work so well that getting people anxious about completely unrelated matters can harden views on controversial issues like immigration.

To illustrate this theory, Renshon divided 140 men into three groups. Two groups watched nondescript videos that featured soothing music or shapes while the third saw a scene from Sylvester Stallone’s Cliffhanger that showed him dangling from a rope.

When the three groups were asked for their views on immigration, the men who watched Cliffhanger expressed stronger negative beliefs about the issue.

What this seems to demonstrate is that it’s not necessarily the message a campaign sends out to influence public sentiment but knowing what buttons to push to get a rise out of voters.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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