Winning Proposal to the Garth Taylor Fellowship Fund: 2014 Competition

Project Title: Emotion and Attention to Political Advertisements

Faculty Sponsor: Ted Brader

Graduate Student: Kristyn L. Karl

Project Description

When it comes to politics, large segments of the population are “tuned out”. Yet we have little insight into the ways in which these segments may be systematically determined by individual characteristics and unconscious mechanisms. This research provides a theoretical and empirical basis for directly incorporating the role of attention into research on political behavior. While it is virtually inevitable that many individuals are frequently exposed to campaign advertisements that occur in the background while completing their daily tasks, exposure and attention must be considered separately. I argue that the influence of political advertisements may be far less wide reaching than anticipated, as most citizens are not only consciously, but also unconsciously tuned out. By examining unconscious physiological responses to political ads, in addition to selfreported emotional responses and recall measures, the current project addresses the degree to which everyday appeals are likely to reach the general public. Ultimately, the findings speak to the way in which particular political behaviors and modes of citizenship are unlikely to be uniformly distributed across the population, calling into question whether all citizens are equally suited to and likely to engage in the normative ideals of democratic citizenship.