Examining the Distinct Effects of Emotive Triggers on Public Reactions to International Terrorism
In recent years, a growing body of research has set out to examine the role that emotions play in shaping political attitudes and behaviors regarding terrorism. However, one major issue that is generally overlooked is whether the thematic relevance of emotive triggers leads to differential effects on people's reactions to international terrorism. Specifically, does anger—regardless of its source—tend to drive people towards supporting an aggressive foreign policy option to counter terrorism, or do the thematic underpinnings of anger (i.e., the specific contents that trigger this particular emotion, such as watching a news story about a recent terrorist attack) matter vis-à-vis the policy choice? To address this gap, this study experimentally examines the impact of anger—induced by thematically relevant versus irrelevant emotive triggers—on people's cognitive processing and foreign policy preferences regarding international terrorism. Overall, we find that the induction of anger via thematically relevant emotive triggers leads to a higher tendency for selecting a military option, a lower amount of information acquisition, and a shorter processing time in response to terror-related incidents.