Angry Votes Suck

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800px-Prozac_pills.jpg The more anxious or angry you are about the political landscape the less likely you are to actually pay attention to the facts. This according to a new study in Political Psychology. While angry and anxious voters tune into the news more than more relaxed voters, they actually concentrate less effectively on the available information. Researchers from the Universities of Michigan and Texas conducted two experiments in the 2004 presidential campaigns in which people answered questions on a computer that either induced a specific emotional state or a control condition to reduce all emotional arousal. The first experiment found that anxious, angry and enthusiastic people claimed they were more interested than people in a controlled, relaxed setting, and that they would pay closer attention to the debates. However, all three emotional states led people to take less time looking for information that was available to them, with anxiety impacting attention the most. The second experiment suggested that typical campaign coverage can trigger powerful emotions which lead to hasty, uninformed decisions.

So, let’s get this straight… the news runs on emotion, which leads to bad judgment, which leads to bad leaders, which pisses us off, which fuels bad news…

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones’ environmental correspondent, lecturer, and 2008 winner of the Kiriyama Prize and the John Burroughs Medal Award.

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THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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