“Don’t Be So Shocked: Anxiety Affects the Redistribution of Economic Resources Among Groups,” Kassandra Birchler, Yale
AMERICAN POLITICS & PUBLIC POLICY WORKSHOP
Abstract: People feel threatened by an ever-changing, globalized world that has brought terrorism, offshore manufacturing, and infectious diseases. Many political campaigns draw on voters’ fears, e.g. “America First”, and anxiety-promoting rhetoric has become a central feature of global politics. However, there is still little understanding of the behavioral consequences of anxiety politics. This paper examines the role of anticipatory anxiety on economic redistribution. Using a threat-of-shock paradigm in which electrical shocks are administered to the participant’s wrist, we test how individuals’ preferences over the redistribution of economic resources among in-group and out-group members change as a function of anticipatory anxiety. We demonstrate that individuals make lower monetary offers if anxious and when interacting with out-group members, but only if the partners have no bargaining power. Furthermore, we show that the effect of anxiety and group membership depends on political ideology. Consistent with previous studies that found that conservatives have stronger responses to threatening stimuli, we demonstrate that conservatives offer less to out-group members when they are anxious.
Kassandra Birchler is a Ph.D. candidate in the Political Science Department at Yale University and a visiting student at the ‘Affective NeuroEconomics Lab’ at the University of Amsterdam. Her research focuses on the intersection of political science and psychology. In her dissertation she examines how negative emotions, like anger and anxiety, and stress exposure early in life influence political and economic decision-making.