This recently NSF-funded project explores the use of artificial intelligence, in particular large-scale language models like GPT-3, to study human psychology. "Out of One, Many" is the first of a series of articles we expect from the project.
We develop a new theory of mixed affective states: a condition in which individuals report feeling multiple, contradictory emotions. Mixed affect is important because the brain often responds to traditional attempts to persuade people to adopt new or different political attitudes by activating both highly pleasant and highly unpleasant emotions simultaneously. It is this reality that defines what we call the “Fundamental Challenge of Persuasion.”
This paper introduces a measure created in social psychology for other purposes that we suggest measures one of the key processes motivating outgroup discrimination, and as such should explain variation in individuals’ standing tendencies to oppose outgroups. We argue that this measure gets closer to Taber and Young’s (2013) ideal of explaining “what with how” rather than simply “what with what.” The measure we propose is a measure of an individual’s Self-Image Maintenance Motivation (SIMM). It is adapted from the “Compassionate and Self-Image Goals Scale” devised and extensively validated by Crocker, Canevello and collaborators in their work on personal and intimate relationships (see, for example Crocker and Canevello 2008; Crocker, Canevello, and Lewis 2017). Please see the slides from our MPSA 2019 presentation, and contact me to obtain a draft of the current working paper.
Is empathetic media effective in shifting readers’ attitudes toward refugee policies? Do emotional responses differ between individuals who are exposed to accounts of refugees with different religions and national origins? To shed light on these questions, we present the results of two recent survey experiments conducted in the United Kingdom. The experiments measured the emotional responses, opinions, and willingness to engage in political action among UK residents. Treatments exposed these citizens to empathetic articles about refugees, whose descriptions varied in nationality (Sudanese/Syrian) and religion (Christian/Muslim/Religion omitted). Comparison with a placebo control group showed that empathetic appeals indeed induce empathy in media consumers and encourage more slightly open attitudes toward refugee admission, but not for individuals with strong preexisting prejudice against refugees. Treatment effects had a noticeable interaction with pre-treatment outgroup antipathy; in fact, treated respondents with high prior antipathy hardly differed from the control group in emotions, opinions, and behavior.