Uneasy Street: Fear and Learning in an Economic Crisis
Posted: 29 Mar 2010
Drawing on literature on emotion and information processing, we argue there is a reciprocal effect between anxiety over the economy and the search for economic news. We expect that citizens concerned over the economic crisis should seek more news about the economy than citizens unconcerned about the economy but pay closer attention to negative news. In turn, negative news about the economy will reinforce and/or increase anxiety about the economy. What is the relationship between economic anxiety and learning? We explore this question with two studies. First, through a survey of Washington state voters and content analysis of media coverage of the economy, we test how economy anxiety affects how individuals process information about the economy during the 2008 presidential campaign. We find that less anxious individuals were likely to watch TV news that covered the economy in a more positive light. In our second study, we experimentally manipulate anxiety over the economy and monitor information seeking in a controlled environment.
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