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Reactions to Katrina: Emotions, Stereotypes, and Policy Evaluation


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Principal Investigator(s):

Leaf Van Boven
University of Colorado Boulder
Email: vanboven@colorado.edu
Home page: https://sites.google.com/site/leafvanboven/

Bernadette Park
University of Colorado Boulder
Email: Bernadette.Park@colorado.edu
Home page: http://psych.colorado.edu/~bpark/

William T. Pizzi
University of Colorado Boulder
Email: william.pizzi@colorado.edu
Home page: http://lawweb.colorado.edu/profiles/profile.jsp?id=43

Sample size: 307
Field period: 2/28/2006 - 3/6/2006

 

Abstract:

Different kinds of emotional reactions to Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath might have different kinds of effects on people’s evaluations of relevant Federal governmental entities including President Bush and on the degree to which people exhibit stereotypic judgments in the context of Hurricane Katrina. To examine these possibilities, participants’ emotional states were manipulated and measured by asking them either what made them sad or angry about Hurricane Katrina. The content of participants’ description might differ depending on the emotion condition and also depending on participants’ political identification. In the second part of the experiment, participants answered evaluative questions about the Federal Government and President Busch. Finally, while viewing a photo of either a black or a white individual, participants judged the individual’s reasons for staying in New Orleans and they provided inferences of this individual’s behavior.

Hypotheses:

H1: Participants in the anger condition will exhibit more blame when asked what makes them angry about Hurricane Katrina compared with participants in the sadness condition.

H2: Participants in the anger condition will exhibit more politically polarized attitudes compared with participants in the sad condition.

H3: Participants in the anger condition will exhibit more stereotypic judgments compared with participants in the sad condition.

Experimental Manipulations:

Manipulation 1: participants were asked to list up to three things that made them feel either angry or sad, depending on assignment to condition, about Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath.

Manipulation 2: participants viewed a picture of either a Black or White person carrying unidentified objects through flooded streets.

Design: 2 (emotion: angry vs. sad) by 2 (photo: black vs. white) between-subjects

Key Dependent Variables:

(1) Open ended descriptions of angry or sad events related to Hurricane Katrina.

(2) Attitudes towards policies, social issues and government entities related to Hurricane Katrina, measured by participants’ agreement with the following items:

(a) President Bush has suggested that we should not raise taxes but rather cut other programs to pay for the relief effort.

(b) Some policy makers have suggested that there should be a one-time, one-year increase in Federal income taxes to help pay for Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.

(c) Overall, President Bush did a good job in handling relief efforts in response to the hurricane.

(d) Overall, the federal government under the Bush Administration did a good job in responding to Hurricane Katrina.

(e) Overall, the largely Democratic state and local governments did a good job in responding to Hurricane Katrina.

(3) Perception of people who did not evacuate New Orleans (participants see a photo of a person who is either black or white), measured by participants’ agreement with the following items:

(a) This person stayed in New Orleans because he had no way to leave the city.

(b) The person in the photograph is holding several packaged items. To what extent to you agree or disagree that this person is looting?

(c) The person in the photograph should be criminally prosecuted for looting.

Summary of Findings:

H1 & H2: As predicted, participants’ open-ended descriptions of what made them angry contained more elements of blame (emoting at something rather than emoting about something), and were more polarized (with Democrats blaming the Federal government more than Republicans) compared with participants’ descriptions of what made them sad.

H3: Regarding the race of the individual displayed in the picture, we suspect that our findings are affected by issues of social desirability due to the explicit measure of participants’ attitudes. Participants agreed less that the person in the picture was looting when he was Black than when he was White.

Conclusion:

An analysis of participants’ open-ended responses shows that people are divided along political party lines when they think about events that made them angry. Presumably, this divide is largely due to differences in people’s causal attributions for questions about blame and responsibility during and in the aftermath of the disaster. However, people are less divided when they think about events related to Hurricane Katrina that made them sad. People seem to be sad about similar events and their political affiliation plays a less important role in determining those events.

References:

Huber, M., Van Boven, L., Park, B., & Pizzi, W. (2007). Seeing Red (or Blue): Anger Exacerbates Politically Polarized Evaluations of Federal Response to Hurricane Katrina. Unpublished manuscript.

Huber, M., Van Boven, L, Park, B., & Pizzi, W. (2007). Politically polarized evaluations of the Bush administration’s response to Hurricane Katrina. Poster presented at Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Memphis, TN.

Huber, M., Van Boven, L., Park, B., & Pizzi, W. (2006). Reactions to Hurricane Katrina: Political polarization, emotions, and stereotypes. Poster presented at Human and Social Dynamics Principal Investigators Meeting, Washington D. C.


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