The (Null) Effects of Happiness on Affective Polarization, Conspiracy Endorsement, and Deep Fake Recognition: Evidence from Five Survey Experiments in Three Countries

Xudong Yu, Magdalena Wojcieszak, Seungsu Lee, Andreu Casas Salleras, Rachid Azrout, Tomasz Gackowski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Affective polarization is a key concern in America and other democracies. Although past evidence suggests some ways to minimize it, there are no easily applicable interventions that have been found to work in the increasingly polarized climate. This project examines whether irrelevant factors, or incidental happiness more specifically, have the power to reduce affective polarization (i.e., misattribution of affect or “carryover effect”). On the flip side, happiness can minimize systematic processing, thus enhancing beliefs in conspiracy theories and impeding individual ability to recognize deep fakes. Three preregistered survey experiments in the US, Poland, and the Netherlands (total N = 3611) induced happiness in three distinct ways. Happiness had no effects on affective polarization toward political outgroups and hostility toward various divisive social groups, and also on endorsement of conspiracy theories and beliefs that a deep fake was real. Two additional studies in the US and Poland (total N = 2220), also induced anger and anxiety, confirming that all these incidental emotions had null effects. These findings, which emerged uniformly in three different countries, among different partisan and ideological groups, and for those for whom the inductions were differently effective, underscore the stability of outgroup attitudes in contemporary America and other countries.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1265-1287
Publication statusPublished - 2021

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