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Fear and Learning in the Illegal Immigration Debate
Unformatted Document Text:  Democrats show no significant differences in remembering negative information by experimental condition, and while white independents and Republicans are unaffected by the exploitation video (exploitative vs. control, 52% vs. 56%, n.s.) they are much more likely to remember negative information when exposed to the fear video (fear vs. control, 77 % vs. 56 %, p<.05) Thus far our findings demonstrate that for African Americans and white Republicans, the fear and exploitation videos triggered biased information processing towards negative information about immigrants. Our analysis suggests that selective attention rather than selective exposure is the more likely mechanism for biased information processing. Further, Latinos appear to be largely immune from the fear appeal, and demonstrate the only bias towards positive information in the sample, in terms of remembering positive stories in the exploitation condition. Following the recall measure, subjects were asked what they thought about the stories they remembered best in an open ended question. Their answers were coded first by whether they engaged with a positive or a negative immigration story, and then by whether their comment expressed agreement, disagreement, or was neutral (a comment could fall into more than one category). 3 This engagement with information measure is novel in the AI literature, and will help us understand if people engage with information similarly. We hypothesize that citizens are not passive receptacles for the information they encounter, whether or not their learning has been driven by anxiety. We expect that racial and partisan identities will help explain how people are reacting to information about immigration. 4 Table 4 displays the percentage of people in each 3 The coding was done by a graduate student who was unaware of either the race or partisanship of the respondents, and was unaware of our hypotheses. 4 The engagement analysis is not separated out by experimental conditions for both theoretical and practical reasons. Theoretically, it is unclear whether the experimental conditions should affect engagement. We expected that 17

Authors: Gadarian, Shana. and Albertson, Bethany.
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background image
Democrats show no significant differences in remembering negative information by
experimental condition, and while white independents and Republicans are unaffected by the
exploitation video (exploitative vs. control, 52% vs. 56%, n.s.) they are much more likely to
remember negative information when exposed to the fear video (fear vs. control, 77 % vs. 56 %,
p<.05)
Thus far our findings demonstrate that for African Americans and white Republicans, the
fear and exploitation videos triggered biased information processing towards negative
information about immigrants. Our analysis suggests that selective attention rather than selective
exposure is the more likely mechanism for biased information processing. Further, Latinos
appear to be largely immune from the fear appeal, and demonstrate the only bias towards
positive information in the sample, in terms of remembering positive stories in the exploitation
condition.
Following the recall measure, subjects were asked what they thought about the stories
they remembered best in an open ended question. Their answers were coded first by whether
they engaged with a positive or a negative immigration story, and then by whether their comment
expressed agreement, disagreement, or was neutral (a comment could fall into more than one
category).
This engagement with information measure is novel in the AI literature, and will
help us understand if people engage with information similarly. We hypothesize that citizens are
not passive receptacles for the information they encounter, whether or not their learning has been
driven by anxiety. We expect that racial and partisan identities will help explain how people are
reacting to information about immigration.
Table 4 displays the percentage of people in each
3
The coding was done by a graduate student who was unaware of either the race or partisanship of the respondents,
and was unaware of our hypotheses.
4
The engagement analysis is not separated out by experimental conditions for both theoretical and practical reasons.
Theoretically, it is unclear whether the experimental conditions should affect engagement. We expected that
17


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