Subliminal exposure to national flags affects political thought and behavior

Ran R. Hassin*, Melissa J. Ferguson, Daniella Shidlovski, Tamar Gross

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

108 Scopus citations

Abstract

Political thought and behavior play an important role in our lives, from ethnic tensions in Europe, to the war in Iraq and the Middle Eastern conflict, to parliamentary and presidential elections. However, little is known about how the individual's political attitudes and decisions are shaped by subtle national cues that are so prevalent in our environment. We report a series of experiments that show that subliminal exposure to one's national flag influences political attitudes, intentions, and decisions, both in laboratory settings and in "real-life" behavior. Furthermore, this manipulation consistently narrowed the gap between those who score high vs. low on a scale of identification with Israeli nationalism. The first two experiments examined participants' stance toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Experiment 3 examined voting intentions and actual voting in Israel's recently held general elections. The results portray a consistent picture: subtle reminders of one's nationality significantly influence political thought and overt political behavior.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)19757-19761
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume104
Issue number50
DOIs
StatePublished - 11 Dec 2007

Keywords

  • Automaticity
  • Nationalism
  • Social cognition
  • Unconscious
  • Voting

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