Emotions play a central role in understanding communication effects. Within the domain of politics, for instance, Europeans have been described as experiencing anxiety in response to the number of refugees entering their country; angry about unresponsive political elites and sad about how immigrants are treated. To answer the question whether communicated messages influence the emotions citizens’ experience, the state-of-the-art predominantly relies primarily upon self-reported emotions. Yet, when asked to self-report emotions, people are likely to mix their initial emotion with their cognitive evaluation which raises the question whether we are measuring the actual emotion or a cognitive evaluation.

The Digital Communication Lab conducts innovative research by not only relying upon self-reported emotions but measuring emotions via the actual physiological responses that citizens experience. Physiological responses are automatic, directed by the autonomous nervous system, when the brain experiences emotion. Using these physiological measures, researchers within the Digital Communication Lab explore how citizens respond to political messages that they agree and disagree with, the affective orientations of citizens’ attachment to political parties and their leaders and individual differences in the proclivity to respond to differentially framed messages.

Currently, research within the Digital Communication Lab is conducted using classical laboratory studies in the LAB premises of the University of Amsterdam. Yet, research is also conducted using so called “laboratory in the field” studies during public events such as Lowlands, Tilburgse Kermis, EO Jongerendag and the TT-Assen as well as museums such as Beeld en Geluid (see here). In doing so, researchers have been able to collect samples of diverse populations in controlled environments.

To conduct these and other studies, research funded by the Digital Communication Lab has received additional funding from the Horizon 2020 program (Marie Curie Global Fellowship awarded to Bert Bakker), the Dutch Science Foundation (Bert Bakker with Gijs Schumacher and Matthijs Rooduijn) and the Lowlands Science Program (Bert Bakker with Gijs Schumacher and Matthijs Rooduijn).

Presentations and Publications:

  • Bakker, B.N., Schumacher, G. and Rooduijn, M. (2017). Hot Politics: Physiological responses to political communication. Paper presented at the 2017 International Communication Association Meeting.
  • Bakker, B.N., Schumacher, G. and Rooduijn, M. (2017). Populism and personality: How anti-establishment communication resonates with low agreeable voter. Paper presented at the 2017 International Communication Association Meeting.
  • Bakker, B.N., Arceneaux, K. and Schumacher, G. (2017). Ideological differences in negativity bias? Evidence from four replication studies across two political contexts. Paper to be presented at the 2018 Midwest Political Science Association Meeting.