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Catching Fire: How National Humiliation Spreads Hostile Foreign Policy Preferences on Chinese Social Media
International Relations of China Seminar series

Researchers have linked a variety of emotions including anger, hatred, fear and humiliation to intergroup conflict attitudes. National humiliation has particularly come under scrutiny because of its influence on China's and Russia's foreign policies. Do emotional expressions of humiliation cause advocacy of hostile foreign policy positions and shape foreign policy debates? Further, how do emotions spread socially to become politically relevant? To answer these questions, Dr Masterson draws on group-based emotions theory and appraisal theory from psychology to construct a theory of political emotional contagion. To evaluate this theory, he uses supervised machine learning to measure the narratives of national humiliation and foreign policy positions in a large (more than 1.6 billion posts), nationally representative data set of Chinese social media posts. Dr Masterson finds that posts invoking narratives of national humiliation are more likely to support using military force, maintaining disputed territorial claims and raising trade barriers. He also finds evidence of emotional contagion as users sharing national humiliation narratives causes their followers to become more likely both to share such narratives in the future and to express support for hostile policy positions.

Michael Masterson is a Rosenwald Postdoctoral Fellow in US Foreign Policy and International Security at Dartmouth College and an Assistant Professor at Missouri State University. His work sits at the intersection of international conflict and political psychology with an area focus on China.

May 20, 2022 02:00 PM in London

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