We predicted that experiencing emotions that reflect uncertainty about the world (e.g., worry, surprise, fear, hope), compared to certain emotions (e.g., anger, happiness, disgust, contentment), would activate the need to imbue the world with order and structure across a wide range of compensatory measures. To test this hypothesis, three experiments orthogonally manipulated the uncertainty and the valence of emotions. Experiencing uncertain emotions increased defense of government (Experiment 1) and led people to embrace conspiracies and the paranormal (Experiment 2). Self-affirmation eliminated the effects of uncertain emotions on compensatory control (Experiment 3). Across all experiments, the valence of the emotions had no main effects on compensatory control and never interacted with the uncertainty of emotions. These studies establish a link between the experience of emotions and the desire for structure.

J. Whitson, Aaron C. Kay, and Adam Galinsky
Journal Article
Publication Date
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology

Full Citation

Whitson, J., Aaron C. Kay, and Adam Galinsky
. “The emotional roots of conspiratorial perceptions, system justification, and belief in the paranormal.”
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology
, (January 01, 2015):