Information, Anxiety, and Persuasion: Analyzing Return Intentions of Displaced Persons


Anxiety influences how people attend to, interpret, and respond to information and  potential threats. How does anxiety influence attempts to persuade? We hypothesize that the  relationship depends on the interaction between an individual’s level of anxiety and the  trustworthiness of a source that provides information. Individuals with lower levels of anxiety  can be persuaded by a trustworthy source. But persistent and high levels of anxiety lead to  hypervigiliance and mistrust in others. This means that even trustworthy sources of information  cannot persuade anxious individuals. We test our hypotheses with a factoral survey experiment,  drawing participants from residents of internally displaced person (IDP) camps in northeastern  Nigeria. We find that information from a more trustworthy source leads to increased return  intentions. However, the more participants exhibit psychological distress the less of an effect  source trustworthiness has on their return intentions. We conclude by discussing the implications  for return of displaced persons and political and personal decision-making more generally.

Keywords: Stress, psychosocial function, political psychology, displacement, conflict.

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