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.