Psychology

Showing the Flag

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Science  07 Dec 2007:
Vol. 318, Issue 5856, pp. 1525
DOI: 10.1126/science.318.5856.1525b

Linking positions or policies to a country's flag by means of appeals to patriotism has become a potent weapon in the arsenal of political operatives of all stripes. Nuanced and multifaceted discussion can then be replaced by simplified yes/no choices, thus eliminating any middle ground and polarizing the voting public. Nevertheless, Hassin et al. show that in some situations, recourse to national symbols, such as the flag, can elicit the prosocial effect of drawing the citizenry from the extremes into the center. They found that presenting the Israeli flag subliminally—that is, too briefly for participants to become consciously aware that they had seen it—induced both right- and left-wing Israelis to adopt more moderate positions with respect to various aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In addition, the consequences of this brief, undetected glimpse of the flag were reflected not only in the participants' declared voting intentions (in the elections of March 2006), but also in their actual voting behaviors. — GJC

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 104, 10.1073/pnas.0704679104 (2007).

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