Rally Effects, Threat, and Attitude Change: An Integrative Approach to Understanding the Role of Emotion

Alan J. Lambert, Laura D. Scherer, John Paul Schott, Kristina R. Olson, Rick K. Andrews, Thomas C. O'Brien, Alison R. Zisser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

99 Scopus citations


Rally 'round the flag effects (J. E. Mueller, 1970) represent sudden and dramatically powerful situation-specific shifts in attitudes toward the American president. However, the extant literature has yet to fully clarify the nature of the psychological dynamics associated with this effect. These ambiguities reflect fundamental differences of opinion among scholars on some very basic questions such as whether overtly experienced emotion should mediate these attitudinal shifts or whether these changes reflect more general shifts in conservative ideology. Across 4 experiments, the authors sought to gain greater clarity on these and other important matters using a multimethod approach in which the authors varied whether participants viewed documentary footage of the 9/11 attacks (Experiments 1-2), generated autobiographical memories of that event (Experiment 3), or retrieved nonpolitical memories from their past (Experiment 4). The authors discuss the relevance of the present findings for theory and research across a variety of different theoretical and methodological paradigms, including social psychological models of threat, emotional appraisal models, and the political science literature.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)886-903
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of personality and social psychology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2010
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


  • Emotion
  • Political attitudes
  • Rally 'round the flag
  • Threat


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