RSVP: Colloquium with Dr. Mark Brandt, Michigan State University


Dr. Mark Brandt, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Michigan State University


COVID-19 as a real-world test of psychological theories of threat and politics.


We used the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic to evaluate the external validity of psychological theories of threat and politics. We estimate the causal effect of the onset of the pandemic on 84 political attitudes and 8 perceived threats using fine-grained repeated cross-sectional data (Study 1, N=232,684) and panel data (Study 2, N=552) collected before, during, and after the onset of the pandemic in the United States. The pandemic’s onset significantly changed attitudes, but these changes were often small and rarely consistent with theoretical predictions. Many attitudes were unaffected; however, these average effects mask heterogenous treatment effects across people. Pandemic caused changes in threat perceptions were correlated with some attitude change, suggesting that some attitude change with people’s perceptions of threat. COVID-19’s onset caused some attitude change, but that the precise way it changed attitudes is heterogenous and not clearly predicted by psychological theories of threat.


Dr. Mark Brandt is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at Michigan State University. His research is focused in the social and personality area of psychology. He is the principal investigator of The Belief Systems Lab. The goal of this lab is to understand ideological and moral beliefs – such as political ideology, racism, religious fundamentalism, and moral conviction – and how they structure attitudes and behaviors, how they provide people with meaning, and why people adopt them in the first place.


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