Fear may contribute to prolonged conflicts, for example, between nations or political parties, by strengthening intergroup prejudice. The purpose of the present study was to explore ways to reduce fear in a context of terrorism and conflict. Undergraduate students participated in an experimental study of the role of a political leader in influencing fear, and the consequences for prejudice. Participants in the two experimental conditions were first induced to feel fear through the 9/11 events via a Terror Management Theory paradigm (Landau et al., 2004), then watched the President deliver a speech designed to either increase or decrease fear of terrorism. A control group performed comparable tasks that were, however, unrelated to 9/11. To investigate the subsequent effects of the speech manipulation on prejudice, all participants subsequently completed explicit and implicit measures of prejudice. Analysis showed no significant differences on the prejudice measures between the groups. This can largely be attributed to methodological difficulties of inducing fear in a lab setting and the liberal values known to characterize the participant group. Explanations and implications of these results are discussed, and caveats and directions for future research are suggested.
Key words: fear; tolerance; prejudice; conflict; war; TMT; 9/11; leader.