Affective Response to a Territorial Threat in International Relations

This paper (co-authored with Thomas Wynter) investigates the emotional impact on citizens of international security threats, with an emphasis on the difference between territorial threats and non-territorial threats. It uses an online survey experiment and borrows tools for measuring emotional states from the psychology literature. Territory is associated with the power capabilities of states, the power of individuals within states to survive and prosper, and with one of the most fundamental types of identity, ethnicity and nation. Territoriality is exhibited by many animal species, indicating deeper historical or evolutionary roots, even into human pre-history. Despite the fact that international disputes involving territorial issues are much more likely to escalate to violent interstate conflict than those involving other issues (e.g., Huth 1996), there has been little study of the emotional impact of territorial threats on citizens. In this study we investigate emotional responses to the suggestion of territorial threat in a priming experiment. Australian participants were randomly assigned to: (1) Threat condition (no images); (2) Threat condition (with images); (3) Territorial threat condition (no images); (4) Territorial threat condition (with images); or (5) Control. Following the treatment, participants will complete a standard emotional assessment battery (PANAS), from which treatment-group differences are statistically assessed.

Benjamin Goldsmith is an Associate Professor and Australian Research Council Future Fellow in the Department of Government & International Relations at the University of Sydney, where he leads the Atrocity Forecasting Project. His research and teaching are in the areas of international security, international public opinion, and atrocity forecasting. His articles have appeared in journals including Comparative Political Studies, European Journal of International Relations, Journal of Conflict Resolution, Journal of Peace Research, Journal of Politics, and World Politics. Thomas Wynter received his PhD from the University of Sydney in 2016 and is the founder and director of Experimental Insights, Inc.

Date & time

Thu 30 Mar 2017, 12am


L.J. Hume Centre, Copland Building (24)


Associate Professor Benjamin Goldsmith


Jessica Genauer


Updated:  6 March 2017/Responsible Officer:  Head of School/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications