With a pandemic, climate change, terrorist attacks, and financial meltdowns, we have in the last twenty years experienced multiple threats that potentially could have (or will in the future) fundamentally alter our way of life. Threats have adverse effects when they erode democratic stability by sparking violence and fuelling support for anti- democratic politics. However, threats might benefit society when they trigger desired behaviour, such as reducing the eco-footprint or getting a vaccination. Given the complex role of threat in society, it is crucial to understand better the processes underlying people's threat perceptions and develop strategies for mitigating the adverse effects and stimulating the beneficial effects of threat perceptions on democracy and society.
Multiple disciplines study threat: political scientists study the role of elites in causing threat; (political) psychologists study the attitudes and behaviors individuals adopt to counter and regulate threats; and neuroscientists analyze how the body responds to threats, and how such responses are regulated. Problematically, the different disciplinary approaches to threat do not communicate. Thereby limiting our general understanding of the role of threat in society. This project bridges theories from political science, psychology, and neuroscience by the overarching research question: How do people perceive and regulate threats and adopt political attitudes and behaviours to counter these threats
We will use an innovative mixed-methods design: in-depth interviews, cross-country surveys, survey experiments, and laboratory experiments, as well as intensive experience sampling studies that track threats over multiple days. We aim to provide a new theory of the threat-politics link and influence the next generation of research on the interplay between threats and politics in political science, psychology, and neuroscience. In addition, the project provides insights into how citizens can deal with the threats they will face and contribute to the resilience of modern- day society.